You are here > Home > Quick Navigation > Cuisine & Drink > Delicacies

Beijing Roast Duck

Beijing Roast Duck enjoys the reputation of being the most delicious food in Beijing, and it is a dish well known among gastronomes all over the world. China is one of the first countries to domesticate ducks for the table. Cooking methods include steaming, boiling, stewing, roasting, frying and so on. The history of the roast duck can be traced back to as early as the Yuan Dynasty (1206-1368) when it was listed among the imperial dishes in the Complete Recipes for Dishes and Beverages, written in 1330 by Hu Sihui, a dietician of the imperial kitchen. 

In the early 15th century, when the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) capital was shifted from Nanjing to Beijing, roast duck remained one of the famous dishes on imperial court menus. According to local history, the earliest roast duck restaurant in Beijing was the old Pianyifang Restaurant, which opened during the Jiaqing reign (1522-1566). Distinct from the method in which the duck is hung from a hook in the ceiling of the oven and roasted over burning wood, the old Pianyifang Restaurant roasted its ducks with radiant heat. The walls of the oven were first heated with sorghum stalks whereupon the duck was placed inside and cooked by the heat given off by the walls. A duck roasted in this manner is crisp to the touch and golden brown in appearance; its flesh is both tender and tasty. 

During the Qianlong reign (1736-1796), roast duck was a favorite delicacy of the upper classes. Other scholars, after dining on roast duck, were inspired to poetry. 

Quanjude Restaurant

The roast duck in Quanjude Restaurant is said to be the most genuine of Beijing Duck. The history of the restaurant can be traced back to more than 130 years ago. The first restaurant to bear the name Quanjude opened in 1864 during the reign of the Qing Emperor Tongzhi. Due to its high standards, the restaurant's fame spread rapidly and for many years the supply of roast ducks could hardly satisfy the demand. For this reason, the restaurant was quickly rebuilt and expanded. 

For more than a century, specialized chefs have developed the idea that the skin of the duck should be so soft and crisp that it melts in the mouth. 

Two Types

Beijing Roasted Duck has two kinds: Menlu Roasted Duck (duck roasted in the oven) and Gualu Roasted Duck (duck roasted over the hire). The preparations include: first rubbing the ducks with spices, salt and sugar, and then hanging them in the air for some time. To make a Menlu Roasted Duck, first burn the Kaoliang stalks in the oven till the sides of the oven turn hot, then put the ready-duck inside until the duck is baked date-red and shining with oil by the heat of the oven and the remaining heat of the ash. To make a Gualu Roasted Duck, the ready-duck is baked in the oven directly over the burning wood of peach, jujube or date trees, which gives off a special fragrance, with very little smoke; bake until the duck becomes brown with rich grease perspiring outside and have a nice odor. The best roasted duck has a crisp skin and tender meat. 

Procedures to Prepare

The preparation of the dish requires a series of complicated steps:

1. Ideally, the duck must be the white Beijing variety. It should be 65 days old when slaughtered and weigh two-and-a-half kilograms. Every six hours of the last 20 days of their life, they queue obediently for a force-feeding of highly nutritious mush that thickens the layer of fat under the skin. It takes four days to prepare a duck for the oven.

2. For oven fuel, jujube-tree, peach or pear wood is used because these types of firewood emit little smoke and give steady and controllable flames with a faint and pleasant aroma.

3. Select a duck with whole skin. Pump in air through the opening cut at the neck to pump up the duck and so as to detach the skin from the meat. 

4. Cut the belly and draw, and then insert a 2-inch-long piece of wood to support the chest bone and to stretch the skin. Hook the duck by the neck, spread diluted maltose over it. Hang the duck in an airy place to dry. 

5. Before being put in the oven, the inside of the fowl is half filled with hot water, which is not released until the duck has been cooked.

6. The ducks are roasted in a door-less oven. The oven is heated to 270 degrees centigrade and the ducks are left to roast for 30-40 minutes, depending on the size of the ducks. Proper timing and temperature are important and the duck is turned often enough to be roasted completely and evenly.

7. Roast until golden brown. In the oven, each duck takes about forty minutes to cook, and the skin becomes crisp while the meat is tender.

How to Enjoy

In the restaurant, the roast duck, after being shown whole to the customers, is served in slices, which are eaten rolled in thin pancakes with a dish of tianmianjiang (a sweet sauce made of fermented flour) and scallion (or cucumber) cut in thin lengths. Few people, if any, could resist the temptation of the crisp and delicious taste of Beijing Roast Duck.

Before the duck reaches the table, however, various warm or cold dishes are often served, made of kidneys, hearts, livers, webs, wings and eggs, all from the duck. Even duck tongues can be prepared into very tasty dishes, and the skeleton of the eaten duck normally goes into a soup, which finds few equals. A highly experienced chef of a duck restaurant can produce an "all-duck banquet" of over eighty dishes made of different parts of the fowl.

Quick Navigation

New Article