Itek Sio (Nyonya braised duck)

Got some duck legs need using, the only thing I can think of was some kind of braised recipe. Don't really want plum sauce duck again I had it not too long ago. Then I thought of Itek Sio which is rather nice. Itek Sio is Nyonya style braised duck, the main ingredients are ground coriander and tamarind.

For the recipe (serve 4)

2-1/2 to 3 tbsp whole coriander seeds
1/2 to 1 tsp of black peppercorns
4 - 5 duck legs
1 tbsp of dark soy sauce
1 tbsp of light soy sauce

2 -3 cloves garlic, chopped
3 - 5 shallots, chopped
1 piece of cinnamon or cassia bark (about 3" long)
about 5 -6 whole cloves (about 1/2 tsp)
about 1 golf ball size wet tamarind with seeds (or few tbsp of ready to use tamarind paste/juice), to your taste
More light or dark soy or salt to your taste
1 small chunk of palm sugar or normal sugar (to your taste)
chilli (optional), fresh or dried chilli flakes
cornflour with some water to thicken (optional)

  1. Dry roast the coriander and peppercorns in a pan till golden and fragrant, about 4 - 5 minutes. Then ground to powder using a mini blender or pestle and mortar.
  2. Mix the duck with both the light and dark soy and ground spices, leave to marinate for few hours or overnight.
  3. In a very hot large pan or wok, no need to add oil and fry the duck pieces skin side down first and fry till all sides are browned. Leave the remaining marinate for use later. Do use a non stick pan/wok. There will be plenty of fat oozing out of the duck skin.
  4. Remove most of the fat and add garlic, shallot, cinnamon and cloves. Stir and then coat the paste on the duck. Keep stirring and then add remaining duck marinate, stir for a while then add about 1 cup of water, bring to a boil then lower heat cover and simmer.
  5. At the meantime, add enough (about 1/2 - 3/4 cup) hot water to the wet tamarind and sqeeze to release the pulp then strain. Then add to the duck. If using ready to use tamarind paste/juice, add straight into the pan/wok, 1 tbsp at a time and taste before adding more because the strength from brand to brand is quite different.
  6. Add enough sugar to your taste. Then add some soy sauce to taste (light or dark doesn't really matter, to the colour or taste you like), if you don't like more soy sauce you can add enough salt to taste.
  7. If you like spicy, add in some chilli.
  8. Braise the duck for about 35 - 40 minutes or till tender. If there is plenty of sauce in the pan/wok, take the duck pieces out and reduce the sauce, skim any fat floating on top if you like. Add some cornflour if you like to thicken the sauce.
**Other than duck legs, you can use whole duck or duck crown. I find duck legs much easier to handle.


  1. Hi Sunflower,

    Just a quickie to say we made this on Wednesday and it is wonderful. Typical Perenakan flavours, with a lovely balance of sweet/sour/salty/tasty/hot This is a definite keeper and will be a regular (made with the dirt cheap duck legs from fattened ducks) in the Ianinfrance household.

  2. Hi Ian

    Lovely to hear you like it.
    So envious you can get duck legs so cheap.


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