Thursday, 15 March 2012

traditional long-cooked Balinese duck

OK. I admit, the picture of this Balinese duck isn't the best. The truth is, my friends and I were really hungry and I couldn't be bothered fashioning the duck and taking pictures from various angels. It was like, one take and then we just had to tuck in.

If only there's a way to attach the delicious smell of this duck, I'd do that instead of the picture. But that would just be torture, because you can't bite into the exquisite taste.

Anyway, this Balinese duck is my entry for this month's Random Recipe challenge. I was so pleased to finally cook a dish from Sri Owen's Indonesian Food which is such a gorgeous cookbook with plenty of personal stories and it's almost like reading an autobiography. Just my kind of reading.

For an obvious reason (being an Indonesian), I love Indonesian food, but I rarely cook Indonesian food at home. So, my friends were quite surprised when I told then we're having Balinese duck (bebek betutu in Indonesian) and rice. Again, I don't eat rice very often at home.

Please do not be put off by the long list of ingredients. Yes, there loads of spices, but everything just need to go into the blender. Most of the ingredients can be found in supermarkets nowadays; but you might need to go to your local Asian grocery store for a couple of ingredients. One, galangal... It is part of the ginger family and widely use in South East Asian cooking. Two, terasi or shrimp paste... which smells truly awful but tastes delicious. This is strong stuff and it's very salty, so a little bit goes a long way. It's beautiful in tomato and chilli sambal especially... with some Javanese fried chicken... That's for later :) I guess I might be cooking more Indonesian food...

traditional long-cooked Balinese duck
Recipe by Sri Owen
Serves 4 - 6

170 - 225 grams curly kale or vine or courgette leaves or spinach, blanched, squeezed dry, and shredded
1 duck, 1.5 - 2 kg, cleaned and ready for roasting

for the bumbu (paste)
5 shallots or 2 onions, chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
5 fresh red chillies, deseeded and chopped, or 1 tsp chilli powder
2 candlenuts or macadamia nuts (optional)
2 tsp coriander seeds
2 cloves
2 green cardamom pods
2.5 cm piece of cinnamon stick
1/2 teaspoon ground or grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 tsp chopped galangal
1/2 tsp ground white pepper
5 cm piece of lemongrass stem, tough layer discarded, chopped
1 tsp terasi (shrimp paste)
3 tbsp tamarind water or freshly squeezed lime juice
2 tbsp peanut oil
1 tbsp salt

Blend all the ingredients for the paste in a blender until smooth. Cook the paste on a saucepan and simmer for 6 - 8 minutes, stirring often. Set aside and leave to cool completely. Have a taste and adjust the seasoning. I definitely need more salt.

When the paste is cold, mix half of it in the bowl with the shredded leaves. I used curly kale which I happen to love. Rub the remaining paste all over the duck, inside and out. I would suggest you wear a clean disposable kitchen gloves to do this. Unless you don't mind the smell of shrimp paste sticking to your hands. Stuff the shredded leaves into the duck.

Now, if you can find banana leaves in your local groceries, big enough to wrap the duck, use it. And then wrap again in two or three layers of foil, quite loosely. I couldn't find banana leaves, so I just used the foil. You can cook the duck now, or do what I did: I let the flavours marinate into the duck in the fridge, overnight.  The next day, I let the duck out of the fridge for an hour or so to get to room temperature before roasting.

To cook, preheat the oven to 160 C and put the duck on a baking tray in the middle of the oven. Cook for two hours, the reduce the heat to 120 C and continue cooking for further 3 - 4 hours.

To serve, unwrap the duck and let it rest. Sri suggested to separate and cook the cooking liquid in a pan. But I didn't bother. I was hungry! The duck should have become very, very tender. Serve with the curly kale and boiled basmati rice.


  1. this sounds WONDERFUL Michael! What I would do for a good bit of real se asian food right now (our first week back in the scottish cold has shocked me more than I ever thought it would - and everyone keeps going on about how mild it is - brrrr!). Things are looking up though, I managed to find tamarind paste and palm sugar in our local supermarket, so maybe my Singapore cookbook will get some use after all! I look forward to more of your Indonesian recipes!

  2. I'm almost licking the screen, looks superb.

  3. I really MUST get that cookbook. I adore all these spices and I think the picture is fab! You have some very very lucky friends! Thanks so much for entering Michael xx

  4. Sounds amazing, Michael! All those spices..YUM! And I'm with Dom, I think the picture is great. Funny how we are always the hardest on ourselves :)

  5. OMG i can't believe I missed this post. I say the photo is great because I feel like digging in. Duck aside, I'm also totally eyeing the curly kale, which must be tender and delicious from absorbing all that spices and juices.

  6. I can only imagine the flavors of the duck, that blended during 4 hours of cooking... Well done. Come see my new place, Michael...

  7. This sounds amazing. I love the way the shredded leaves are used as a type of stuffing for the duck too!