Adam D’Sylva’s famous yellow duck curry


I like the richness and the gaminess of the duck. It has a reputation for being luxurious and difficult to cook, but it really isn’t. The method here is the one we used when I was a chef at Pearl, Geoff Lindsay’s restaurant in Richmond, Melbourne. Geoff and Martin Boetz, with whom I worked at Longrain, were two of my biggest influences.

Similar to Peking duck, the skin is marinated in sugar, which helps it caramelize well in the oven. And the roasting pan is filled with coconut milk and all the aromatic leftovers you have on hand, such as lime makrut leaves, ginger, lemongrass, and Thai basil. It’s a bit like a bouquet garni.

Once the duck is cooked, this coconut milk can be reused in the curry itself. The duck flavor and aromas really take it to the next level.

It’s my favorite curry sauce to make and eat, and it’s been on the menu at Coda since we opened in 2009. People always write it down and I have to cook it everywhere I go; otherwise they say: “Where’s your duck curry?” Where’s your duck curry? Where’s your duck curry?

Yellow duck curry, by Adam D’Sylva, co-owner and executive chef of Coda and Tonka, Melbourne
For 4 people

Preparation time: 10 to 15 minutes, plus a night of marinade

Cooking time: 2 hours



375 ml (1½ cup) soy sauce, preferably Healthy Boy brand

1 teaspoon white peppercorns, crushed

3 tablespoons of powdered sugar, plus extra if needed

4 free-range duck marylands

400 ml canned coconut milk

1 red banana pepper

3 leaves of lime makrut

1 lemongrass stalk, white part only, bruised and roughly chopped

270 ml coconut cream

100 g grated palm sugar

100 ml of fish sauce

200 ml chicken broth

Yellow curry paste

1 red onion, chopped

8 cloves of garlic

6 coriander roots, scraped and cleaned

4 cm piece of turmeric, peeled and chopped

4 cm piece of ginger, peeled and chopped

8 long dried red chillies, seeded, soaked in hot water for 20 to 30 minutes and drained

Mix of spices

1 tablespoon of coriander seeds

1 teaspoon of cumin seeds

1 tsp of fennel seeds

½ teaspoon of white peppercorns

2 tablespoons of sea salt

To serve

Coriander leaves

Marinated Krachai (available in jars at Asian grocery stores)

Crispy fried shallots (available at Asian grocery stores)

Steamed white rice


Place the soy sauce, crushed white peppercorns and sugar in a non-reactive container (glass, ceramic or stainless steel), then whisk to dissolve the sugar. Taste the marinade – it should taste sweeter than salty, so add more sugar if needed. Add the duck, skin side down, then cover with a lid and marinate in the refrigerator overnight.

The next day, preheat the oven to 150 ° C.

Place duck in a tight-fitting roasting pan, skin side up. Pour in one of the cans of coconut milk, along with the banana pepper, lime leaves and lemongrass. Roast for 1.5 hours.

Meanwhile, to make the curry paste, place the onion, garlic, cilantro roots, turmeric, and ginger in a heavy-bottomed saucepan or wok over medium heat. Add 2 tablespoons of water and cook, stirring, for 5 to 6 minutes, until the ingredients are lightly colored and soft. Add a little more water if they start to burn – you want the ingredients to caramelize, which will give the curry extra depth and flavor.

Transfer the mixture to a large bowl and add the drained peppers. Let cool, then mix in a food processor for 3 to 4 minutes to obtain a smooth and reddish yellow paste. If the dough is not wet enough, add a little water to help move the blades.

To prepare the spice blend, wet the cilantro seeds, then toast them over medium heat in a small pan or heavy-bottomed wok for 2 to 3 minutes, until fragrant and lightly. colored. Put aside. Repeat with the cumin seeds, then the fennel seeds. Using a mortar and pestle, grind the toasted seeds and white peppercorns into a fine powder, then mix the curry paste with the salt until blended.

To make the curry, place a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Add the coconut cream, bring to a boil and cook for 8 to 10 minutes, until the cream is split. Add 100g of curry paste and fry for 2-3 minutes, until fragrant and you can smell the spices. Add palm sugar and fish sauce and cook, stirring, until the sugar has dissolved. Pour in the rest of the can of coconut milk and broth, bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 20 to 25 minutes, until reduced slightly.

Divide the sauce among four shallow bowls and add the duck. Garnish with cilantro leaves, pickled krachai and crispy fried shallots and serve with white rice on the side.

Leftover curry paste will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

This is an excerpt from Large format recipe book Home made, which offers 80 diverse recipes for home cooking, sourced from Melbourne’s best cooks, chefs and restaurants. Published by Plum, the book is available for $ 49.95 from

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