This is classic Chinese barbecue, and it is damn good. This char siu sauce was meant for pork, but it also works well with duck or goose—or any fatty meat. The spices, the heat, and the sweetness cry out for a rich meat to partner with, so duck legs—and I’m talking domesticated duck legs here—are ideal. My advice? Make a double batch of the sauce and store it in the fridge for up to a month. You will want to put it on everything.
With the exception of the Shaoxing wine, black vinegar, and chile bean paste, all of these ingredients are readily available in most supermarkets. Dry sherry and malt vinegar are good substitutes for the wine and vinegar, respectively.
Serve the duck with steamed white rice, some pickled or sautéed mustard greens, and cold beer.
- 2 to 3 pounds duck legs
- 1 or 2 fresh green or red chiles, sliced, optional
- 1 to 2 tablespoons Chinese black vinegar or malt vinegar, optional
- Cooked white rice, for servin
Chinese Barbecue Sauce
- ¼ cup Shaoxing wine or dry sherry
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce (preferably dark soy)
- 2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
- 1 tablespoon chile bean paste
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons peeled and grated fresh ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon five-spice powder
To prepare the sauce
- In a blender, combine all of the ingredients and puree for 1 minute. Pour into a bowl.
- Place the duck legs in a plastic container and coat them with a little of the sauce. Reserve at least half of the sauce for basting later.
- Cover the duck and marinate for at least 30 minutes at room temperature or up to overnight in the refrigerator. If the legs have been refrigerated, bring them to room temperature before you put them on the grill.
- To cook duck, set up the grill with an open space to one side so the duck legs cook away from direct heat. In a gas grill, this means leaving two of the three burners off. With a charcoal- or wood-fired grill, put the fuel on one-half of the grill floor and leave the other half open.
- Make a drip pan out of aluminum foil or buy a disposable foil pan at the supermarket and put it below the grate where the duck legs will be to catch the drips. If using a gas grill, place the drip pan on an unused burner. You are looking for slow, steady heat here, about 300°F. Alternatively, you can cook the duck in the oven at this temperature.
- Set the duck legs on the grill grate or rack over the drip pan, cover the grill, and cook until the legs are tender. This will take between 2 and 3 hours.Baste the legs with some of the remaining sauce every 45 minutes or so, and turn the legs once every hour.
- When the meat pierces easily with a knife, remove from the grill, garnish with the chilies and a splash of the vinegar, and serve with the rice.
Hank Shaw is the author of the new book Duck, Duck, Goose (Ten Speed Press, 2013) and the James Beard award-winning blog Hunter Angler Gardener Cook.
Shaw has been featured on the Travel Channel’s Bizarre Foods, and his work has appeared in Food & Wine, Organic Gardening, Field & Stream, and The Art of Eating, as well as hunting and conservation magazines such as Delta Waterfowl, California Waterfowl Magazine, and Pheasants Forever.
He lives in the Sacramento, California area.