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guide to peking duck

► A GUIDE TO PEKING DUCK & CHINESE CUISINE

One of China’s most famous culinary gifts to the world and a dish with an etiquette and a craft to it as well, Peking Duck is an essential part of most China tours & holidays.

It has a history dating back as far as the 5th Century AD and has been known to have been cooked for emperors since the time of Kublai Khan’s Yuan Dynasty and the term Peking Roast duck associated to the modern dish came into effect in the Ming Dynasty that followed. It is during that time, in 1416, that “Bianyifang” the first Peking Duck restaurant was opened in the Qianmen area behind Tiananmen Square and there is a restaurant bearing that name still in that area although its present form was opened in 1855.

The ducks used for this dish don’t actually come from the capital Beijing but from a former capital Nanjing where the ducks got used to living off the grain spilled by the barges on the canal system and led to their domestication by Chinese farmers.

The historical method for cooking Peking Duck

After being glazed the duck is left to hang for a day before being roasted in a closed oven or a hung oven. The hung oven method that you’ll see in many of the big duck restaurants in Beijing was originally developed for the imperial kitchens during the Qing Dynasty (the last imperial dynasty of China that ran from 1644 to 1912). They are designed to cook many ducks at the same time and are wood-fired . The ducks are hung on hooks and are cooked at very high temperatures for about half an hour. None of the duck is wasted and traditionally the bones will be handed to the customers at the end of a meal to take home and make into a soup or will be cooked into a soup at the restaurant with some vegetables and served at the very end of the meal.

How Peking Duck is presented to the diner

The Peking duck should always be carved in front of those dining and there should be skin on every slice. Sometimes the skin is actually served separately. Most of the time though the skin and meat will be placed in a very light steamed pancake to which spring onions and cucumber are added along with a sweet bean sauce known as Tianmianjiang that is similar to Hoisin sauce. The pancake is then wrapped and eaten. It is considered polite to make the pancakes for your elders at a family dinner.

So when you are on holiday in China and are in Beijing, make sure you take the time to enjoy this historical dish that has been pleasing both emperors and the common man alike for centuries. My recommendation would be Da Dong Roast Duck at DongSiShiTiao in Beijing.

Article posted by Phil Stanley: 6th December 2013

 
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