Xiang Su Ya is a Szechuan dish where the whole duck is marinated in Chinese 5-spice powder, Szechuan peppercorns, and seasonings and then air-dried for days and then deep-fried or air-fried. It is soooo cripsy! Even the bones are crispy! Move over roasted Peking Duck
“Mama I want the spicy fish and the crispy duck” is what my two kids always say when we go to our favorite Szechuan restaurant. They can’t really eat the full-blown spiciness of Szechuan dishes yet, but they can handle a bit of heat and they do like these particular 2 dishes, Fei Teng Yu 沸腾鱼 and Xiang Su Ya. I still need to dip the fish in a water (to wash off some of the spiciness) before they eat it, but it seems like my daughter’s threshold for spiciness is going up 😉 If I ask her whether it’s too spicy, she will always say “I just eat it with the rice!” (That’s my girl!). The boy can handle some heat too despite having to tame the heat often with some water (That’s my boy!)
With such great fondness of this xiang su ya, it was definitely my mission to learn how to make this dish at home. I got some duck and start googling and reading about it. I found this xiang su ya recipe from Andrea Nguyen. I adapted the recipe slightly. I love this recipe and it’s definitely a keeper!
After steamed for 3 hours and air-dried
The duck bathed in corn starch solution before being deep-fried and air-fried
So, I guess you probably would ask “Deep-fried or Air-fried is better?”
I like the idea of air-fried because of the obvious reason! No greasy kitchen and duck-infused aroma all over my hair and clothes. It comes out very crispy too! The deep-fried version is even crispier, even the little bones are so crispy that you can crunch on them literally, not on the air-fried version. My advice is if you are making this for the first time, definitely deep fry it so you know the real deal. I’m going to air fry this xiang su ya if I were to make it again in the future because it still comes out really good and very crispy, it’s just the bones that are not as crispy! But the meat on both methods stay moist and did not dry out during the cooking process!
Szechuan Fragrant Crispy Duck (Xiang Su Ya)
- 4-5 lbs of fresh whole duck
- 2 tablespoons Szechuan peppercorns
- 1 teaspoon Chinese 5-spice powder
- 2 Tbsp salt
- 3 tablespoons Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry
- 5 quarter slices fresh unpeeled ginger smash with the side of a knife or an heavy object
- 2 whole green onions cut into 3-inch lengths
- Place szechuan peppercorn in a pan and roast them lightly until really fragrant. Remove from the heat and place into a spice grinder and ground into a powder. Mix this with Chinese 5-spice powder and salt
MARINADE & DRY:
- Place the whole duck in a cutting board and cut off the head including the neck, feet, wings, and tail. Save these to make stocks. Rub the outside of the duck with half of the marinade mixture. Use your hands to really massaging the marinade into the skin. Marinade the inside of the duck using the rest of the marinade mixture. Place a cooling rack on a baking sheet and place the duck on top of the rack and loosely cover with a parchment paper and place inside the refrigerator for 48 hours to let it dry out
STEAM & DRY:
- After 48 hours, rub the duck inside out with shaoxing wine and place the ginger and green onion pieces inside the duck
- Prepare a steamer. Bring the water to a rolling boil and then place a bowl inside the steamer that is large enough to put the duck in. Place the duck, breast-side up, in the bowl and let it steam for 2 hours. Remember to check the water level in the steamer during the steaming process and refill as needed. After 2 hours, the duck will somewhat shrink a little bit and there will be plenty of juice in the bowl. I save this juice as stock for other uses. Place the bowl and the duck back inside the steamer and steam for another hour. At the end of the cooking, save more of the juice collected if any
- Place the duck on a cooling rack place on a baking sheet and let it air dry for 3 hours
DEEP FRY or AIR FRY
- Put the duck on a cutting board, breast side up, and use a cleaver to cut the duck into half. I cut out the backbone and save it with the rest of the trimmings to make stock in the future. It's easier to deep fry half of a duck instead of the whole duck
- Prepare the starch solution by mixing everything in a bowl. Rub this all over the duck inside out. Let it dry again for 10 minutes
If you deep fry:
- Heat up 3-4 inches of oil in a deep-fryer, wok, or deep skillet. Very carefully lower half of the duck into the oil, skin side up. Use a metal spoon to ladle the oil all over the top of the duck to evenly fry the top part too. Fry for about 5 minutes and then carefully turn the duck over and fry for another 5 minutes. Remove the duck into several layers of absorbent paper towel. Fry the other half of the duck
If you air fry:
- Our air fryer is large enough to cook 1/2 of the duck at a time. Preheat the air fryer for 5 minutes on 400 F. I brush a little oil on the skin of the duck and place them inside the air fryer and fry for about 10-15 minutes. It should be nice golden brown. Repeat with the other half
- Place the fried duck on a cutting board and cut into smaller pieces with bone intact and serve immediately
And so I thought I could serve 1/2 for lunch and 1/2 for dinner! who was I fooling really! the whole duck disappeared (only the carcass left) in one sitting! Don’t take my words for it! Try to make it at home or if you ever go to Szechuan restaurant, look for this Xiang Su Ya for real!!!
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