Beijing Roast Duck
According to a Chinese saying, novisit to this city is complete if you miss seeing the Great Wall or dining on Beijing Roast Duck (Beijing Kaoya). As a famous and delicious food withvery long history, Beijing Roast Duck is an excellent choice if you want to understand more about Chinese cuisine, culture and customs.
It is thought that the dish, like the tradition of roast turkey in America, owes its origin to the roast goose that is still popular in Europe onfestive occasions. Westerners like Marco Polo brought certain European customsto China and may have introduced the concept of roasting poultry to their Chinese hosts during the Yuan Dynasty (1271 - 1368). Ducks had long been domesticatedin China and the plump ducks proved to be an excellent substitute for goose in much the same way as the American colonizers found the native turkey to be.However, there is another school of thought based upon certain records that show it has a much longer history dating back as far as the Northern andSouthern Dynasties (420 - 589). Up until the Southern Song Dynasty (1127 -1279), ducks were roasted in the area around Jinling, today's Nanjing. However,the later Yuan Dynasty rulers moved their capital city to Beijing from Jinling and took with them their cuisine thus making this dish popularin the city that was eventually to make it its very own specialty.
The ducks were originally roasted in a conventional convection oven until QingDynasty (1644 - 1911) when this dish became a delicacy in the imperial menu and were highly regarded by emperors and other members of the ruling classes. The ducks used during this period were a special breed namely the White Beijing Duck and a new method of cooking was employed, by suspending the ducks over the flame in an open oven. These two traditional methods of cooking have resulted in the two major present day schools of roast duck preparation.
The initial method has been perpetuated by very few restaurants among which BianyiFang (Convenient and Comfortable) Restaurant, established in 1861, is the most famous. There serves Beijing Roast Duck with a well-preserved traditional flavor. The second method is relatively well-known and used with great success by the Quan Ju De Restaurant. Today, Quan Ju De means this deliciousfood to many Chinese people as well as foreign visitors.
1.Raising the duck
The ducks used to prepare Peking Duck originated in Nanjing. They were small, had black feathers, and lived in the canals around the city linking major waterways. With the relocation of the Chinese capital to Beijing, supply barge traffic increased in the area. Often these barges would spill grain into the canals, providing food for the ducks. By the Five Dynasties, the new breed of duck had been domesticated by Chinese farmers. Nowadays, Peking Duck is prepared from the whitefeathered Pekin duck. Newborn ducks are raised in afree range environment for the first 45 days of their lives, and forcefed 4 times a day for the next 15–20 days,resulting in ducks that weigh 5–7 kg (11–15 lbs).
2.Cooking the duck
Fattened ducks are slaughtered, plucked, eviscerated and rinsed thoroughly withwater. Air is pumped under the skin through the neck cavity 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. While it is hung, the duck is glazed with alayer of maltose syrup, and the inside is rinsed once more with water. A second layer of glaze/marinade of soy sauce,five-spice powder and more maltose is then applied inside and out, and the duck is left to stand for 24 hours in a cool, dry place (or a refrigerator). It is then roasted in an oven until the skin turns shiny brown.
Peking duck is originally roasted in a closed oven (Chinese:焖炉), and Bianyifang is the restaurant that keeps this tradition. The closed oven is built of brick and fitted with metal griddles (Chinese:箅子;pinyin: bì zi). The oven is preheated by burning Gaoliang sorghum straw (Chinese:秫秸;pinyin: shú jiē) 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.Controlling the fuel and the temperature is the main skill. In closed-oven style, duck meat is combined well with the fat under the skin, and therefore is juicy and tender.
The open oven (Chinese: 挂炉) was developed in the imperial kitchens during the Qing Dynasty, and adopted by the Quanjude restaurant chain. It is designed to roast up to 20 ducks at the same time with an open fire fueled by hardwood from peach or pear trees. The ducks are hung on hooks above the fire and roasted at a temperature of 270 °C (525 °F) for 30–40 minutes. While the ducks are roasting, the chef may use a pole to dangle each duck closer to the fire for 30-second intervals. In open-oven style, the fat is usually melted during the cooking process, so the skin is crispy, and can be eaten separately as a snack.Almost every part of a duck can be prepared afterwards. Quanjude Restaurant served their customers the "All Duck Banquet" in which they cooked the bones of ducks with vegetables.
Peking Duck with pancakes, spring onions and sweet bean sauce The cooked Peking Duck is traditionally carved in front of the diners and served in three stages. First, the duck skin is served with sugar and garlic sauce as dip. The skin tastes better while remaining warm, but it will cool down fast. The meat is then served with steamed pancakes (春饼), spring onions and sweet bean sauce. Several vegetable dishes are provided to accompany the meat, typically cucumber sticks. Some restaurants offer watermelon radish sticks as alternative. The diners spread sauce over the pancake. Traditionally, the pancake is wrapped around the meat and spring onion, then eaten by hand. Cucumber sticks are eaten as refreshment between Peking Duck rolls, but can also be rolled in the pancake. The remaining duck (鸭架) can be cooked in three ways. The traditional way is to be cooked into a broth. The meat together with bones can also be stir-fried with sweet bean sauce, or rapidly sautéed and served with salt and Sichuan pepper (椒鹽). Otherwise, they are packed up to be taken home by the customers
How to Eat Peking Duck
The way to really enjoy the succulent meat is as follows: first take one of the small, thin pancakes provided and spread it with plum sauce, small slices of spring onions and then add some pieces of duck. Finally roll up the pancake and take a bite. You will be surprised by the terrific taste!
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