Beijing Kaoya (Peking Duck 北京烤鸭)
What is it?
Beijing kaoya (Peking duck), may be the most famous dish from northern China, but it actually originated in Nanjing, the first capital of the Ming Dynasty. It’s believed that the Ming emperors loved eating duck, a local delicacy, which prompted their chefs to develop various techniques for cooking the bird. When Ming emperor Zhu Di moved the capital to Peking (modern day Beijing) in 1421, he brought along his culinary team and various recipes, including the roast duck ones. The Peking duck dish we know today was mostly developed after that, hence its name. During the Qing Dynasty, it was introduced to the upper classes. In 1864 the most famous Peking duck restaurant Quanjude (全聚德) was set up to cater to the growing demand, impressing diners with its innovative “hung oven” (挂炉) roasting technique.
Why is famous?
In hung ovens, the ducks are cooked slowly over woodfire, and occasionally singed in the flames using poles. This method produces the dish’s crispy, shiny and reddish brown hue.
Cooked duck can be sliced in three ways: skin only, meat only and meat with skin together. The meat and skin is then served with scallions, cucumber sticks, sweet bean sauce, smashed garlic and white sugar, before being wrapped in a thin flour pancake. People eat it with their hands, like a burrito.
Since the founding of the People’s Republic, the dish has become one of China’s national icons, favoured by tourists and diplomats alike and praised by Richard Nixon, Fidel Castro and Helmut Kohl on trips to Beijing.
Where to eat it?
Try Jing Yaa Tang (京雅堂), the Chinese restaurant inside the Opposite House hotel in Beijing’s Sanlitun Village. To ensure quality Jing Yaa Tang’s chef de cuisine hand-picks each duck from their supplier. To ensure a perfectly crispy skin air is blown into the duck to separate the skin from the meat. It is then filled with water to keep the interior moist, seasoned with aged vinegar, molasses and spices and later roasted in a brick oven over traditional aromatic date wood. During the 70 minutes the duck hangs in the oven, the chefs use a long pole to liao, or singe, the duck over the fire. Address: Taikoo Li, Sanlitun North, No. 11 Sanlitun Road, Chaoyang District, Beijing; Tel: 86-10-6417-6688.
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