Roasting duck has been a Chinese tradition for hundreds of years. However, it wasn’t until restaurants started opening around the 1850s to feed hungry travelers that people thought to write down the recipe and preparation method. This dish has a strong association with royalty, rituals, and large celebrations. The original method of preparing the duck remains today, although some chefs have tweaked it to their own liking. Those who have changed it altogether discovered that the new methods of preparation didn’t go over as well with diners as they had hoped.
Back in the old country, chefs prepared Peking duck by first hanging it on a hook for several hours. They then removed the duck from the hook, dipped it in a barrel filled with glaze, and hung it back up again. The heat would dry the duck before chefs served it to guests. Today, some people prefer to dip the prepared duck skin into granulated sugar. Some chefs have also reduced the size of the duck or changed what they brush onto it before serving to guests.
After preparing the duck for several hours, the next step is for the chef to cut it into several hundred tiny pieces. Stripping the carcass after removing most of its meat allows chefs to turn the rest of the duck into soup. This is ideal because it eliminates waste and provides meals for many more people.
Serving and Eating Peking Duck
Although the cooking and preparation of Peking duck has changed little over the centuries, restaurants often take some liberties with how it is served to diners. Once the meat is ready, the chef prepares the meal or snack by assembling it with cucumber, spring onions, steamed pancakes, and sweet bean sauce. The following steps are a popular way to prepare and serve Peking duck:
- Place one pancake flat on a plate and then place a small portion of the sweet bean sauce near the top and middle of the wrap
- Place a few pieces of the Peking duck in the same spot
- Spread cucumbers and spring onion over the top of the meat to ensure that the juicy outer layer hits the diner’s mouth first and the textured, crunchy onion and cucumber second
- Grab from the bottom of the pancake and fold it over the vegetables, sauce, and meat located in the middle
- Pull the right and left edges over the center of the wrap and flip it over
- Use chopsticks to pick up the assembled food
Many people don’t realize that the way a chef prepares Peking duck has a huge influence on how it tastes. If the taste isn’t quite right, he or she can try a variety of sauces or assemble the vegetables and meat in a different way. Although all preparations of this meal are likely to be delicious, it’s fun for people to experiment until they get it just right.