A Cultural Classic: Peking Duck
Where: Northern Chinese cuisine originating from Beijing
Ingredients: duck, sliced cucumbers, sauces and light oriental pancakes
Taste: an enticing blend of sweet, crispy skin and roasted meat
Best enjoyed: as a delicacy with both a rich history and taste
It is often said that if you are in Beijing, there are essentially two things that you must do; one is to climb the Great Wall of China, and the other is to eat Peking Duck. Once confined to the kitchens of the palace, the legendary Peking Duck is now served at thousands of restaurants around Beijing, as well as around the world.
The origin of the Peking Duck dates back to the Ming Dynasty, about 600 years ago. Cooks from all over China travelled to the capital Beijing to cook for the Emperor. It was a prestigious occupation as only the best chefs could enter the palace kitchens. A top cook was even able to reach the rank of a minister!
It was in these kitchens where dishes of exceptional quality such as the Peking Duck was first created and crafted to perfection by palace chefs. However, many of the recipes for such “foods of the Emperor” were later smuggled out of the kitchen and onto the streets of Beijing. With the eventual fall of the Ching dynasty in 1911, court chefs who left the Forbidden City set up restaurants around Beijing and brought the Peking Duck and other delicious dishes to the masses.
The meticulous preparation of the Peking Duck includes a rather interesting step, where air is pumped into the duck so as to separate the skin from the fat. It is then hung up to dry in the open air before being roasted in an oven until it is crispy on the outside and succulent on the inside.
Peking Duck is always served in thin, well-cut slices. The whole duck has to be sliced into 120 pieces and diners consume it with light pancakes, sliced cucumbers and a variety of sauces, which are perfect complements to the dish.
Where to Try Peking Duck
Liqun Roast Duck is a small restaurant, found in a charming hutong (small lane) and has a much better atmosphere and serves better duck than the better known Quan Ju De chain of restaurants.
Address: 11 Nankou Beixiangfeng, Zhengyilu, Qianmen Dongdajie, Dongcheng District
Love ducks? Find some 65 duck recipes, including Peking Duck, on this site!
Adapted from authentic recipes, this one uses modern day methods to prepare the delicacy.
By Amy Jurries