One of the most popular delicacies in Chinese restaurants across the globe, Peking duck is a dish where preparation, cooking and serving have been elevated to an art form.
The history of Peking duck
The written history of Peking duck goes back to the early 14th century, when it was mentioned in an Imperial court cookbook. Food historians, however, believe its actual origins go back much further, and that its roots are Mongolian. Always on the menu of the Imperial Court, it was first seen in Beijing (Peking) restaurants in the 1500s. Since then, its popularity has never waned and it has become an iconic part of world cuisine.
Not just any ducks are used for this dish. Ducklings are specially raised on a diet rich in maize, barley, sorghum and soya bean. Then, at six weeks old, they are ready for the kitchen.
How Peking duck is made
Making Peking duck is a complex process, where several stages involving pumped air, hot water, lengthy drying and malt sugar end with a shiny, crisp, golden-brown duck with fat-free, moist flesh. It is possible, however, to make your own version at home, providing you have some time and dedication.
Detailed recipes on how to make the dish can easily be found online. Basically, the process involves coating the duck in boiling water and vinegar and then suspending it in a cool place to dry for a couple of days. Sugar or honey and soy sauce are then added to the water and vinegar mix, and the duck is bathed and left to dry again. The skin should now feel like parchment. Then the cavity is rubbed evenly with salt, a five-spice mix and peppercorns before the duck is roasted for approximately 90 minutes. Once cooled slightly, the skin can be sliced and the meat shredded.
How to eat Peking duck
The duck is served with Chinese pancakes, fanned spring onions and a sweet bean or hoisin sauce, depending on taste or region. Spoon some sauce onto the pancake, then pile crisp skin, tender meat and spring onions on top. Wrap and enjoy. It’s the perfect dinner party dish.
If you want to enjoy Peking duck in Singapore without having to prepare it yourself, you’ll find it is on the menu of many Chinese restaurants. Some feature it as a signature dish, such as TungLok XiHe Peking Duck and The Monogamous Chinese.