China is a large and diverse country, and its many regions have different favorite dishes. Some of these dishes include noodles, fried rice, minchee, dumplings, Mao's braised pork, and char siu. However, China’s globally recognized national dish is the Peking duck. The dish traces its origin from the Yuan dynasty in Beijing, and is characterized by its thin, crispy skin. In fact, sometimes only the skin is served and not the meat itself. Peking duck is normally served with spring onions, pancakes, sweet bean sauce, and cucumber.
History of the Dish
The Chinese have roasted duck since the times of the Northern and Southern dynasties. The Yuan Dynasty had various versions of roast duck, and the dish was initially known as Shaoyazi. By 1330, the dish was recognized in the manual of the imperial kitchen, but was not named ‘Peking duck’ until the Ming Dynasty. At that time, the dish was among the dishes of the imperial courts. Peking duck eventually became increasingly famous especially among China's upper classes. By the twentieth century, the dish was widely known all over China and had become a favorite dishes of tourists and diplomats. Two notable restaurants in Beijing, Quanjude and Bianyifang, have become famous for the serving Peking duck.
The conventional method of preparing Peking duck is rather complicated. First, a chef selects a white Beijing duck, and then pluck its feathers. Next, air is pumped between the duck's outer skin and flesh. The duck is then cleaned and hung on a skewer for proper drying. The chef then dusts the skin with sugar. According to tradition, the duck should be roasted in either a closed oven or hung oven using hardwood fuel that should be completely smokeless. As such, it requires careful turning until the cooking process is complete. However, despite this traditional cooking method, chefs have continue to develop new recipes over time.
Serving Peking Duck
Peking duck is often served in three stages. In the first stage, the skin is dipped in sugar, as well as garlic sauce. The next step entails serving the meat with spring onions, pancakes, and sweet bean sauce. Numerous vegetables, such as cucumber sticks, can be served with the dish as well. The third stage constitutes eating the remaining fat, bones, and meat, which can be served as is, or made into a broth.
Peking duck is a unique dish with a long and fascinating history. The dish is globally renowned, especially for its crispy and thin skin, and is found in numerous restaurants around China, especially in Beijing.