China - Peking Duck
Renowned for its crisp skin

Duck has been roasted in China since the Southern and Northern Dynasties (420 to 589). A variation of roast duck was prepared for the Emperor of China in the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368).  The dish was fully developed during the later Ming Dynasty and by then Peking Duck was one of the principal items on Imperial Court menus.

Peking duck is made from Long Island ducks, a close cousin to the mallard. Renowned for its crisp skin, in traditional Chinese cuisine it is eaten with spring onion and peeled cucumber sticks, folded into thin crepes which are then dipped into sweet soya bean sauce.

Before cooking, the ducks are gutted from under the wing and are then inflated at their necks with air to separate the skin from the meat. This process allows the fat to render easier and allow for a crispier skin.

After this initial treatment a solution of vinegar and sugar is prepared (Chef’s secret recipe) and poured over the duck a few times to glaze it. The duck is then hung for a few hours at room temperature, although some say it needs to hang for much longer. Again, it’s a Chef’s secret!

Once the allotted time for drying has passed the ducks are hung either in closed or semi-closed ovens heated with fruit wood such as peach, apple, pear and which are operated at a temperature of 200+ degrees Celsius for about 30 to 45 minutes.

The cooked duck is carved at the table to a precise 108 slices. The skin on the neck is served with sugar to balance the fat and the rest is devoured with the earlier mentioned spring onion and cucumber, rolled in crepes and dipped in the sweet sauce.

At some restaurants traditionally one has the choice to either take the carcass home or have the restaurant prepare noodles with the remainder of the meat or a soup which is very milky in colour.

Bernie Sperk
Bailli Elect, Bailliage of Beijing