Life’s a Feast: Tea smoked Szechwan duck breast


PREP TIME: 15 mins


COOK TIME: 35 mins

SERVES: 2-3 people

It’s that time of year again – the beginning of May – when many women around the Wakatipu Basin (in fact around the country) will have been deserted last weekend for the annual opening weekend of duck-shooting.

So what better recipe to create than one to utilise the copious amount of duck meat that has inevitably found its way into your freezers! Being a waterfowl, ducks have a jacket of fat around their firm lean meat to insulate them whilst in the water.

This needs to be rendered down to become edible. In this recipe, we not only do this but also add a beautiful, smoky caramel flavour by smoking it in tea leaves. Combined with tingly Szechwan (Sichuan) pepper, this results in palate-blowing experience. Enjoy!



2 tablespoons sea salt

1 tablespoon Sichuan peppercorns

2 teaspoons whole black peppercorns

2 boneless skin-on duck breasts

2 tablespoons Shaoxing wine or dry sherry

1/2 cup long-grain white rice (I used jasmine)

1/2 cup loose-leaf black tea, such as Ceylon or Darjeeling

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1 star anise

2 teaspoons peanut oil

150g large brown mushrooms

2 packs bok choy, trimmed and halved lengthwise

1 tablespoon sesame oil

1 thumb-sized piece of ginger, peeled and finely chopped

1/3 cup chicken stock

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 tablespoon oyster sauce

1 teaspoon hoisin sauce

1 red chilli, thinly sliced

1 spring onion, thinly sliced


1.Grind salt and both types of peppercorns in a pestle and mortar into a powder. Toss the duck with spice mixture and wine in a bowl. Cover with glad wrap and chill overnight.

2.Next day, rinse duck, pat completely dry with paper towels, and let it air dry for some time.

3.Line the bottom of a large wok with aluminium foil. Pile rice, tea, brown sugar and star anise in centre of a large wok and place a metal rack with duck over the top and close lid.

4.Place over high heat until you see wisps of smoke then reduce heat to medium and smoke duck until cooked to desired doneness. It’s 25-30 minutes for medium-rare. Let duck cool slightly.

5.Heat a large pan to a medium-high heat then cook skin-side down, without turning, until skin is crisp and fat rendered – about 35 minutes. Rest duck.

6.Meanwhile, add peanut oil to a large pan and bring to medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and ginger, then cook until mushrooms are golden. Add bok choy, sesame oil, hoisin, oyster sauce and stock and bring to a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the bok choy is slightly wilted. Stir in sliced duck, spring onions and chillies.

7.Divide evenly across 2-3 bowls. If you want to make it go further, you could place on top of some rice.