Sunday, 7 July 2013

Recipe - Teochew Braised Duck (Lor Ark)

Boneless duck with chilli sauce
The Teochew braised duck is a tasty and delicious dish served traditionally on special occasions like Christmas or Chinese New Year.

I grew up in Singapore helping my mother raised ducks for food. It takes about 6 months for a duckling to mature. These are happy free ranging ducks. They got to enjoy the world for 6 months before ending up on the dinner table.

It takes a whole day to prepare a braised duck the traditional way. Slaughtering and plucking the feathers took a whole morning. To take out the feathers, the dead duck has to be blanched in hot water to open the pores of the skin so that it is easier to remove the large feathers. For the fine feathers, you need a pair of twizzers to  remove them one by one. The male duck (drake) has a lot more fine feathers.

Commercially farmed ducks have a much shorter lifespan. It is also a common practice to dip the duck in hot wax in order to remove the fine feathers.

The traditional way of braising duck is also time consuming. It takes 2 to 3 hours to braise a duck. Typically, the duck is braised in a wok and the braising liquid is filled up to half the duck. The duck is braised in low heat and baste constantly for even cooking. Water has to be topped up every few minutes. That is a very time consuming way of braising duck.

For a family of 5, half a duck is enough.

So, for my recipe, I use half a duck, bought from the supermarket. I separate the wing and the thigh and cut the half duck into quarters. You can ask the vendor to do this for you.

Before braising the duck, I put the duck in boiling water for 5 minutes. This helps to get rid of the fat, to get rid of the duck smell and more importantly, to get rid of any residual wax on the duck.

I also use a pot with flat bottom for braising and the braising liquid must be enough to cover the duck. This way, there is no need to baste the duck and the cooking time is reduced by half.


Half a duck, cut into large pieces (1.1 kg).
Half duck before deboning


1 cinnamon stick
2 star anise
5 pcs cloves
1 lemon grass, cut into smaller pieces
1 inch galangal (blue ginger) or ginger, cut into slices
5 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon of white peppercorn

(Note: These spices serve to give a woody and minty flavour. You will not miss a heartbeat if there are more or less spices)

Braising Sauce

3 tablespoon dark soy
2 tablespoon black vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
(Note: I like to add black vinegar for braising to give it a hint of sour taste)

2 tablespoon of sesame oil.


Before braising, boil the duck parts in boiling water to get rid of fat, smell and any residual wax.

In a flat bottom pot or pan, heat the sesame oil.
Add in the sugar and let it caramelize (not burn)
Toss in all the other ingredients.
Add enough water to cover the duck.
Bring the liquid to a boil and reduce to low heat and let it simmer for 1 hour.
Do a taste test after 15 minutes.
Adjust if necessary. If the colour is not dark enough, add more dark soy.

It is done after 1 hour.
Take out the duck and let it cool.
Carve out the breast meat and thigh meat and cut into thin slices.
Lay out the boneless duck on a serving plate and spoon some braising liquid over the meat.
Garnish with coriander leaves.
Enjoy your platter of boneless braised duck, knowing that you do not have to look out for bones !

In this 9 minute video, you will see how ducks are raised commercially and how they are slaughtered and their feathers removed. These are happy ducks. Wax are used to remove feathers.

In this 30 seconds clip, spices used are galangal, cloves, star anise, cinnamon, garlic, pepper and coriander seed. It is in Teochew, probably a grandmother sharing her secret formula.

In this 5 minute clip, the grandmother is showing how to braise ducks in the traditional way, braising and basting the ducks for 2 hours. This is a back breaking endeavour. Take note that she uses charcoal.

In this 2 minute video, the process of braising duck is shown in slides format. She cut up the duck before braising.

Another way to enjoy duck ...smoked duck with steam buns.

A nice video on how to braise "lor ark"

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