Peking or Beijing duck is believed to be the most popular dish in China’s capital city by the people. It was an imperial cuisine during several dynasties, including the last Qing dynasty. However, with the fall of the Qing dynasty in 1911, former palace chefs opened restaurants in and around Beijing and publicised the legendary duck dish before the people.
Culinary history of Peking duck
According to food historians, the Peking duck had a chequered culinary history. It dates as far back as the Yuan dynasty, and was listed as an imperial food in royal cookbooks. Yuan Mei, the famous Qing poet, is said to have once written in a cookbook the following: “Roast duck is prepared by revolving a young duckling on a spit in an oven. The chief inspector Fang’s family excel in preparing this dish.” The Qing dynasty however fell in 1911, thus prompting the former palace chefs to make the imperial dish public by serving in their own restaurants opened in and around Beijing.
Preparing the dish
The chefs had to go through a very long process for preparing the duck dish. The ducks are first of all inflated by blowing air between the body and skin. The chefs then prick the skin and pour boiling water all over the duck. The skin is also sometimes rubbed with malt sugar for giving it an amber color and later on it is hung up to air dry before being roasted in the oven. The skin becomes juicy on the inside and crispy on the outside after being roasted. Finally, the roasted duck is meticulously cut into 120 slices and served with green onions, sliced cucumbers, light pancakes and fermented bean paste.
Best restaurants serving Peking duck
There are many restaurants in Beijing where the Peking duck is served. The best one here is the Liqun Roast Duck Restaurant, which is highly popular. You are required to call up the restaurant and place your order in advance. If you are unable to do so, you will need to come here after 2.30 pm and be prepared to wait. The culinary experience here is simply great.
The Quanjude Restaurant chain is also quite famous for serving the delectable Peking duck. The first restaurant of the chain was opened in 1864. There are presently six branches of the restaurant chain around Beijing. However, the flagship of the chain is at Qianmen Dajie. You can see large number of tourists visiting the restaurant. The roasted Peking duck on the fruit-tree wood gives a special fragrance, thus becoming a major draw among the tourists.
Another restaurant that shouldn’t be missed out is Bianyifang. This restaurant was founded in 1855, and hugely popular for serving roasted duck. The specialty of the restaurant is that the ducks are cooked in an oven with straw being used as fuel. Apart from serving Peking ducks, the restaurant’s English menu offers many other duck variants as well.