Peking duck

For the breed of Anas platyrhynchos, see Pekin duck. For the Australian band, see Peking Duk.
Peking Duck book

Peking Duck sliced and prepared
Traditional Chinese 北京烤鴨
Simplified Chinese 北京烤鸭
Literal meaning Beijing Roast Duck
Alternative Chinese name
Traditional Chinese 北京填鴨
Simplified Chinese 北京填鸭
Literal meaning Beijing Stuffed Duck

Peking Duck is a famous duck dish from Beijing[1] that has been prepared since the imperial era. 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. Ducks bred specially for the dish are slaughtered after 65 days and seasoned before being roasted in a closed or hung oven. The meat is eaten with scallion, cucumber and sweet bean sauce with pancakes rolled around the fillings. Sometimes pickled radish is also inside, and other sauces (like hoisin sauce) can be used.


A Peking Duck being roasted by a hung oven circa 1933.

Duck has been roasted in China since the Southern and Northern Dynasties.[2] A variation of roast duck was prepared for the Emperor of China in the Yuan Dynasty. The dish, originally named "Shaoyazi" (燒鴨子), was mentioned in the Complete Recipes for Dishes and Beverages (飲膳正要) manual in 1330 by Hu Sihui (忽思慧), an inspector of the imperial kitchen.[3][4] The Peking Roast Duck that came to be associated with the term was fully developed during the later Ming Dynasty,[2][5][6] and by then, Peking Duck was one of the main dishes on imperial court menus.[7] The first restaurant specialising in Peking Duck, Bianyifang, was established in the Xianyukou, Qianmen area of Beijing in 1416.[8]

By the Qianlong Period (1736–1796) of the Qing Dynasty, the popularity of Peking Duck spread to the upper classes, inspiring poetry from poets and scholars who enjoyed the dish. For instance, one of the verses of Duan Zhu Zhi Ci, a collection of Beijing poems was, "Fill your plates with roast duck and suckling pig".[9] In 1864, the Quanjude (全聚德) restaurant was established in Beijing. Yang Quanren (楊全仁), the founder of Quanjude, developed the hung oven to roast ducks. With its innovations and efficient management, the restaurant became well known in China, introducing the Peking Duck to the rest of the world.[10]

By the mid-20th century, Peking Duck had become a national symbol of China, favored by tourists and diplomats alike. For example, Henry Kissinger, the Secretary of State of the United States, met Premier Zhou Enlai in the Great Hall of the People on July 10, 1971, during his first (secret) visit to China. After a round of inconclusive talks in the morning, the delegation was served Peking Duck for lunch, which became Kissinger's favourite. The Americans and Chinese issued a joint statement the following day, inviting President Richard Nixon to visit China in 1972. Following Zhou's death in 1976, Kissinger paid another visit to Beijing to savor Peking Duck.[11][12] Peking Duck, at the Quanjude in particular, has also been a favorite dish for various political leaders ranging from Cuban revolutionary Fidel Castro to former German chancellor Helmut Kohl.[13][14]

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.[15][16]


A Pekin duck, a domesticated breed of Mallard popular in the United States

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 species of duck had been domesticated by Chinese farmers.[17] Black feathered birds fell out of favor once, with the invention of refrigeration, birds were sold in the marketplace pre-plucked. Nowadays, Peking Duck is prepared from the white feathered Pekin duck (Anas platyrhynchos domestica).[18] Newborn ducks are raised in a free range environment for the first 45 days of their lives, and force fed 4 times a day for the next 15–20 days, resulting in ducks that weigh 5–7 kg (11–15 lbs).[19] The force feeding of the ducks led to an alternate name for the dish, Peking Stuffed Duck (simplified Chinese: 北京填鸭; traditional Chinese: 北京填鴨; pinyin: běijīng tián yā).[20]


A Peking Duck after having been dried

Fattened ducks are slaughtered, plucked, eviscerated and rinsed thoroughly with water.[10] Air is pumped under the skin through the neck cavity to separate the skin from the fat.[21] The duck is then soaked in boiling water for a short while before it is hung up to dry.[22] 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,[23] the duck is roasted in an oven until it turns shiny brown.[24]

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 (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.[10]

The hung oven 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.[10][23] 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 cooking, the chef may use a pole to dangle each duck closer to the fire for 30 second intervals.[23] Almost every part of a duck can be cooked. The Quanjude Restaurant even served their customers the "All Duck Banquet" in which they cooked the bones of ducks with vegetables.

Besides the traditional methods to prepare Peking Duck, recipes have been compiled by chefs around the world to produce the dish at home.[21][22]


A Quanjude chef slicing roasted Peking Duck
An unprepared 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 skin is served dipped in sugar and garlic sauce. The meat is then served with steamed pancakes (simplified Chinese: 春饼; traditional Chinese: 春餅; pinyin: chūn bǐng), spring onions and sweet bean sauce. Several vegetable dishes are provided to accompany the meat, typically cucumber sticks. The diners spread sauce, and optionally sugar, over the pancake. The pancake is wrapped around the meat with the vegetables and eaten by hand. The remaining fat, meat and bones may be made into a broth, served as is, or the meat chopped up and stir fried with sweet bean sauce. Otherwise, they are packed up to be taken home by the customers.[25][26][27]


Whole Peking Ducks can be ordered as takeaways. The ducks can be reheated at home with an oven, grill or boiling oil. When an oven is used, the duck is heated at a temperature of 150 °C (300 °F) for 20 minutes, and then at 160 °C (325 °F) for another 10 minutes. The grilling method involves filling the duck with boiling water before placing it on a griddle, 70 cm (28 in) above the cooking fire. The boiling water is replaced every 3–4 minutes until the duck's skin is piping hot. To reheat the Peking Duck with oil, the duck is sliced into thin pieces and placed in a strainer held over a wok of boiling oil. The duck is then rinsed several times with the oil.[27]

Notable restaurants

A number of restaurants in Beijing specialise in Peking Duck. Examples include Quanjude, Bianyifang, Changan Yihao (長安一號), Beijing Xiaowangfu (北京小王府) and Dadong Kaoyadian (大董烤鴨店).[28] Some restaurants, in particular Quanjude and Bianyifang, have long histories of serving high quality duck that they are now household names, or Lao zihao (老字號), literally "old brand name".[29] In addition, Quanjude has received worldwide recognition, having been named a China Renowned Trademark in 1999.[30] Duck Chang's Restaurant, established in 1975 in Virginia, USA, was the first Chinese restaurant to prepare and serve Peking Duck without a 24-hour advanced notice.[31]

Crispy aromatic duck

Crispy aromatic duck (香酥鴨 xiang su ya) is a similar dish to Peking duck. It is very popular in the United Kingdom,[32] where it was created in the latter half of the twentieth century.[33][34][35]

The duck is first marinated with spices, then steamed until tender, and finally deep fried until crispy.[36] The meat has less fat and is drier and crispier compared to that of Peking Duck.[37]

See also


  1. Peking Duck, locally more commonly referred to as Beijing Duck or Beijing Roast Duck as the Chinese capital city was known as its postal Mandarin romanisation Peking before the Pinyin romanisation system was widely adopted in the 1980s. Chinatown Connection 2005. Retrieved May 18, 2010.
  2. 1 2 "品味北京五大百年名吃 (500-year-old delicacies of Beijing)". Xingchen Food Network (in Chinese). China News Information Centre. September 22, 2006. Retrieved September 10, 2007.
  3. "北京特產 (Specialties of Beijing)" (in Chinese). Xinhua. April 8, 2004. Retrieved September 10, 2007.
  4. "Slicing through the secrets of Peking Duck". Adelaide Review. 2005. Archived from the original on August 22, 2006. Retrieved September 10, 2007.
  5. "Peking duck". Encyclopædia Britannica.
  6. "A Cultural Classic: Peking Duck". Globe Trekker.
  7. "History of the Peking Duck". SilkRoad. Archived from the original on August 25, 2007. Retrieved September 10, 2007.
  8. Zhang, Jackie (June 29, 2007). "New locations for Qianmen's traditional restaurants". Beijing Today. Retrieved September 10, 2007.
  9. "Peking Duck Information". China Internet Information Center. Retrieved September 10, 2007.
  10. 1 2 3 4 "京城烤鴨及其製法 (Peking Duck and how to prepare it)". Epoch Times (in Chinese). February 13, 2006. Retrieved September 10, 2007.
  11. "Premier Zhou's roast duck diplomacy (周总理的烤鸭外交)" (in Chinese). Quanjude. Retrieved September 14, 2007.
  12. "Interview with Ambassador Winston Lord". George Washington University. Retrieved September 14, 2007.
  13. "Beijing gets its ducks in a row for heavenly roast". Reuters. August 5, 2008.
  14. "Torch finally heads for Beijing". London.
  15. "Now the owners of the 148-year-old restaurant plan to diversify into a multi-brand catering service provider that taps both high-end and mass markets.""Roast duck restaurant Quanjude looks at multi-brand expansion". South China Morning Post. February 4, 2013. Retrieved April 23, 2014.
  16. "Bianyifang is a brand name established in 1416. Its closed-oven Peking roast duck is famous." "Bianyifang serves up new restaurants". China Daily. June 26, 2013. Retrieved April 23, 2014.
  17. Davidson, Alan (1999). Oxford Companion to Food. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 593.
  18. Li, Ping-Wei; Wei Liu; Gen-Pei Li; Rong-Huan Zhu; Da-Cheng Wang (2001). "Overexpression, purification, crystallization and preliminary X-ray diffraction analysis of Cu,Zn superoxide dismutase from Peking duck". Acta Crystallographica. 57 (11): 1646–1649. doi:10.1107/S0907444901011106.
  19. "The origins of Chinese Roast Duck (访古探幽:中国烤鸭的由来)" (in Chinese). Sing Tao. December 31, 2005. Retrieved September 12, 2007.
  20. "Recipe for Peking Stuffed Duck" (in Chinese). 美食菜系. Retrieved September 12, 2007.
  21. 1 2 Bryant, Simon. "Peking Duck 101". ABC Adelaide. Archived from the original on December 6, 2007. Retrieved September 12, 2007.
  22. 1 2 "Preparing a Pekin Duck". Notes from a Devon Kitchen. March 2, 1998. Retrieved September 12, 2007.
  23. 1 2 3 "Quanjude Roast Duck". Golden Lawyer. Archived from the original on May 31, 2007. Retrieved September 14, 2007.
  24. "Beijing cuisine: Peking Duck Recipe (北京菜: 北京烤鴨)" (in Chinese). Social Work Hong Kong. April 27, 2001. Retrieved September 12, 2007.
  25. "The Evolution of Peking Duck". CBS. September 24, 2006. Retrieved September 17, 2007.
  26. Liang, Shih-Chiu. "Roast duck" (烧鸭). in Jiang H. (ed.) Liang Shiqiu's Selected Proses (2000). Hangzhou:Zhejiang Literary Press. ISBN 7-5339-0562-8
  27. 1 2 "How to reheat a takeaway Peking Duck(外卖烤鸭如何加热)". Hainan News Network. Xinhua. April 27, 2005. Retrieved September 18, 2007.
  28. "Top 5 places to dine on Peking Duck (吃北京烤鸭最HIGH的5大去处)". Northern Net (in Chinese). Xinhua. August 25, 2004. Retrieved October 4, 2007.
  29. Chen, Nan (April 14, 2006). "Old Name, New Experience". Beijing This Month. Retrieved October 4, 2007.
  30. "Quanjude puts duck on the stock-market menu". Shanghai Daily. Sina. September 27, 2007. Retrieved October 3, 2007.
  31. "Peking Duck Restaurant". Retrieved September 5, 2015.
  32. "Savour the success from aromatic". Cherry Valley. Archived from the original on February 2, 2009. Retrieved October 5, 2007.
  33. "Recipe Ideas For Chinese Pancakes". Ming Foods. Retrieved October 1, 2011.
  34. "Crispy Aromatic Duck". Eat Noodles. Retrieved October 1, 2011.
  35. "Crispy Aromatic Duck And Other British Inventions". DimSum. Retrieved October 1, 2011.
  36. Hom, Ken. "Recipe for crispy aromatic duck". BBC. Archived from the original on September 7, 2007. Retrieved October 5, 2007.
  37. "Peking Duck". Beijing Made Easy. Retrieved October 5, 2007.
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