Hot and Sour Duck Soup


Sublime Smoke

Published by Harvard Common Press

This image courtesy of Joseph DeLeo

The bold flavors of China’s famous hot and sour soups, based on black pepper and vinegar, marry well with the similarly assertive tastes of smoked duck.

NotesServing Suggestion: We serve this elegant soup as a main course accompanied with other dishes with a Chinese flair, such as scallion breads, pickled cucumbers, and ginger-flavored ice cream or custard. Check out any of the cookbooks of Nina Simonds or Barbara Tropp for inspiration.

Technique: When you smoke fatty meats, the fat tends to melt away during the cooking process. This general rule doesn’t apply to ducks, however. The old Chinese method of steaming ducks first before cooking yields the most succulent results.

Serves6 to 8

Cooking Methodsmoking


Total Timehalf-day

OccasionCasual Dinner Party, Family Get-together

Recipe Coursemain course

Dietary Considerationdiabetic, egg-free, gluten-free, halal, kosher, lactose-free, low carb

Equipmentsmoker, steamer


Taste and Texturemeaty, nutty, rich, savory, smoky, tangy, umami

Type of Dishsoup


  • 4 duck breasts, about 5 ounces each
  • ½ cup soy sauce
  • ½ cup dry sherry
  • ¼ cup rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons Asian sesame oil or peanut oil
  • 1 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons peanut oil
  • ¼ pound shiitake mushrooms, caps and stems sliced, or other mushrooms
  • 6 green onions, white portion only, sliced into 1-inch matchsticks
  • 1 heaping tablespoon minced fresh ginger
  • 3 cups shredded bok choy or Chinese cabbage
  • 10 cups chicken stock, reduced over high heat to 8 cups
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons fresh-ground black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon ground white pepper
  • ½ pound firm tofu, drained and cut in ½-inch cubes
  • ¼ cup rice vinegar
  • 1½ teaspoons Asian sesame oil
  • Thin-sliced green onion tops, for garnish


  1. About 3 hours before you plan to smoke the duck, place the breasts in a steamer over water and steam for 25 to 30 minutes.

  2. While the breasts steam, mix together the marinade ingredients in a lidded jar. When the duck has finished steaming, combine it with the marinade in a shallow, nonreactive dish or plastic bag and refrigerate for 2 hours.

  3. Bring your smoker to its appropriate cooking temperature.

  4. Remove the breasts from the refrigerator and drain them, discarding the marinade.

  5. Transfer the breasts to the smoker, skin sides up, and smoke until the duck is well-done but still moist, about 55 to 65 minutes at a temperature of 225° F to 250° F. Let the breasts sit for 5 minutes, slice the meat thin on the diagonal, and reserve.

  6. While the duck smokes, prepare the soup base. In a stockpot, warm the oil over high heat. Stir in the mushrooms and sauté until they begin to soften, about 2 minutes. Add the onions and ginger and sauté for another minute. Stir in the bok choy and pour in the stock. Add the soy sauce and both peppers, reduce the heat to medium, and simmer for 10 minutes. (The soup can be made to this point several hours in advance and refrigerated. Reheat it before proceeding.)

  7. Stir in the tofu and reserved duck, and heat just through. Remove the soup from the heat and quickly mix in the vinegar and sesame oil. Ladle the soup into bowls, top with the green onions, and serve immediately.


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