If you haven’t yet had the chance to try it, Peking duck is a highly iconic Beijing dish. It consists of very thin pieces of tender and roasted duck meat and crispy skin. It’s wrapped inside of a thin crepe, with cucumbers, spring onions, and a special hoisin sauce (sometimes with sweet bean sauce).
It has been found that roasted duck in China dates all the way to the Northern and Southern dynasties (420-589). It wasn’t until the Yuan dynasty (1271-1368), however that the delicious dish was associated with the imperial court.
A royal dietary physician recorded it in a 1330 cookbook. The recipe had an elaborate preparation process, in which the duck was supposed to be roasted inside a sheep’s stomach.
The name actually comes from Beijing, as Peking is an older spelling of the city, however the dish actually came from Nanjing, the former capital of China.
The imperial court of the Ming dynasty moved to Beijing, and they brought over the roast duck with them. Peking duck spread to the Qing dynasty nobility and the dish became highly praised in the writings of famous poets and scholars.
Today, the legendary dish still comes with rather majestic connotations due to its very lengthy and detailed preparation. White-feathered are raised in a free-range environment for an entire 45 days. After this, they are force fed for 15-20 days. Once slaughtered, gutted, plucked, washed, and boiled, air is pumped under their skin so that it gets separated from the fat.
The duck is then hung to dry and coated with a thick layer of maltose syrup, making the skin super crispy. It is then roasted in either the traditional method with the oven closed, or with the hung oven method.