3.023 Pan-Fried Duck Breasts in Five-Spice Glaze with Shredded Leeks

-Cycle 3, Item 23-
28 (Sat) January 2012

Pan-Fried Duck Breasts in Five-Spice Glaze with Shredded Leeks

* *

by me

at home

-Oksu, Seoul-

with Wife and Dominic

For the first time in my life, I bought a duck. It was a whole duck. Not quite confident enough to risk it all on a single recipe, I separated the bird into 4 components: the breasts (for this dish), the legs-thighs-wings (for a future dish), the carcass (for stock), and the excess skin (for the rendered fat, as well as the crispy skins themselves, which we ate as an appetizer dipped in sweet chili sauce). At 11,000 won for 1.5 kg, a pretty decent value. And fun.

After consulting several cookbooks, I settled on a recipe in Man with a Pan, a collection of food essays and related recipes that I referenced in a prior post (see generally 2.353 Lemon-in-the-Ass Rosemary Roast Chicken with Roast Potatoes and Pan Gravy). Developed by contributor Adam Bonin, the recipe was the synthesis of two duck recipes attributed to the venerable Mark Bittman, whom I quoted in yesterday's post (on an unrelated matter), whose video podcast The Minimalist is conceived on the notion of simplicity in cooking (see 2.223 Sesame Shrimp Scrambled Eggs). Nevertheless, the ingredient list left me a bit skeptical as to whether the recipe would work as is. I mean, for a glaze based on 7 total tablespoons of liquid, 3 tablespoons of soy sauce seemed excessive. According to the author, however: "Everybody in my family knows--and most of our friends know--that Adam can make duck, and he can make this duck. And he can just nail it." Self-reference in the 3rd person is often a sign of spurious cockiness, but I gave it a shot, confident myself that I could adjust if/when necessary.

As anticipated, the glaze was mouth-puckeringly salty. Even diluted with some stock, it was still a bit strong. The shredded leeks, not part of the original recipe, helped balance things out.

Americans don't appear to regard soy sauce as being particularly salty. Years ago, while helping out at my aunt and uncle's sushi boat restaurant in San Diego, I noticed that the customers ate inordinate amounts of soy sauce as a condiment; they would drop a piece of sushi into the soy sauce dish and wait for the rice to sop it all up and turn black. "Doesn't that make it too salty?" I once asked. "Salty? It's just soy sauce," the guy replied, looking puzzled. Another example, though I can't recall the details, I saw a cooking program in which the host, who was making something Asian, took great pains to explain that soy sauce may register as "sweet" but actually has a high sodium content and warned the viewers against the "temptation" to add extra salt. Indeed.


  1. You should try making that duck ragu I told you about earlier. It's a really good recipe. If you need it I could give it to you

  2. impressed with duck carving skills.

  3. @DC: YES, definitely, please give me the recipe. and the one for mark bittman's slow eggs.

    @Lisa: thanks, though it really isn't very difficult. what i really want to be able to do is chop roast duck with a cleaver like the guys at cantonese joints.

  4. okay! How should I send it? Looking forward to seeing you make it. You're going to have to buy another whole duck.

  5. email. or FB.