Peking Duck

by general

There is nothing quite like the crisp yet rich duck skin that characterizes Peking Duck. This iconic Beijing dish is conventionally served as thin pieces of duck meat and skin, spring onion, cucumber, and sweet bean sauce wrapped in delicate steamed pancakes. Yet despite being one of China’s most renowned fares, it has rarely been successfully translated to food markets outside of China or even Beijing. This is largely because the preparation of authentic Peking duck is an incredibly elaborate process, a token of its origins as a dish for the Chinese Emperor. The earliest incarnation of Peking Duck is believed to be during the Yuan dynasty, when the official dietitian for the emperor recorded it in his famous recipe book. But it was during the Ming dynasty that Peking Duck became one of the main dishes on imperial court menus, and in the following centuries its popularity spread to the upper classes. When the restaurant Quanjude opened in 1864, incorporating a new technique for roasting ducks, the dish’s magic was finally revealed to the rest of the world. To me, Peking Duck is a symbol of Chinese culture, in part because its authenticity is inseparable from being in China. Accordingly, I associate the dish with the feeling of anticipation: no dish has been more difficult to enjoy since leaving China, or more closely tied with the experience of going back.

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