Rotisserie ducks going for $15 each in Chinatown

The $15 duck from Duck Master in Chinatown is attracting queues and two-hour-long waits

A spinning rotisserie loaded with glistening ducks has become a crowd magnet at People's Park Complex over the past two weeks.

The popularity of Duck Master, a month-old roasted duck stall, has resulted in two-hour-long waits for the ducks, which are roasted every 11/2 hours throughout the day.

The stall is crammed with electric rotating ovens - a third one was brought in four days ago to cope with the escalating demand.

Diners need to pre-order their ducks 11/2 to two hours in advance at a make-shift booth at the side of the stall, pay and collect a token to claim their orders later. About 400 ducks are sold by 5pm daily.

Over the past week, snaking queues have formed in front of the stall, with crowds swarming to pre- order or pick up their ducks.

With separate queues for preorders and collection set up four days ago, the queues have shortened and the process has become less frenzied.

When The Sunday Times visited the stall on Thursday at 11am, the slots for the 12.30pm collection were almost full. About 10 people, who had made orders, were gathered in front of the stall.

Most customers flock to Duck Master as they are attracted by the affordable price.

Each unchopped duck, which weighs 1.8 to 2kg, is priced at $15 - about half the price of those sold in most hawker centres.

Owner Paul Boh, 30, a former food photographer, is tapping the popularity of duck, with restaurants such as Four Seasons Chinese Restaurant and London Fat Duck having opened here. These restaurants are famed for serving roast Irish ducks.

He says: "Food costs will always increase. If I want to sell food in huge quantities, I need to use new technology to cut down on operational costs."

One cost-effective way is using electric-powered rotisseries, as opposed to the typical charcoal- fired or gas-powered metal ovens.

Mr Boh roasts 24 ducks in each rotisserie at a time for 45 minutes and turns up the heat for another 15 minutes to crisp the skin.

He says that experienced chefs, who specialise in roasting ducks, are expensive to hire.

So he spent about two months experimenting with the roasting temperature and the speed of rotation of the oven, which helps to distribute heat evenly. He declines to say where the ovens are imported from.

"I learnt how to roast ducks with these pre-set functions and it is easier to gauge if the ducks are cooked from the glass display."

While he admits that the ducks are not as flavourful as those cooked in a charcoal-fired oven, the marination process makes up for it.

The fowl, which are imported daily from Malaysia, are marinated for eight hours with 11 spices, including cinnamon and star anise, in a central kitchen here.

Mr Boh picked up the recipe from his mother and pumped $300,000 into his maiden food venture.

Asked why such a lengthy waiting time is required, he says that 40 per cent of the slots are booked one day ahead and a lean team of three staff has to juggle taking orders, draining the ovens of oil and re-filling them with raw ducks.

To meet growing demand, he will open a second outlet in the central part of Singapore next month and plans to start an online ordering system and a delivery service.

Most customers that The Sunday Times spoke to say the ducks are value for money and that they make use of the long waiting time to shop around Chinatown.

Housewife Alice Tan, 58, who has bought the duck twice, says: "The meat is tender and not too oily, though it is smaller and skinnier than most ducks. But if the waiting time is more than two hours, I will not buy it."

Retiree Shirley Tay, 64 says: "I live to eat and am used to queueing for good food. The duck is succulent and has a crispy skin when eaten fresh. I hope the stall gets a Michelin star."

•Duck Master is located at 01-K99 People's Park Complex, 1 Park Road. Open: 10am to 10pm (weekdays), 9am to 10pm (weekends). Go to www.duckmaster.com.sg

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 30, 2017, with the headline 'Fowl frenzy'. Print Edition | Subscribe