Recipes | Gizzi's Thai Roast Duck & Watermelon Salad


Gizzi's Thai Roast Duck & Watermelon Salad

If you want to make just one dish to celebrate the Thai new year try Gizzi Erskine's fabulous Thai-style duck and watermelon salad from her most recent book Gizzi's Healthy Appetite.

Do note though, before you start, that you need a pan large enough to take a whole duck and that you need to make the Thai dressing and the crispy shallots before the duck finishes roasting. Otherwise it's dead easy, as fellow cookery writer Sabrina Ghayour who took the pic below will attest.

Gizzi writes: "One of my most memorable cooking experiences was when I worked at Min Jiang at the Royal Garden Hotel in Kensington, which is famous for its roast duck and dim sum. I spent a day learning all the secrets to the perfect Crispy Peking Duck. It’s no mean feat.

First, air is blown under the duck’s skin to separate the skin from the flesh. The duck is doused in searing hot syrup to constrict and glaze the skin, then it is left to dry overnight. It’s then roasted at a really hot temperature and actually served pink. The skin is carved away and the duck is sliced rather than shredded and served with plum sauce, spring onions, cucumber and pancakes.

I’ve made my recipe a bit more user-friendly. Essentially, you are just giving the duck a hot bath in molten liquor for a few minutes before drying it out in the fridge overnight and then roasting it. It’s no more effort than marinating something the night before, just a little more unusual. I’ve paired the duck with the most deelish Thai watermelon salad, inspired by chef Ian Pengelley, but feel free to serve the duck the classic way with pancakes if you prefer."



30 minutes, plus drying overnight


1 1/2 hours

2 litres water

1 star anise

1 slice of galangal or ginger, bruised

2 spring onions, split down the middle

5 tablespoons maltose or (if you really can’t find it) honey

4 tablespoons light soy sauce

2 tablespoons salt

1 free-range duck, about 1.2–3kg, not too fatty

Thai Salad Dressing (see below)

lime wedges, to serve

For the salad

½ medium watermelon, cut into small cubes

100g cashew nuts or peanuts, roasted

a small handful of Thai basil leaves

a small handful of mint leaves

a small handful of coriander leaves

1 shallot, finely sliced

Crispy Shallots (see below)

You will also need a saucepan large enough to fit the whole duck

Place the water, star anise, galangal or ginger, spring onions, maltose or honey, soy sauce and salt in the saucepan and bring to the boil. Turn off the heat and leave to infuse for 10 minutes. Bring back to the boil, scoop out the aromatics, and then plunge the duck, skin-side up, into the water and immerse it fully. You may need to keep it pushed down with a wooden spoon. Bring to the boil for 3 minutes, then quickly remove the duck and dry fully on kitchen paper.

Clear a shelf in the fridge, lay a few sheets of cling film on the shelf, and then place some kitchen paper on top. Next, lay a wire rack on top of this. Place the duck on the wire rack and leave to dry in the fridge for 15 hours. The duck skin will feel like wax paper when it’s dry.

Preheat the oven to 200°C/Gas Mark 6. Place the duck on a rack in an oven tray and fill the tray with 300ml water. If you want classic roast Chinese duck that’s still pink, roast the duck for 40 minutes, or until the skin is crisp and golden; if you want crispy duck, cook for 60 minutes, turning the oven down to 180°C/Gas Mark 4 after 30 minutes. Leave the duck to rest for 10 minutes before carving. Carve off the legs and use two forks to shred the leg meat, removing the bones as you go.

Next, if you’re serving your duck pink, remove the breasts with the skin intact and cut widthways into slices; or you can shred it like crispy duck. Sprinkle over a tiny bit of salt, then arrange on one side of a large serving platter.

Place the watermelon on the platter and scatter over the nuts, herbs, shallot slices and Crispy Shallots. Serve with the Thai Salad Dressing and lime wedges.



150ml water

200g palm sugar

3–4 Thai red chillies, sliced

1 lemon grass stick, bruised

1 small piece of galangal or fresh root ginger, about 5cm x 2.5cm, bruised

5 lime leaves, torn

2 tablespoons tamarind paste

2 tablespoons fish sauce

2 tablespoons lime juice

Boil all the ingredients together in a saucepan over a medium heat for about 5 minutes, or until it has reduced and is like honey. It needs to be thicker and morepotent than your average dressing because it will be diluted with all the juice the watermelon lets out. Leave to cool.



4 tablespoons coconut or rapeseed oil

4 banana shallots, thinly sliced into rings

Heat the oil in a frying pan over a low heat and fry the shallots for 10–15 minutes, or until they start to crisp up and turn a light golden colour. Scoop out the shallots and drain on some kitchen paper.

What to drink: I'd break my normal rule of pinot noir with duck for this recipe - I think an aromatic white such as pinot gris or gewurztraminer would pair much better with the Thai-style dressing. Or a fruity rosé such as this one which featured in my match of the week slot recently.

Recipe from Gizzi's Healthy Appetite, by Gizzi Erskine is published by Mitchell Beazley, £25

Top pic: The Gaztronome. Middle pic: Sabrina Ghayour

Home Economists Sofia Johansson, Anna Jones, Emily Ezekiel, Kat Mead.

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