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Cantonese Pressed Duck

  • j

I recall this lovely concoction of shredded duck and waterchestnut flour (deep fried) being served in many restaurants back in the (do I dare) 70s. Can't find it in Cantonese restaurants anymore. I tried a couple of recipes from the web and the results were pretty bad. Plus it takes a lot of time. Anyone out there with a good recipe? Thanks in advance.

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  1. i vaguely remember eating this treat when i was young at either the "coral reef restaurant" in the ala moana shopping center or "hung kung restaurant" in kaimuki town (both long gone). i remember it as delicious!

    i found this recipe (haven't tried it) while searching for another recipe. please try it and let us know if it's good.

    Pressed Duck with Sweet and Sour Plum Sauce
    Ingredients (6 servings)
    5 lb Long Island duck, cleaned
    1 tb Chinese five-spice powder
    1 ts Salt
    1 c Water chestnut powder
    Boiling water
    Sweet and sour plum sauce
    Oil for deep frying
    Crushed toasted almonds

    Place duck in large kettle or Dutch oven with enough boiling water to cover. Add spices and salt and simmer covered until tender, about 1 to 1 1/4 hours. Remove duck from liquid and let cool. Remove meat from bones and discard skin. Pour chestnut powder into small baking pan (an 8-inch aluminum pan works well; powder should be 1/2 to 1/4 inch deep). Press meat into powder. Cover and steam 30 minutes, or until powder has gelatinized into thick, heavy crust. Remove from steamer and let cool. Cover and chill until ready to complete. About 30 minutes before serving time, prepare sweet and sour plum sauce; set aside and keep warm. Warm a serving platter in low oven. Preheat oil in deep fryer to 375 F. Slice duck into bite-size chunks and fry quickly in batches until crisp and browned. Remove with slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Repeat until cooking is completed. Serve immediately with sweet and sour plum sauce topped with nuts. From Bon Appetit's "Oriental Favorites."

    2 Replies
    1. re: nancy

      Thanks Kit & nancy. Appreciate the input. I'm sure that the reason it isn't served in restaurants anymore is the amount of labor involved. When I have the time, I'll give it a try. I'll also see what I can do about locating some of those older recipes.

      1. re: nancy

        God bless you, Nancy, I have been looking for this recipe for DECADES. Ever since Moy's Tea Garden in Champaign, Illinois closed years ago. Does anyone know where this dish can be found in the Chicago or Indianapolis area?

      2. Oh, how my mouth watered remembering the pressed duck we used to eat at Don the Beachcomber's in Hollywood, CA in the 50's, 60's & 70's. I wish some restaurant would serve it now.
        I found 3 recipes for this dish and they sound very time consuming. One is from "Madame Wu's Art of Chinese Cooking" (1973); another from "Madame Chu's Chinese Cooking School" (1975) and from Johnny Kan's "Eight Immortal Flavors" (1963). In Chinese it's called "Wo Siew Opp" and is served with a sweet and sour sauce made with vinegar, catsup, soy sauce, sugar, salt & Tobasco.

        3 Replies
        1. re: Kit H.


          You mean the mandolin style ducks hanging in the front window of Sun Wah? Those are good, but nothing like the crisp, starchy, greasy goodness that Ron is describing.

          I have not thought of pressed duck in years, though, as they say in Texas, Ron has 'done flung a craving' on me. I especially have a taste for the wilted iceberg lettuce that is invariably served underneath the pressed duck.

          Offhand I do not know of anyplace that serves pressed duck, Hi Howe on Cicero did, but they went out of business a few months ago. I am fairly certain my grandmothers favorite place in Milwaukee still has it on the menu, but it’s too late to call and find out, though there must be, as Mike G said, a place or three serving pressed duck in Chicago.

          I wonder if Orange Garden on Irving Park has pressed duck, they certainly seem to be stuck in the proper time warp.


          1. re: Kit H.

            I am trying to get PHOEBE BEACH (dons wife ) email to
            request duck mandarin recipe . (last time i had it

            1. re: BERNIE

              Yes, Virginia, there is a pressed duck. It's hiding in the desert at Golden Dragon (I think that's the name) in Palm Springs at the Rimrock Shopping Center. The best Chinese in the desert, and the best wine cellar, too. Nice, private place. They have both sauces. Since I don't know where you all are from, I can't tell if this is close enough.

              I do go into withdrawal for this, my favorite Chinese dish, ahead of how gar, and wonder if anyone knows a place in the San Gabriel Valley (Pasadena-Monterey Park) where it exists. At the Kwon Bros-Grand Star in Chinatown, they only are open for big parties now, but they have it. I am still looking. One lady down the street here in Pasadena will only make it for $100 orders. No wonder there's a recession. Michaelangelo's apprentice would rather do countertops.

              If anybody finds some, let me know.


          2. r
            Roman J Fedorka

            Just looking around 'Fedorka' web sites, found it interesting that my wife is Chinese and likes pressed duck.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Roman J Fedorka

              Its so funny that 2 years after the original post that its still difficult to find anyone who makes pressed duck...I did find the recipe from recipesource.com and its the same one that someone sent you from Bon Appetit!

            2. I too searched for a authentic recipe for the pressed duck I grew up with. In Los angeles, there was a restraunt in litle tokyo [of all places] It was a standard and a great part of the history of Los Angeles. The Name was and will soon be again The Far East Cafe. I was closed after the sylmar earthquake. The old employees are not around anymore but one cousin is the only one of the old chinese cooks who did the best Pressed duck I've ever eaten. I finally found a recipe for this wonderful duck dish [after searching for years......I will be trying it out in another week or so. I'm finnishing my externship at a restraunt [not chinese] in San Francisco but still love chinese........I found the recipe in Ken Hom's book Ken Hom's chinese kitchen 1994 Taurom Inc. first published in great britin by pavilion books limited. pg. 142.The recipe reads like what I've heard from the old cooks.......and a servver at a restraunt in Gardena calif who makes it as close to the way my family and most of the los Angelenes.........

              1. Your conversation about how to make waterchestnut coated pressed duck appeared when I tried to look a recipe up on line. Like Nancy, to whom thanks for the recipe, I remember it from the Ala Moana shopping center in the 60s - from a little take out place called Patti's Kitchen! They used to put the crushed almonds into the waterchestnut powder, so they got deep fried along with the duck. Yummy!

                1. Here's the recipe for the Pressed Duck from Hawaii's "Star Bulletin" newspaper!
                  Mandarin Pressed Duck
                  4-1/2 pound whole duck
                  1 cup cornstarch
                  Vegetable oil, for frying
                  1 cup chopped almonds or peanuts
                  » Marinade
                  1 teaspoon salt
                  1/2 cup soy sauce
                  1 teaspoon sugar
                  » Sweet and Sour Sauce:
                  1 cup vinegar
                  1 tablespoon ketchup
                  1 teaspoon soy sauce
                  1 cup sugar
                  Pinch salt
                  5 drops hot sauce
                  1 teaspoon cornstarch, dissolved in water

                  Combine marinade ingredients and pour over duck. Marinate 1 hour.

                  Fill a wok with water and bring to a simmer. Place a rack above simmering water and place duck on rack. Cover and steam 2-1/2 hours. (If you don't have a wok, use a large pot or skillet that can accommodate a rack and can be covered.)

                  Remove duck and let cool, then debone: Cut off head, neck and feet and set aside for another use (such as soup). Place duck, breast-side down, on a cutting board. Make a cut along the backbone. Push the meat aside and lift the backbone and rib cage out. Wiggle the thigh and wing bones out.

                  Place duck on a large cutting board, breast-side down. Take a second board and cover duck completely. Gently press down until meat is uniformly compressed, about 3/4 inches thick.

                  Prepare wok again for steaming.

                  Sprinkle duck generously on both sides with cornstarch. Gently return duck to steamer rack. Cover and steam 30 minutes.

                  Heat oil in a pot or wok for deep-frying.

                  Cut duck into quarters. Deep-fry until golden brown. Remove from oil; let drain. Cut into 1-1/2 inch pieces.

                  To prepare sauce: Bring ingredients to a simmer and stir to dissolve sugar. Stir in cornstarch mixture to thicken. Brush sauce over duck pieces. Sprinkle with nuts. Serves eight.

                  1. Wow, this is an old series of posts! In the 70's, my family frequented two Chinese restaurants on the west side of Cleveland, OH. Chung's and King Wah. King Wah still serves their version, obviously battered and deep fried atop shredded lettuce with chopped nuts and brown sauce,
                    Chung's is long gone but served a remarkable pressed duck. Of course I'm relying on a nostalgia but the outside of the perfect rectangle of lightly compressed duck meat was very crispy, the inside moist with lots of flavor. It was served on chopped lettuce with brown sauce and chopped nuts.
                    I'll be referencing all the recipes in this post to figure out how to recreate it but it would be so much fun to find a place in Columbus, OH that did carry-out; where all it took was to dial a phone number.

                    1. I've been enjoying pressed duck (steamed with 5 spice, deboned, molded with cornstarch, steamed, cooled, deep fried and served with basic sweet and sour sauce) for over 20 years at Peking Chinese Restaurant 860 Main St, Red Bluff, CA (I can't believe I found it there and try to stop there every time we travel I-5). While it is not a good as the version I remember served at Tao-Tao's in SF's Chinatown in the 60's, or my own rendition made with water chestnut flour, it will do and makes long trips down the asphalt ribbon seem a little shorter.
                      Lastly, it is not on the menu any longer, yet they will serve it up and are especially happy it's asked for.