Salted Mustard Cabbage Duck Soup (Kiam Chai Ark)

Salted Fish Head and Pork Curry
January 20, 2007
Black Bean Chicken Soup
March 15, 2007

This is a ‘must have’ traditional soup during Chinese New Year reunion dinner. I grew up with this delicious mouth-watering soup. The moment my mom makes this yummy soup, my sister and I will not stop hounding her “Is it ready?”, ” when are we having dinner?”, “we are hungry already?” This shows how well this soup is accepted in our home.

Besides tasting wonderful, it is also so simple to make which makes it sound great to make during festive cooking rush hours. All you have to do is to get yourself a robust duck, minimum ingredients and the rest is left mainly to the simmering over low heat!


  1. Fill a large soup pot or stock pot with 2.5 litres of filtered water, bring to boil.
  2. Put in the whole duck slowly, add nutmeg seeds, sour plums and crushed peppercorns.
  3. Bring soup to boil for 5 – 10 minutes then lower down heat to simmer for 1 – 2 hours, with lid on.
  4. Half way through simmering, add the salted mustard cabbage and continue to simmer till done.
  5. Add some sea salt to taste if not salty enough. (usually the salted mustard cabbage is enough to flavour the soup).

Note : There are 2 ways to cook this soup. As for the above recipe, it is a traditional Hokkien style, plain and simple. Whereas, there is another style that requires dried shiitake mushrooms, pig trotter, onion, tomatoes, ginger and garlic. Whichever style you favour is purely up to ones taste. I adore both but this Hokkien recipe brings back precious memories!



1 whole duck,

  • approx. 2kg,
  • discard all fats, neck, head and feet,
  • blanche in boiling water for 5 minutes,
  • drain and set aside.

2.5 liters filtered water

600gm or 2 packets of preserved salted mustard cabbage

  • the one with less leaves is preferred,
  • pluck broad stems apart,
  • soak in room temperature water for 15 minutes to rid accessive saltiness,
  • drain and set aside.

5 nutmeg seeds

  • crack open its hard shell with a small pestle and mortar or nut cracker,
  • take out the seed from the shell,
  • put nut in the mortar and pound lightly with pestle to crack seed slightly for flavour to escape,
  • discard shells.

3 chinese sour plums

  • sold in most chinese convenient shops,
  • looks like a pickle in a preserved bottle.

1 tsp white peppercorns

  • crushed lightly using the mortar and pestle.


  1. OMG, you are already prepping for Chinese New Year! I was just telling my sister that I need to learn how to make this dish from my aunt. Her Kiam Chai Ark is sooooo good, and I am sure yours too! I will need to bring back those “siu buay” and “lau how chee.” I remember those lau how chee has those red lines thingy on them…yours are dark?!

  2. Audrey Cooks says:

    RS, yes the nutmeg seeds has those lines thingy on the surface, mine are dark cos I kept them stored in the fridge a little too long. In fact, when my mom brought them home, there look like how u described them. Looking forward to your CNY goodies! keep them coming!

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