Honey-Roasted Duck Legs

Honey-Roasted Duck Legs

By Nathan Fong

One of my favourite items at a Chinese barbecue shop is a whole roasted duck.  This is an easy home version in which I use whole duck legs (thighs and drumstick), which are available at Asian markets. Some of the fat is rendered away through steaming first, and then they’re slowly roasted to a golden brown and finished with a sublime spiced honey glaze, which is turned into a hoisin-infused dipping sauce for serving. Serves six as part of a multi-course dinner.



4 cloves garlic, smashed

1-inch knob of ginger, thinly sliced

3/4 tsp Chinese five-spice powder

1/4 tsp finely ground white pepper

1/4 tsp salt

1/3 cup honey

2 Tbsp light soy sauce

1 Tbsp dark soy sauce

1 Tbsp rice wine or dry sherry


Place all ingredients into a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Remove from heat and pour through a fine mesh sieve into a bowl, pressing on solids to extract as much liquid as possible with a spoon. Allow to cool.


3/4 tsp salt

2 Tbsp rice wine or dry sherry

2 to 3 tsp peeled and grated fresh ginger, pressed through a fine mesh sieve to make 1 tsp juice

6 whole duck legs, trimmed of excess fat

2 Tbsp hoisin sauce


Mix together the salt, rice wine and ginger juice until salt dissolves. Rub duck legs with marinade and place them, without overlapping, onto a shallow bowl or deep plate that will fit onto a steamer tray. Allow to marinate for 15 minutes. Fill a steamer pan with water and bring to boil over high heat. Add the steamer tray with the dish of duck legs, cover and steam for 25 minutes. Transfer legs to a plate.

Set oven rack to lower third of the oven and preheat to 425°F. Place a roasting rack onto a foil-lined baking sheet. Place duck legs skin side up onto the roasting rack without crowding, and roast 35 to 40 minutes or until skin is crisp and lightly golden. If too much fat accumulates on the baking pan during roasting, remove as much fat as is needed to prevent undue smoking, then return rack to oven.

When duck is ready, using tongs, lift each leg and roll into the glaze to coat evenly, holding it above the bowl to allow excess glaze to drip off. Return legs to rack and roast skin side up for 5 minutes. Coat again with glaze and roast for another 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool 10 minutes.

After glazing the duck legs the second time, transfer the remaining glaze to a saucepan and stir in the hoisin sauce. Warm over medium heat adding a small amount of warm water if too thick. Pour into small serving bowl and use as a dipping sauce.


Honey Plum Tomato Compote

This rich and flavourful spread is perfect for crostinis and can be served as an appetizer or as part of a sauce for pasta or grilled chicken. It can be stored in an air-tight container for up to a week. Makes 2 cups.


1 Tbsp olive oil

1 onion, coarsely chopped

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 Tbsp chopped ginger

1/2 tsp cinnamon

3/4 tsp ground cumin

1/2 tsp ground coriander

1/4 tsp cayenne or red pepper flakes

One 28 oz tin plum tomatoes, chopped, reserving juice

3 Tbsp honey

2 Tbsp lemon juice

1/2 tsp salt


In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add onion, garlic and ginger and sauté slowly 3 to 5 minutes or until onions are translucent. Add spices and cook for 1 minute. Add chopped tomatoes, reserved juice and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer 20 to 25 minutes or until thick, stirring occasionally. Stir in honey, lemon juice and salt. Cook for a few minutes more. Season to taste if necessary.

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