Beijing Duck is a popular duck dish that has been famous since the Yuan dynasty and is the national dish of China. Cooking duck over direct heat was common 1500 years ago in the period of the northern and the southern dynasties. This dish was initially named ‘Shaoyazi’. Making Beijing duck needs special skills and is best left to specialty chefs. Crispy Beijing duck turns out brilliantly glossy after it is well roasted. Peking duck is usually served with pancakes and hoisin sauce.
Preparation of Beijing duck
The duck is cleaned and air is pumped underneath the skin to detach it from the flesh. Then the duck is marinated with a mixture of oil, molasses and sauce. The duck is then dried and roasted. Little wonder that the Beijing duck has a glossy red color. In fact is appears as if the duck has been painted red and has earned the name ‘lacquered duck’ or 'canard laque'.
Just before the duck is put in the oven, the inside of the duck is half filled with hot water. This water is released only after the duck is cooked completely. Usually peach wood, pear wood or jujube tree is used as fuel for the oven as these wood types emit very little smoke. You can savor the pleasant aroma of the burning wood as the duck is being cooked. It takes over forty minutes to cook each duck in the oven. The skin gets crisp whereas the meat is very tender.
Serving Beijing duck
In restaurants, Beijing duck is shown as a whole piece to the customer and later sliced before serving. Beijing duck is served in three phases to a customer.
In the first phase the skin is served, the skin is dipped in sugar and garlic sauce.
In the second phase, the meat is served with steamed pancakes. The meat is rolled into thin pancakes along with a dish of tianmianjiang (a sweet sauce with a fermented flavor) and scallion (or cucumber) cut into thin long pieces. Plum sauce or at times sugar is spread on these pancakes before eating.
The bones, meat and fat is cooked into a broth and served or the customers take it home.
In general before the Beijing duck is served, a variety of warm or cold dishes are served. Tongue of the ducks is used to prepare tasty dishes and the skeleton of the duck is used in soups. The right kind of duck has to be selected for this dish. – One that is neither too old nor overweight. Typically these ducks are force fed.