Lake Isle Press

Five-Spice Duck

Tonton Jean's duck marinade—which can be used on other fowl such as goose, guinea hen, or even chicken—is a perfect blend of sweet and savory, typical of my uncle’s heritage, yet new to mine.

Five-Spice Duck


  • 16 garlic cloves
  • 8 shallots
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon five-spice mix (recipe follows)
  • 6 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 6 tablespoons sherry or Chinese rice wine
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 2 double Muscovy (or magret) duck breasts, cut into halves


Serves 4

1. Combine the garlic, shallots, sugar, five-spice mix, fish sauce, and sherry in a blender or food processor; blend to a smooth paste.

2. With a sharp knife, cut the skin side of the duck breast in a criss-cross pattern (this will facilitate the release of fat while cooking). In a plastic bag, combine the duck with the marinade and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
3. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Heat the vegetable oil in a large sauté pan over high heat. Remove the duck from the marinade and drain well. Place the duck in the hot pan, skin side down, and cook 5 minutes; turn once and finish in the oven, about 5 more minutes for medium-rare.

Five-Spice Mix
This Vietnamese spice mix is delicious as a rub on poultry or firm-fleshed fish. It can also be used in marinades.

Makes about 1/3 cup

  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons Szechuan peppercorns, ground
  • 1 tablespoon fennel seeds, ground
  • 2 tablespoons star anise, ground
  • 1 teaspoon cloves, ground

  • Blend the spices well and store in an airtight container.

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