Oh, China, how we love your food.
In a country that boasts a hugely diverse cuisine and innumerable dishes to make your mouth water, the favorite national dish has got to be incredible, right? Well, it is—and how! Peking duck, arguably China’s most iconic and best-loved dish, is a complex culinary feat that originated in China’s imperial kitchens 700 years ago. Today, the specialized process that goes into creating the crispy skin and the juicy meat of Peking duck is faithfully followed by kitchens around the world—but none more so than in Beijing, the birthplace of this delectable bird.
Peking is the archaic name for Beijing, the present-day capital of China and the ancient seat of imperial dynasties. The duck is named after this famed city because the dish could only be made for the imperial family and wealthy nobles due to the long process and special equipment the dish required.
First, ducks must be reared specifically to create the ideal dish. The bird has to be young, white-feathered, and weigh 2–2.5 kilograms at the time of slaughter. Once the bird is plucked, it undergoes a rigorous cleaning. Then, air is pumped into the bird to separate the skin from the fat, and the bird is hung up to dry. While hanging, the duck is covered in a maltose syrup glaze. After 24 hours of drying, the duck is roasted in a “hung oven,” where the duck hangs on a hook above the fire. The fire is also made specially for this dish—only peach or pear wood is used, giving the duck a unique aroma and lovely fruity flavor.
Once the duck is roasted, the chef carves it and serves it whole. It’s a fun dish to share, as diners usually eat it family style, wrapping it by hand in a delicate, steamed pancake with spring onions and dipping it in a sweet bean sauce. But with all the special steps and equipment required to make this dish, it’s no wonder it’s almost impossible to make at home!
Just thinking about these succulent birds makes our mouth water. If it does that to you too, by all means indulge in a culinary tour of China! Peking duck is only one of the many delectable Chinese dishes you’ll try in this amazingly diverse country. If you’re heading to China soon and want to know the best places to try Peking duck, just contact our local Travel Specialist. We’d also be happy to help arrange a tailor-made food vacation in China, made to order!