The history of the roast duck can be traced back to the Ming Dynasty, which is about 600 years ago. Cooks from all over China traveled to the Forbidden City and wanted to cook for the Emperor because only the best chefs could enter the palace kitchens.
It was in these kitchens where dishes of exceptional quality such as the Peking Duck was first created and crafted to perfection by palace chefs.
When the Qing Dynasty ended in 1911, the chefs who left the Forbidden City worked in restaurants around Beijing and brought the Peking Duck to all people.
The meticulous preparation of the Peking Duck includes a rather interesting step, where air is pumped into the duck so as to separate the skin from the fat. The duck is then soaked in boiling water for a short while before it is hung up to dry.
Peking Duck is traditionally roasted in either a closed oven or hung oven. The closed oven is built of brick and fitted with metal griddles. The oven is preheated by burning Gaoliang sorghum straw at the base. The duck is placed in the oven immediately after the fire burns out, allowing the meat to be slowly cooked through the convection of heat within the oven.
While it is hung, the duck is glazed with a layer of maltose syrup, and the inside is rinsed once more with water. Having been left to stand for 24 hours, the duck is roasted in an oven until it turns shiny brown.
The meat is prized for its thin, crisp skin, with authentic versions of the dish serving mostly the skin and
little meat, sliced in front of the diners by the cook.
The cooked Peking Duck is traditionally carved in front of the diners and served in three stages. First, the skin is served dipped in sugar and garlic sauce. The meat is then served with steamed pancake spring onions and sweet bean sauce. Several vegetable dishes are provided to accompany the meat, typically cucumber sticks.
By the mid-20th century, Peking Duck had become a national symbol of China, favored by tourists and diplomats alike.
Two notable restaurants in Beijing which serve this dish are Quanjude and Bianyifang, both centuries-old establishments which have become household names, each with their own style: Quanjude is known for using the hung oven roasting method, while Bianyifang uses the oldest technique of closed oven roasting.
In 2012, The Huffington Post ranked Peking duck 1st in list of “10 Foods Around The World To Try Before You Die”.
Whole Peking Ducks can be ordered as takeaways. The ducks can be reheated at home with an oven, grill or boiling oil.