Sunday, 21 August 2011

WANTED: Tea Smoked Duck 樟茶鴨

I've often wondered why certain Chinese dishes are widely available in the UK while others are seemingly impossible to track down. For example, when it comes to Sichuan food, it's a given that you'll find the likes of water-boiled beef (shui zhu niu rou 水煮牛肉) and fried chicken with chillies (la zi ji 辣子雞) in any authentic Sichuan eatery. And then there are dishes such as kung po chicken (宮保雞丁) and ma po tofu (麻婆豆腐) that originate in Sichuan but can be found in generic Chinese restaurants and take-aways everywhere.

However, one classic Sichuan dish that I've never seen in the UK is tea-smoked duck (zhangcha ya 樟茶鴨). In this dish, the duck is smoked with tea and camphor before being steamed then deep-fried. It's usually served with clam-shaped steamed 'cut buns' (ge bao 割包).

The version I had in Hong Kong at the Modern China restaurant was mighty fine. Smoky tender duck with crispy skin served in a fluffy pillow of a bun. It came with accompanying dips of seasoned salt and sweet chilli sauce (I have no idea whether this is authentic or not). I've also eaten this dish in Beijing before, and I've been told that it's a very famous Sichuan speciality. So, why I can't find this dish in dear old Blighty? After all, it is so much tastier than the crispy aromatic duck with pancakes that the British adore.

Anyway, in a first for the blog, I'm offering a prize to anyone who can find tea-smoked duck in London. The first person to contact me with details of a restaurant that serves this dish will be invited to join me to sample it for free. There is some small print in that the dish has to be the one with the Chinese name: zhangcha ya 樟茶鴨.

Come to think of it, let's spread the competition to the rest of the UK. I'll attempt to offer the same prize if I can get to the restaurant easily. In other words, places like Birmingham and Manchester will be OK, but I'd probably give it a miss if the winning restaurant happens to be in the Scottish Highlands or Northern Ireland.

Update 22 August 2011: Well, we have a winner. Congratulations to @Serenak105, who tracked down tea smoked duck at the Hunan restaurant in Pimlico. She also discovered tea smoked duck salad at the Chinese Cricket Club, but being a stickler for the rules, I didn't let her have that! However, just because she's found one restaurant in London that serves tea smoked duck doesn't mean the search is over. I'd love it if all of you out there could find more places that serve this Sichuan speciality.

PS: Modern China is what's known as a jing-chuan-hu 京川滬 restaurant. This concept, popular in Hong Kong, sees restaurants serve the cuisines of Beijing, Sichuan and Shanghai (separately not fused). To be honest, other than the duck, the Sichuan dishes that we sampled were mediocre. Much better were the Shanghai dishes such as xiao long bao and stir-fried river prawns.

Modern China 金滿庭
10/F, Food Forum, Times Square, 1 Matheson Street, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong
香港 銅鑼灣 勿地臣街1號時代廣場食通天10樓
Tel: +852-2506-2525
Nearest MTR: Causeway Bay 銅鑼灣


  1. Can't see if I have seen tea smoked duck in the UK either - now you have made me crave it!

  2. Now that's a challenge. I've made it myself but have never ordered it. Will be on the look out.

  3. Yes, we definitely need to have this in the UK! I'll have to look out for it.

  4. Hello! I think I've found it after a long and thorough internet trawl... Hunan in Pimlico. They don't publish their menu online but this recent review would suggest tea-smoked duck is on the menu:

    Now, where do I claim my prize?!

  5. GChick - well, the good news for you is that tea smoked duck is easily found in Melbourne e.g.

    Sharmila - have you posted your recipe?

    Kay - keep your eyes out for it.

    Serena - congratulations. You're the winner! I'll be in touch to sort out the prize...

  6. Sounds great - let us know how it is obviously!

  7. At Eatlovenoodles and Mr Noodles, you both are noodles fans obviously LOL!

    I am in Melbourne right now too, and Mr Noodles is right - we make really great Tea Smoked Duck here for some unknown reason, in fact, all the ones I've tried in HK aren't even upto the standards here in Melbourne.

    Red Emperor is good too, and Bamboo House here used to make the best version. Funny turnaround of story? The boss there has won the 1st prize in lottery last 2 years, and he doesn't care about the quality anymore haha!

  8. Frank - will do

    HK Epicurus - Melbourne (and Sydney for that matter) are so much better for Chinese food than London. BTW @eatlovenoodles and Mr Noodles are one and the same! The former is my twitter handle!

  9. Never tried it, but I am seriously interested now.....
    If anyone has a good recipe please share ....

  10. Not exactly what you're looking for but the Chinese Cricket Club do a tea smoked duck salad -

    Must admit that I am quite intrigued by this dish now...

  11. Sung - recipe here:

    Just be careful when it comes to smoking meat indoors!

  12. Mzungu - Sharmila has a recipe on her blog

    Thebao - a few people on Twitter also mentioned the tea smoked duck salad at the Chinese Cricket Club, but as I've mentioned on my blog update - it doesn't qualify imho.

    Sharmila - thanks for the recipe. A lot of hard work but the end result makes it worthwhile!

  13. Nice competition!! And good work for delegating the finding of tea smoked duck hehehe, I love how you think ;)

  14. catty - I've been looking for tea smoked duck for ages but to no avail, so I thought I'd tap into the kiasu spirit of my readers! Good news for you is that this dish is quite common in Sydney!

  15. Not sure if this will be of interest of you but on 17 November, Divermenti School are offering a Sichuan and Hunan cooking class by Guo Yue and it looks like Black Tea Smoked Duck might be on the menu. Maybe you can learn to make this delicacy in your own home and if not, at least sample it and watch it made from scratch!

    I want to go but can't commit that far ahead in time and simply because I don't think I can afford it!!

  16. Thebao - good spot! Not really my cup of tea, but thanks for letting readers of the blog know about this.