Ok so you’ve climbed the Great Wall, wandered through the Forbidden City, taken photos in the Temple of Heaven, walked through the gardens of the Summer Palace and completely ignored Wangfujin street. Now it is time for you to eat Beijing’s most classic dish, the Beijing Duck.
Beijing Duck is famous, has a distinguished history, an exquisite taste and is a culinary icon SO before partaking in this mouth watering dish, pause your chopsticks and first develop a well deserved appreciation of the delicacy you are about to feast on.
The origin of roasted duck can be traced back to Northern and Southern Dynasties period (420-589) when these hapless birds where roasted in the Jinling area where modern day Nanjing is located. The Yuan Dynasty (1206-1368) were gourmets and took the custom of roast duck with them when they packed their bags and set up house in Beijing.
The inspector of the Imperial kitchen (what a job!) Hu Sihui listed roast duck amongst the imperial dishes in the “Complete Recipes for Dishes and Beverages” that he wrote in 1330. This early cookbook even included the cooking process.
Up until the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) ducks were roasted in a conventional convection oven where the duck was hung from the oven ceiling and roasted over burning wood. Duck cooked this was said to be crisp and golden brown with tender and tasty meat. After the Qing came to power they changed the method of duck cooking to suspending the ducks over a flame in an open oven. These two traditional methods of cooking duck are the foundations of the two modern methods of cooking Beijing Duck.
Roast duck was so popular during this period that poets and scholars where inspired to roast duck poetry. Personally I think the large quantities of alcohol consumed with the duck were the main inspiration for these wasted poets and bookworms.
Peking duck as it was first called b foreigners taste so good, it is credited with being instrumental in the rapprochement between China and the US in the 70’s. All because Henry Kissinger and Richard Nixon kept returning to China for more duck. Just imagine how different history would be if the Havana Cigar had the same effect on US politicians!!!
In summary, that juicy piece of duck you are about to eat has a royal history of over 1500 years. Chew on that!
How to eat Beijing Duck
Your Beijing Duck will be served with steamed pancakes, sweet bean or plum sauce, cucumber and spring onions.
Place one pancake on the palm of your hand, dip a slice of duck meat in the sauce then place the meat on the pancake, add several pieces of cucumber and spring onion, wrap up the pancake, close your eyes and bite. Control yourself, chew slowly and savour this ancient delicacy.
How to cook
First you need to prepare the ingredients. Here is a list of all the ingredients.
2.0 to 2.5 kilogram of duck
8 liters of water
1 slice of ginger
1 Spring onion
50ml of honey
20ml of white vinegar
20ml of cooking sherry
25ml of corn starch dissolved in 50ml of water
Spring onions for garnish
1- Clean duck then wipe it dry and tie a string around its neck.
2- Hang the duck in cool and ideally windy place 4 hours.
3- Fill a large wok with water then bring to boil. Add ginger, spring onion, honey, vinegar, and sherry. Bring to boil again and pour in the dissolved cornstarch. Stir constantly during this step.
4- Place the hung duck in large strainer over a larger bowl then scoop the boiling mixture over the entire duck for about 10 minutes.
5- Hang the duck up again in cool, windy place for 6 hours until it is thoroughly dry.
6- Place the duck breast side up on a greased rack in an oven preheated to 350 degrees. 7- Place a pan filled with 6 centimeters of water in bottom of oven to collect the drippings then roast 30 minutes.
8- Turn duck and roast for 30 more minutes.
9- Turn breast side up again and roast for 10 more minutes.
10- Use a sharp knife to cut off the crispy skin then immediately serve meat and skin on a warm dish
11- Eat and enjoy.