December 27, 2015 — Chinese

Chinese Duck Sauce

  • 1 hour
  • 6 PEOPLE
  • medium

‘…and this one is particularly good. These sauces tend to be pretty secretive amongst competing Chinese restaurants. However Dad has allowed us to share (a simpler version :p)! Give it a go and fill the house with all those amazing Chinese scents.’

'One of Dad's specialties is making damn good sauces...'

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Share this yummy recipe with a friend on WhatsApp

Follow us on Instagram — @WhatDadCooked

What you need

Chinese duck sauce

750ml chicken stock

Roasted duck bones (optional)

2 cm piece ginger, sliced thinly

2 crushed cloves of garlic

5g dried porcini mushrooms

2 bay leaves

2 star anise

1 clove

1/2 stick of cinnamon

1/4 tsp sichuan peppercorns (optional – use a good grinding of black pepper instead)

2 tbs shaoxing wine

1 tbs light soy sauce

4 tbs dark soy sauce

3 tbs oyster sauce

3 tbs hoi sin sauce

2 tbs plum sauce


Dad's Recipe Tales

The secret of duck sauce

If on your way home from Soho, you decide to buy a takeaway duck from a Chinatown restaurant, you’ll be offered a small plastic pot of sauce as they package your order. Make sure you accept the pot of sauce.

Both the duck and sauce will be put into a bag, which despite your best efforts to control spillages and leaking, will inevitably leave a trail of brown greasy drips wafting oriental scents in the tube and train: the unwanted but unavoidable evidence of a duck dinner being transported in public.

Fortunately, by the end of the journey home, there’s usually enough sauce left to add a spoonful onto the duck. The sauce is delicious – rich in soy, ginger and garlic. There’s a background sweetness, musty earthy notes with the woody fragrant tastes of bay, star anise and cinnamon. Pure unctuousness. I always ask for extra so I can perform my own taste analysis.

It’s a complex sauce, but after repeated attempts to replicate, I got to the stage where I needed more original sauce on which to experiment. I had thought of taking a tupperware container or thermos flask to the restaurant and hoping they might fill them up. However, this prospect seemed more awkward than simply asking how the sauce was made.

So it was that I found myself back up in Soho in my favourite Chinese restaurant asking for a takeaway duck. The Chinese chef took a roast duck hanging in the window and started chopping away at it and packaging it up. As I was being offered the usual small pot of sauce I inquired if he would be able to give me the recipe. He gave me big smile, and with a heavy accent in perfectly clear English, said he could, but then he would have to kill me!

Considering he was wielding a huge meat clever, I recoiled: did I hear correctly? Am I risking my life for duck sauce? He laughed loudly and explained that each restaurant has its own closely guarded recipe, handed down through the generations. It can take days to prepare. That’s why he was unable to give me the recipe.

My nerves settled a little from the explanation, I thanked the chef and made-off with the duck and my precious pot of sauce. It seemed the only way I was going to get enough duck sauce was to discover the secret myself.

To make Dad’s Chinese duck sauce continue reading below!

How Dad Cooked It

My version of Chinese duck sauce starts with a duck stock (see Dad’s in depth guide to making stock). However, this will require some effort to source and prepare the duck bones. A simpler version can be made with chicken stock – if you have a few duck bones then add them to the stock. The ingredients and proportions shown here will result in a sauce that resembles the takeaway version. However, I always treat the process as an improvisation rather than a design and find that a few final adjustments are always necessary. You may need to do the same… (Takeaways versions for comparison are available from London Chinatown.)

  1. Simmer the chicken stock with the duck bones (if using) and add ginger, garlic, mushrooms, bay leaves, star anise, clove, cinnamon, and peppercorns (if using) for 25 minutes.
  2. Add the wine and simmer for 5 minutes
  3. Add the remaining ingredients and simmer for a further 5 minutes.
  4. Strain and serve.


This duck sauce goes perfectly with Dad’s Peking Duck recipe.

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