BEBEK BETUTU           

Boned and stuffed long-cooked Balinese duck

 This is my experimental method of cooking this classic Balinese duck. The whole duck is boned (use the bones to make stock). It is then stuffed with 4 duck breasts (without their skins) and its skin is sewn up, ready for cooking.

 The Balinese do not have the custom of boning ducks, chickens or any other birds. The traditional bebek betutu is stuffed with cassava leaves and spiced with the full Balinese spice mixture. When the duck is fully cooked, the wrapping, which consists of layers of banana leaves inside a seludang mayang (the hard outer sheath of the coconut flower), is opened to reveal a mass of black and tender meat. The stuffing itself has also become black. Not very appetising to look at, maybe, but the flavour is exquisite.

Here is a recipe for preparing and cooking the duck in the oven, for 2 hours on medium heat (160ºC) and then for a further 3 - 4 hours at 120ºC.

The boned duck with four more duck breasts inside it can serve 18 - 20 people.


1 duck, 2 kg / 4 lbs, boned except for the legs, and cleaned

4 duck breasts with the skins discarded


for the spice mixture or paste:

10 shallots or 2 large onions, chopped

8 cloves garlic, chopped

5 red chillies, seeds removed, chopped; or 2 tsp chilli powder

6 candlenuts or macadamia nuts, or 3 Tbsp ground almond

4 tsp coriander seeds

2 tsp cumin seeds

2 cloves

2 green cardamoms

2.5-cm / 1-inch stick of cinnamon

½ tsp ground or grated nutmeg

1 tsp ground turmeric

2 tsp chopped galingale

1 tsp ground white pepper

5-cm / 2-inch stem of lemon grass, outer leaf discarded, chopped

3 kaffir lime leaves, shredded

1 tsp shrimp paste

3 Tbsp tamarind water or lime juice

2 Tbsp peanut oil

2 Tbsp water

1 tsp salt


to add to the sauce:

500 g / 1 lb spinach, washed and shredded


Blend all the ingredients for the paste together until smooth. Transfer the mixture to a saucepan and simmer for 6-8 minutes, stirring often. Then remove it to a bowl and leave it to get cold. Adjust the seasoning.

When the paste is cold, rub it all over the duck and the duck breasts. Put the duck breasts inside the boned duck by arranging them in such a way that when you close the duck it will look like a whole duck again.

To sew the duck: spread the boned duck on a board, skin side down. Arrange the already-marinated duck breasts inside. Bring the duck skin up over the duck breasts to enclose them completely. Sew the cut edges of the skin with a trussing needle and white string. Make 3 or 4 ties around the circumference of the duck to give it a cylinder shape. Wrap the duck with 2 or 3 layers of aluminium foil, quite loosely, but sealing the top well.

Everything up to this point can be done the day before, and the parcel can be left in the fridge overnight so that the duck marinates thoroughly.

To cook, pre-heat the oven to 160ºC / 320ºF / Gas Mark 3, and put the parcel on a baking tray in the middle of the oven. Cook for 2 hours, then reduce the heat to 120ºC / 250ºF / Gas Mark ½ and continue cooking for a further 3-4 hours.

Leave the parcel to cool a little, then unwrap and transfer the duck to a large heat-proof dish. Take away all the string. Separate and discard the oil from the cooking juices. Put the cooking juices in a small saucepan, add to this the washed and shredded spinach leaves. Heat, and serve as a thick sauce.

Before serving, put the duck into the oven again, on a high heat, and heat till the skin is quite crisp. Or put the duck under the grill in the oven for about 6 - 8 minutes to crisp the skin. To serve, cut the duck down the middle lengthwise, then slice each half separately into slices about 1 cm thick.