Salted vegetable duck soup (咸菜鸭汤 or Kiam Chye Ark): This savoury Chinese soup cooked with salted mustard green and fresh whole duck is very popular during festive occasions and special gatherings. The most time-consuming part is to remove all the duck fats, but it is a necessary step otherwise the soup will be too oily.
The Teochews, Hokkiens and Nonya all have their own versions of this soup – this one I am sharing is the Hokkien version. My youngest daughter has been craving this soup and kept asking me to cook it. I don’t cook this very often, I usually only cook it for special occasions or larger family gatherings.
This soup is really yummy, and the preparation is actually quite easy. The most time consuming part is to remove all the fats from the duck, otherwise the soup will be very oily because ducks have alot of fats, and it will ruin the soup.
How to Soak the Kiam Chye (Salted Mustard Green)
The first time I cooked this soup, I didn’t know that you cannot change the water of the kiam chye (salted mustard green) during soaking, so I changed the water a few times because I didn’t want the soup to be too salty. But I didn’t know that the saltiness of the kiam chye would keep on being absorbed by the water, until the kiam chye ended up tasteless!
So now I have learnt that the trick is to not change the water during soaking – this way the salt content of the water will reach ‘saturation point’ and the saltiness of the kiam chye will ‘equalise’ with the salt content of the soaking water, and retain its taste. Hope that you enjoy this recipe!
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Salted Vegetable Duck Soup (咸菜鸭汤)
Yummy savoury home-cooked Chinese soup that is popular for festive occasions and gatherings
- Fresh Duck, 2.2 Kg ( extra large)
- Kiam Chye (Salted Mustard Green), 1 kg
- Tomatoes, 8
- Tamarind Skin, 6 pieces
- Sour Plums, 3
- Ginger, 2 thumb-sized pieces
- Water, 3 litres
PREPARATION FOR SALTED VEGETABLE DUCK SOUP (1 hour)
- In a basin, put some warm water to soak the kiam chye ensuring the water is about 2 inch above the kiam chai for about 20 mins. Taste to see if it is too salty. If it is, soak for another 10 mins.
- De-skin the duck and remove all the fats from the duck. Clean the inside and wash. Chop the duck into chunks.
- Blanch the duck into boiling water for 3 minutes. Discard the water. Wash the duck and remove any visible blood clots.
- Remove the kiam chye leaf by leaf and cut off the fibre on the top of the leaves and remove the fibres from the main stem.
- Then cut the leaves into big chunks.
- Wash and cut the tomatoes into wedges.
- Next, wash the tamarind skin and the sour plums.
- Lastly, remove the skin from the ginger and bruise it with a knife
COOKING METHOD FOR SALTED VEGETABLE DUCK SOUP (1 Hr)
- In a big pot, add in 3 litres of water and bring it to a boil over high heat.
- Once boiling, add in the duck, the tamarind skin and the ginger and boil for half an hour over medium heat.
- Then turn the heat to medium low, add in the kiam chye, tomatoes and sour plum and boil for another 30 mins or until the duck is soft but not disintegrated.
- More water can be added if need be.
- When soaking the kiam chye, don’t change the water, otherwise the kiam chye will become tasteless because the saltiness of the kiam chye will keep being absorbed into the water. When you use the same water, the saltiness of the kiam chye and the water will become equalised, so the kiam chye will still retain its taste.
- Ensure all the fats of the duck is removed, otherwise the soup will be very oily.
- If the soup is still oily, there are a few methods to remove the oil. Some people say you can put it in the fridge and just scoop off the fat layer that coagulates on top. But I find it troublesome because then you have to cook the soup the day before in order for the method to work, and it takes up space in the fridge. But my favourite method is using my oil separator / fat separator, which is one of my best kitchen device buys that I have been using for a long time. It is essentially a large beaker with a long spout. You just have to pour the soup into the container. The oil being lighter will float on the top of the soup. You can then pour out the soup from the spout, leaving the oil behind. Its easy to use and easy to clean as well. The one I’m using is already discontinued, but you can pick up one from Amazon for less than US$15:
OXO Good Grips 4-Cup Fat Separator Swing-A-Way S2062T Easy Release Grease Separator Norpro New 3 Cup Gravy Fat Separator Meat Juice Measurer Holds 4 Cups
- If possible, avoid buying the pre-packed kiam chye from the supermarkets. You can get fresher kiam chye from the wet market or those from Sheng Shiong where the kiam chye is soaked in a big tub of salty brine.
- Don’t cut the duck into too small pieces or it will disintegrate very quickly during cooking.
- Same goes with kiam chye. Cut it into big chucks.
- 3 red chilly padi (sliced lengthwise and seeds removed) and 1 TBsp of brandy can be added if that is your preference.
- I do not recommend this soup for young children because of the high sodium content from the kiam chye.
Suggested Modifications for Special Diets
- Egg-Free: No modifications needed.
- Fish-Free: No modifications needed.
- Gluten-Free: No modifications needed.
- Nut-Free: No modifications needed.
- Shellfish-Free: No modifications needed.