Peking Duck, a hallmark of Chinese cuisine, has been tantalizing taste buds for hundreds of years with its distinctive flavors and cooking techniques. It’s a dish that’s as steeped in history as it is in flavor, representing a culinary tradition that’s been refined and perfected over centuries. This article will delve into the fascinating history of Peking Duck, its traditional preparation methods, and how you can experience this ancient culinary masterpiece at some of the most acclaimed Asian restaurants today, including Yi Sang, Sevensea, and World Dining.
The Roots of Peking Duck
The story of Peking Duck begins in the imperial era of China, where it was first developed as a dish fit for the emperor. The dish has its origins in the Yuan Dynasty (1271 – 1368), a period when China was under the rule of the Mongol Empire. It was during this time that the dish began to gain recognition in the kitchens of the imperial palace, where only the most skilled chefs were allowed to cook.
Ming Dynasty: The Emergence of Peking Duck
The Ming Dynasty (1368 – 1644) was a significant period in the history of Peking Duck. During this era, chefs from across China traveled to the capital city of Beijing to serve the emperor. It was considered a highly prestigious occupation, with some of the top chefs even attaining ministerial ranks.
The fame of Peking Duck was further solidified during the reign of the Yongle Emperor (1402 – 1424). The emperor’s move from Nanjing to Beijing brought the recipe for the dish to the new capital. From then on, the dish came to be known as ‘Beijing Roast Duck’ due to its popularity in the city.
The Spread of Peking Duck
The fall of the Qing Dynasty in 1911 led to the spread of Peking Duck amongst the masses. As the imperial court chefs left the Forbidden City, they opened restaurants in Beijing, bringing Peking Duck and other exquisite dishes to the public. Among these establishments were Bianyifang and Quanjude, two of the most renowned Peking Duck restaurants that still exist today.
Traditional Preparation of Peking Duck
The preparation of an authentic Peking Duck is an intricate process that takes up to three days. This process begins with the selection of the duck. The preferred choice is a white Beijing variety, a “force-fed duck” that weighs about three kilograms.
Day One: Slaughtering and Cleaning
The first day involves slaughtering the duck, plucking its feathers, and thoroughly rinsing it with water. The duck is then hung to dry overnight. A unique aspect of this process is the removal of the neck bone without breaking the skin.
Day Two: Inflating and Drying
On the second day, air is pumped into the duck through a small hole, separating the skin from the fat. This technique gives the skin its glossy and crispy texture after roasting. After being inflated, the duck is hung to dry once again, this time with a layer of honey glaze on the skin.
Day Three: Roasting and Serving
The final day of preparation involves roasting the duck over a wood-fired oven for about 40 minutes. The heat from the oven, combined with the smoky aroma from the fruit tree wood (such as pear, peach, or date branches), gives the duck a unique flavor and a reddish-brown color.
The cooked Peking Duck is traditionally served in thin slices, with each duck sliced into 120 pieces. The dish is usually accompanied by light pancakes, sliced cucumbers, and a variety of sauces, providing a delightful contrast of flavors and textures.
Experiencing Peking Duck Today
Today, the legacy of Peking Duck is carried on by numerous restaurants worldwide, including Yi Sang, Sevensea, and World Dining, all part of the Thalias Hospitality brand. These restaurants not only uphold the traditional methods of preparing Peking Duck but also incorporate their unique twists, offering a culinary experience that is as diverse as it is delectable.
Yi Sang, a renowned Asian restaurant, offers an authentic taste of Peking Duck. The chefs meticulously follow the traditional preparation process, ensuring that each duck is cooked to perfection. The restaurant’s modern yet cozy ambiance further enhances the dining experience, making it a must-visit for lovers of Chinese cuisine.
At Sevensea, you can indulge in a beautifully presented and flavorful Peking Duck. With a focus on seafood and Pan-Asian cuisine, Sevensea provides a unique spin on the traditional Chinese dish, ensuring a memorable dining experience for all patrons.
For a global culinary journey, look no further than World Dining. Here, you’ll find a myriad of international dishes, including the iconic Peking Duck. The restaurant’s expert chefs bring their diverse culinary backgrounds to the table, offering a Peking Duck that’s both traditional and innovative.
As we continue to honor the legacy of Peking Duck, we also look forward to the future, eager to see how this beloved dish will continue to evolve and inspire in the years to come. One thing’s for sure, though – no matter how far it travels or how much it changes, Peking Duck will always remain a cherished part of Chinese culture and a symbol of culinary excellence.
Check this video from Bonne Appetit out! A perfect demonstration and explanation that is sure to peak you interest and your hunger for some Peking Duck. Discover the hours of hard work it takes to prepare one Peking duck, which demonstrates just why it is a staple of Chinese cuisine.
Making 40-Hour Peking Duck With A Master Carver | Handcrafted | Bon Appétit