Keralan Duck Curry

Duck is a staple in the Backwaters, a region of intricate canals and lakes in the Indian state of Kerala. Aniamma Philip uses whole duck for this spicy dish, accented with cloves and citrusy curry leaves, but boneless breasts are a fine alternative. Make the extra effort to look for fresh or frozen curry leaves; they are much more potent than dried ones.

Slideshow: Easy Indian Recipes

  • Total Time:
  • Servings: 6


  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • Kosher salt
  • 6 skinless, boneless Pekin duck breast halves (5 ounces each)
  • Seeds from 6 cardamom pods
  • 6 whole cloves
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 3 medium red potatoes, peeled and sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 6 fresh curry leaves
  • 6 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 4 long hot green chiles, seeded and thinly sliced crosswise
  • One 1 1/2-inch piece of ginger, peeled and julienned (3 tablespoons)
  • 1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
  • One 14-ounce can unsweetened coconut milk (see Note)
  • 1/2 cup water

How to make this recipe

  1. In a small bowl, mix 1/2 teaspoon of the turmeric with 2 teaspoons of kosher salt and rub over the duck breasts. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

  2. Meanwhile, in a spice grinder, grind the cardamom seeds, cloves and peppercorns to a powder. Transfer to a small bowl and stir in the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric.

  3. In a large, deep skillet, heat 1/4 cup of the oil until shimmering. Add the potato slices in a single layer and cook over moderate heat until browned, about 4 minutes per side. Drain on paper towels and season with salt.

  4. In the same skillet, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil. Add the duck breasts and cook over high heat until browned, about 2 minutes per side; transfer to a large plate.

  5. In the same skillet, cook the curry leaves over moderate heat for 2 minutes. Add the garlic, chiles and ginger and cook until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the onion and cook over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the spice powder and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Return the duck to the skillet along with any accumulated juices, cover and cook over low heat for 5 minutes, turning the breasts a few times. Return the duck breasts to the plate.

  6. Open the coconut milk and spoon 1/4 cup of the thickened milk from the top and set aside. Put the remaining coconut milk in a bowl and stir in the water. Add the thinned coconut milk to the skillet and simmer over moderately high heat for 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to moderate. Add the fried potato slices and simmer for 1 minute. Add the duck breasts and simmer for 8 minutes, turning once. Stir in the thickened coconut milk and simmer over low heat for 3 minutes. Season with salt. Transfer the duck breasts to plates and spoon the potatoes and sauce around the duck and serve.


Don't shake the can of coconut milk before opening to make sure the thickened milk stays on top. If cooking homogenized coconut milk, add the entire can plus 1/2 cup of water at the beginning of Step 6.

Serve With

Steamed white rice

Suggested Pairing

Since an oaky red might overpower the complex flavors here, look for a light-bodied, berry-rich bottling like a juicy California or Oregon Pinot Noir with lots of fruit.

Contributed By Published December 2006

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