Beijing cuisine enjoys international fame for the variety of dishes developed in the imperial kitchens of several dynasties. None is more universally renowned than the roasted duck named for the city, Beijing Roasted Duck. Esteemed by gourmets for its mouth-watering aroma, tempting appearance and delicate taste, there are secrets in the cooking, skill in the preparation and serving and delight in the tasting. The crispy skin and the juicy meat leave a deep impression on first-time consumers during their Beijing trip; and the essence of this dish is the skin, so there are special techniques to serving and eating the crisp skin for maximum enjoyment.
History: This dish originated in the Southern and Northern Dynasties (A.D.420－A.D.589). During the Yuan Dynasty (A.D.1206—A.D.1368) roasted duck was served in the palace for the emperors. The name of this dish was first recorded in The Complete Recipes for Dishes and Beverages Manual in 1330 by Hu Sihui, an inspector of the imperial kitchen. During the Ming Dynasty, the roasted duck cuisine developed fully and took an important place on imperial court menus. With the passing of time, Beijing roasted duck entered into the international cuisine, its unique and delicious taste favoured foreign tourists as well as by Chinese people.
Four points to enjoy Beijing roasted duck:
The experts recommend eating roasted duck in winter, spring and autumn seasons. Because the quality of duck meat is better in winter and spring and the cool weather in autumn provides a good condition for cooking this dish.
The technique of slicing the skin and meat has a profound influence on the presentation and the diner’s sensations of texture and taste of the duck. The cook always slices the duck in front of customers. Usually, the cook slices the skin first then the meat, ensuring the skin is sliced with a thin layer of meat in order to avoid it breaking into pieces.
Because the flesh of the duck is naturally rich in fat, it is not generally eaten directly; to avoid an oily taste, vegetables dishes are offered, carrot and cucumber sticks usually. There are three traditional sauces for this delicacy; the widely accepted one is the sweet bean sauce, second is the mashed garlic with soy; the third is not really a sauce, but white sugar, a taste style that is favored by women and children.
Besides the sauce, there is another important ingredient when eating the duck, a flour pancake. There are two kinds of pancakes; one is a lotus leaf shaped, steamed pancake, and the other one is baked sesame cake.
How to eat
Step 1 The first part to eat Beijing Roasted Duck is the crispy skin and the tender meat. Diners hold a piece of pancake and spread sauce over it, then add a delicate serve of skin, meat and vegetables and wrap them. This is one delicacy that it is definitely acceptable to eat by hand.
Step 2 When you finish the fist step, do not put down your chopsticks at once. Popular side dishes include boiled duck liver, shredded duck wings, seasoned duck feet, even fried duck hearts will be served for you.
Step 3 How about the bones of the duck? You may think to throw it away because it does not get value to eat. But it is a false thought when you enjoy this dish. The “left-overs” should not be wasted either; the trimmings of meat, skin and the bones provide the base for a delicious soup.