In Chinese-Vietnamese cooking, 5-spice and duck is a classic flavor combo. And in this particular recipe, the finishing salt and pepper mix is the star of the show. It is super simple and makes the duck breasts, and many other game animals for that matter, taste incredible.
This recipe will likely make extra of the salt and pepper mix, and so I recommend keeping any excess in a tightly sealed jar. Sprinkle it on steak, deep-fried small game and even crispy pork chops.
There are two areas where I’ll highlight specific emphasis: preparing the salt and the duck breast.
Use a wok or any light-colored pan to toast the salt. Avoid using a dark pan such as cast iron because it's hard to see when the salt starts to change color. You want to achieve a light tan color to the salt.
I suggest prepping the duck breast the day before to help gain the ultimate crispy sear, especially on the skin side. I do this by salting the duck breast lightly on both sides and then place the meat on a rack in the fridge for at least 24 hours. I’ll then pat the breast dry before cooking. If there is a lot of fat under the skin, I’ll score the skin. This will help the fat render out of the breast and get the skin crisp while cooking.
Serve on top of rice or as part of Vietnamese duck and cabbage salad. It will taste as good as it looks, I promise.
5-Spice Wild Duck Breasts
- Duck breasts with skin on (quantity is flexible, just don’t overcrowd the pan – I cook two at a time)
- ½ tbs oil
- 3 tbs salt
- 1 tbs msg
- 1 tbs sugar
- 1 tsp 5-spice powder
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- Make the salt and pepper mix by toasting the salt in a dry wok. Stir salt until the color becomes off-white, about 5 minutes. Mix all ingredients for salt and pepper mix – salt, pepper, msg, sugar, 5 spice mix – in a jar and stir. Set aside.
- In a cast-iron pan, turn heat to medium, add 1/2 tablespoon of oil and place duck breasts skin down. Let the fat render out and get crispy. It could take 3-6 minutes; it depends on the size of your duck breast.
- Flip the breast over and sear the other side for about 3-4 minutes. You're aiming for medium-well. Avoid overcooking.
- Take off heat and sprinkle both sides with the salt and pepper mix.
- Let it rest for at least 3 minutes before slicing and serving.