Chinese Duck in Black Bean Sauce

Duck in Chinese Black BeanThere are few things I love more than duck cooked properly and the sweet, gamey meat goes so beautifully with the salty, soy, black bean sauce in this Chinese duck dish. I like to cook the duck really low and slow on the fat side to render out as much fat as possible starting on a cold pan and raising the heat slowly only crisping it up over a high heat for a minute before turning. Just make sure you make regular scores in the fat with a sharp knife and try not to cut all the way through it. Fat is a really good insulator so keeping a little bit of it between the pan and the red meat will stop the duck from over-cooking. Seasoning the fat with salt will also help it to crisper up nicely. I’m slow to add any other seasonings to duck before pan frying though as I cook it for such a long time, bringing the pan from cold to high, most other spices tend to burn, I find.

The soy sauces, black beans and shiitakes all pack a huge hit of meaty umami so this is a sauce that could be adapted to a veggie or vegan recipe and meat-eaters will still be satisfied. Just swap the duck for some firm tofu.

Duck in Chinese Black Bean Sauce


  • 7 dried shiitake mushrooms
  • 10 cm cinnamon stick
  • 3 star anise
  • 2 tbsp salted black beans or fermented black beans rinsed
  • 5 cloves of garlic, crushed or finely minced
  • 30g ginger peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 red chilli thinly sliced, seeds removed
  • 5 spring onions
  • 1 handful of beansprouts
  • 2 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 1 tsp dark soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp shauxing wine
  • half a tbsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp potato flour or plain flour
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 2 duck breasts
  • a pinch of sea salt
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • dried soba noodles


  1. Steep the dried mushrooms in boiling water for 30 minutes.
  2. Remove the white parts of the spring onions and chop the greens into batons. Bash them with the side of your knife if they are firm. Chop up the greenest parts finely.
  3. Combine the soy sauces with the shauxing, sugar, flour and water and mix until smooth.
  4. Score the fat on the duck breasts by taking a sharp knife and cutting into the fat without reaching the meat. Don't worry if you do cut into the meat but try to keep it at a minimum.
  5. Season both sides of the duck and slice up the now rehydrated shiitakes.
  6. Now take a wok or a large frying pan and place the duck breasts fat-side down on the cold pan. Place the pan over a low heat and very gradually raise the heat to medium-high over 10 minutes. Pour off the rendered fat (you can keep it to roast potatoes if you like).
  7. Leave the heat on medium-high for 2 more minutes before you turn it up to high for 1 minute.
  8. Then once the fat is golden-brown, flip the breasts and cook over a high heat for 2 more minutes.
  9. Next take out the duck to rest. Pour off any excess fat and add another 2 tbsp of oil. Once the oil is hot, add the cinnamon and star anise.
  10. Stir the whole spices for just 30 seconds on a high heat before you add the garlic, ginger and chilli. Stir-fry again for another 30 seconds before you add the shiitakes, spring onions and beansprouts and stir-fry for 2-3 minutes.
  11. As that's happening, add your dried noodles to a pot of boiling water, with a good splash of light soy for flavour to cook until the sauce is ready.
  12. Add the say sauce mixture to the vegetables. Give it a quick stir before you add your rinsed black beans.
  13. Mix those in and stir-fry for another minute over a high heat. Add a tbsp of cold water here if it is over-reduced.
  14. Return the duck breasts to the pan, turn them immediately and remove them again just to coat them in the thick sauce.
  15. Add in the finely chopped spring onions and just stir the m in before you remove the pan from the heat.
  16. Strain the noodles and slice the breasts into thick slices.
  17. Plate up by adding the noodles to each plate, spoon over most of the black bean sauce, lay the duck slices over it and spoon any remaining sauce over the duck.
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