Vietnamese Braised Duck in Spicy Orange Sauce (Vit Nau Cam)
- One whole duck (about 4-1/2 pounds)
- 6 large garlic cloves, crushed and peeled
- 2 ounces fresh ginger, thinly sliced lengthwise
- Juice of 16 medium oranges (about 4 cups)
- Juice of 2 limes (about 1/3 cup)
- 1/4 cup fish sauce
- 1 tablespoon palm sugar (or light brown sugar)
- 1 teaspoon five-spice powder
- 5 pieces star anise
- One 4-inch piece cassia bark (or cinnamon stick)
- 4 fresh, dried or brined red Thai chilies
- 12 scallions, root ends trimmed, stalks lightly crushed
- 3 stalks lemongrass, root ends trimmed, bruised outer leaves removed, stalks knotted
- 1 tablespoon tapioca starch
- Place the duck in a large, heavy-bottom pot over medium heat. Render the fat and cook until golden brown on all sides, about 45 minutes. Transfer the duck to a paper-lined plate. Pour the fat into a heatproof jar and reserve for future use. Do not wash the pot.
- Add the garlic and ginger to the same heavy-bottom pot over medium-high heat, and sauté until golden (about 1 minute). Stir in the orange juice, lime juice, fish sauce, sugar, and five-spice powder. Return duck to the pot, along with the star anise, cassia, chilies, scallions, and lemongrass. Add 1 quart water, cover and reduce the heat to low. Braise until the meat falls off the bones but the bird is still whole, about 3-1/2 hours. Skim off any fat and discard.
- Transfer the duck to a serving platter, along with some of the aromatics. Strain the remaining liquid and pour into a saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook until the liquid is reduced by half, about 30 minutes. Mix the tapioca starch with 1 tablespoon water, and whisk into the sauce until it thickens slightly, about 1 minute. Pour about ⅓ of the sauce over the duck; serve the rest on the side.
Pure rendered duck fat can be kept frozen for up to 3 months. If unused, simply reheat, cool, and freeze again. It is an excellent cooking oil. Tapioca starch doesn't thicken as much as cornstarch. It is very delicate, which is much preferred here.
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Caro Hodgin says: