From Em­peror to Hawker

Exquisite Taste - - It's All About Meat: Duck -

Records show duck has been roasted in China since at least the South­ern and North­ern Dy­nas­ties, and prob­a­bly be­fore. How­ever the most fa­mous dish, Pek­ing roast duck, was first seen in the Qing and Ming Dy­nas­ties (1368 – 1644) where it be­came one of the core in­gre­di­ents of im­pe­rial court menus.

In a break from pre­vi­ous dy­nas­ties, and per­haps for the first time ever in a royal house­hold, the im­pe­rial menus of the Ming and Qing Dy­nas­ties were cre­ated to pro­mote health.

The first restau­rant spe­cial­is­ing in Pek­ing duck, Biany­i­fang, was es­tab­lished in Bei­jing in 1416. By 1736–1796 in the Qing Dy­nasty,

the pop­u­lar­ity of Pek­ing duck had spread far and wide, even in­spir­ing po­etry from po­ets like Duan Zhu Zhi Ci, who in his col­lec­tion of poems wrote, “Fill your plates with roast duck and suck­ling pig.”

Per­haps the most im­por­tant step to­wards what we to­day con­sider Pek­ing duck came in 1864, when Quan­jude restau­rant was opened in Bei­jing and the restau­rant’s founder, Yang Quan­ren, de­vel­oped a wood-fired hung oven to roast ducks; a tech­nique still used over 200 years later.

As part of the prepa­ra­tion these days, air is pumped through the neck cav­ity to separate the skin from the fat. The duck is then soaked in boil­ing wa­ter be­fore be­ing hung. Af­ter dry­ing, the bird is glazed with a mal­tose syrup and left to stand for 24 hours be­fore roast­ing.

Pek­ing duck is tra­di­tion­ally carved in front of din­ers and served in three stages. First, the skin is served on its own dipped in sugar and gar­lic sauce. Then the meat is served with steamed pan­cakes, veg­eta­bles and sweet bean or plum sauce. Lastly, the re­main­ing fat, meat and bones are made into a broth, or the meat is chopped and stir-fried with a sauce.

Crispy duck

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