Peking Duck is an iconic Chinese dish that consists of thin pieces of tender, roasted duck meat combined with other delicious ingredients, wrapped in a steamed pancake. It is often said that if you are in China or a city with a large Chinatown like San Francisco, one of the things you must do is eat Peking Duck.
The History of Peking Duck
Peking Duck, which is also referred to as Beijing Duck, has origins dating back roughly 700 years to the Yuan and Ming Dynasties. Cooks from around the world traveled to Beijing to prepare food for the Emperor. The best of them were permitted to enter the palace kitchens, and a few even reached the rank of minister.
It was in these kitchens that original dishes like Peking Duck were first created. It wasn’t until the fall of the Ching Dynasty in 1911 that palace chefs left the Forbidden City to set up their own restaurants. This was when Peking Duck was first introduced to the masses.
In addition to its rich beginnings, Peking Duck has played a prominent role in international relations throughout the 20th and 21st centuries. Diplomats and political leaders such as Richard Nixon, Henry Kissinger, Fidel Castro, and George Bush Sr. are all known to have famously dined on this well-known Chinese dish.
How is Peking Duck Prepared?
Even today, Peking Duck retains a sense of majesty thanks to its lengthy and specific preparation. Only the highest-quality ducks that are raised on tightly controlled conditions are used to prepare this dish.
Before the duck is roasted, air is pumped into it to separate the skin from the fat. It is then hung in the open air to dry before being roasted until it is succulent on the inside and crispy on the outside.
How to Carve and Serve the Dish
The manner of carving, serving, and eating Peking Duck is also unique. Peking Duck is always served in well-cut, thin slices. Each slice will have duck meat as well as crispy skin.
When you order Peking Duck, you’ll be provided with several components to assemble on your plate. Your order of assembly and the quantities of each ingredient used can change your experience, so part of the fun is experimenting with these delicious combinations.
Traditionally, Peking Duck dishes come with the duck meat, thin steamed pancakes, spring onions, cucumber, and some type of sauce (usually sweet bean sauce).
To eat this dish, lay a pancake flat on your plate and spread some of the sauce across the middle. Then, place several pieces of duck on top of the sauce, followed by the spring onions and cucumber.
Finally, fold the pancake in half and then bring the two edges into the middle to create a package that will seal in your ingredients as well as the juices. Pick it up with your chopsticks, with the folded sides facing towards you, and enjoy!
In addition to the traditional presentation, it’s not unusual to create other dishes using the Peking Duck. For instance, your leftover pieces of duck meat might be the perfect complement to a bowl of delicious soup following your main course.
Where to Try Peking Duck
An increasing number of Chinese restaurants take a great degree of pride in their Peking Duck, which should be made fresh daily. Patrons should look for restaurants that offer the traditional flavors of savory duck meat combined with sweet bean sauce, spring onions, cucumber, and steamed pancakes.
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