Lucky Lettuce Wraps - Crispy Duck Parcels

By Karen Burns-Booth •

Karen shares a colourful recipe for your next Chinese meal. These crispy Gressingham duck lettuce wraps or parcels are simple to prepare and they make a great communal “sharing” meal.  All components can be placed in the middle of the table for individual “wrapping”. 

I love Chinese New Year and I remember with mounting excitement how much fun it was when I lived in Hong Kong. I also remember being given the little red packets of money (hongbao - 红包) by our Amah and all of the local tradesmen and women - there may have been only a few HK dollars in there, but I treasured the attractive packets and kept them on my “treasures box”……in fact, I still have a few packets from the 1970’s!

As well as the little red packets of money, there were the dragon dances, firecrackers that leapt along the roads, gaily wrapped sweets and pastries as well as the enticing smell of spicy street food. We may call it Chinese New Year, but the Chinese call the new Lunar year Spring Festival or the Lunar New Year and it welcomes in the new Chinese Zodiac sign for another 12 months, 2014 is the year of the Horse.

Unlike our New Year, the Chinese celebrate their New Year over fifteen days, which makes for a fortnight of festivities and fun! They take time off work, visit relatives, go to the races and of course watch all of the dragon and lion dancers in the teeming streets. I remember the food was amazing, and we would enjoy little crispy dumplings, wonton, grilled corn on the cob and spring rolls as we wandered amongst the crowds on Hong Kong Island and Kowloon.

One of the recipes that my mum brought back from Hong Kong to the UK is for the “Lucky Lettuce Wraps” – these were always served at Chinese New Year as lettuce holds a very significant place in the canon of special occasion ingredients - the word in Cantonese is very similar to the word for “rising fortune” and so lettuce assumes a status of being a lucky vegetable. The other auspicious ingredients are tangerines and oranges, once again, the names for these fruits are very similar to the words for luck and wealth respectively.

But back to my Lucky Lettuce Wraps – mum used to make hers with chicken or fish, but as I love Peking duck, I decided to create a new version using crispy skinned duck. My lettuce wraps or parcels as I like to call them are very easy to prepare and they make a great communal “sharing” meal, as all of the components can be placed in the middle of the table for individual “wrapping”. You CAN use Peking duck style cooked duck, but we love the tender slightly pinker version using duck breasts and then slicing it thinly for wrapping enjoyment.

I hope you will enjoy my recipe for Lucky Lettuce Wraps (Crispy Duck Parcels) this Chinese New Year, and if you prefer to serve these with plum sauce, as is traditional with duck, that’s fine, it’s just that we love the tang of chilli and garlic sauce with these.

Lucky Lettuce Wraps - Crispy Duck Parcels

(Serves 2)


1 large Gressingham duck breast, skin on and skin scored with a knife
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon Chinese five spice powder
1” (2.5cms) ginger root, grated
1 small red chilli, chopped finely
1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
1 tablespoon soy sauce
Large iceberg lettuce leaves
Cucumber strips, to serve
Grated carrot, to serve
2 spring onions, trimmed and sliced, to serve
Chilli and garlic sauce, to serve
Soy sauce, to serve


Rub the salt, five spice, ginger root, chillies, minced garlic and soy sauce into the duck breast and allow to marinate for 30 minutes, turning over half way through.

Heat a wok or frying pan and add the duck breast with the marinade skin side down and cook over a medium heat for 5 to 7 minutes, with a heavy weight on top of the duck to keep all the skin in contact with the heat.

Turn the heat down and turn the duck over and continue to cook for a further 5 to 10 minutes, depending on how you like you duck cooked. Flip it over for 2 to 3 minutes to crisp up the skin before finishing cooking.

Take the duck off the heat and allow it to rest for 3 minutes, then carve very thinly and arrange the meat on a platter.

Place all the wrap serving ingredients along with the duck in the middle of the table, and allow each diner to make their own parcels. 

Inspired?  For more delicious recipes for Chinese New Year visit Great British Chefs collection.



Gosh, these look heavenly and really very much better for you in lettuce leaves! I adore duck and your spice mix sounds truly delectable. Delicious.
5 February 2014

Karen Burns-Booth

Karen Burns-Booth is creative freelance food writer & blogger. Her love of seasonal food & recipes stems from her childhood observing her grandmother and mother’s cookery skills. A regular contributor in Country Kitchen magazine, she currently writes for numerous other publications, food, travel and tourism websites and has several recipes in print in compilation cookbooks. She is currently working on a Historical British Cookbook.

Follow us on Twitter

Great British Chefs


7 mins

Use up leftover pastry for @victoria_glass' cheese straws - a great alternative to crisps http://t.co/vd2bGDgSLA http://t.co/NYpL7aTaNx

Great British Chefs


23 mins

Your chance to #win £229 with @FirstUtility Share what you're putting your #EnergyInto http://t.co/aJYOlbBiSM http://t.co/UHZ9c4rLbz

Great British Chefs


50 mins

Have a healthy but tasty start to the day with rhubarb granola pots from @anneskitchentv http://t.co/47tx7ratr3 http://t.co/EgYTffBYsE

Great British Chefs


2 hrs

#Win one of four Which 'Best Buy' ice cream makers worth £24.99 Enter >>> http://t.co/JrggGNKzNL RT & share via @gbchefs