Suzhou Braised Duck (Suzhou Lu Ya)

suzhou braised duck

Suzhou Braised Duck, a traditional and iconic dish originating from the renowned Songhelou restaurant in Suzhou, Jiangsu Province, is a culinary masterpiece that delights the senses with its rich flavors and enticing presentation. Characterized by its deep soy-red color, succulent texture, and a perfect balance of sweetness and savory goodness, Suzhou Braised Duck has earned its reputation as a summer delicacy and a sought-after cold dish.

Dating back more than 60 years, historical records in Suzhou’s “Chunhua Pavilion Culinary Chronicles” mention the seasonal debut of Suzhou Braised Duck during the summer months. The dish was crafted using tender duck, and interestingly, at that time, many local eateries substituted goose for duck, as the latter was not as plump. This culinary tradition has persisted, making the dish a staple on summer menus.

The meticulous preparation of Suzhou Braised Duck involves first cleaning and chopping the tender duck, combining it with cleaned and scraped pork fat in a bamboo-lined pot. After boiling with water and skimming off impurities, the duck is seasoned with red yeast rice powder, soy sauce, salt, rock sugar, cinnamon, star anise, scallion knots, and ginger. The duck is then pressed with a plate and simmered over medium heat for approximately one hour on each side. Once cooked, the duck is flipped, allowing for even absorption of the flavorful broth. After cooling, the duck is placed in a large dish.

The concentrated braising liquid, filtered and thickened with sugar, is then heated until it achieves a sticky consistency. This luscious sauce is further enhanced with a touch of sesame oil and drizzled over the beautifully carved and plated Suzhou Braised Duck, creating a dish that is not only visually appealing but also a delightful culinary experience, capturing the essence of Suzhou’s culinary heritage.

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