4423 south china morning post

Photo: South China Morning Post

Peking duck (as it’s commonly known in the U.S.) is a famous, centuries-old dish hailing from Beijing. Whole ducks are roasted in wood-fired ovens, rendering out fat and leaving behind perfectly crisp skin. Thin shavings of the crispy skin and meat are skillfully carved from the duck and served with Mandarin pancakes (or sometimes steamed lotus leaf buns), along with a variety of condiments, including hoisin sauce, scallions, and julienned cucumber. Each person can wrap their own portion and enjoy it the way they like at their own speed.

We were also introduced to some unusual toppings and condiments in China, including julienned cantaloupe and garlic oil. Cantaloupe in particular may sound strange, but it’s a refreshing and delicious addition!

Eventually, we started avoiding the more expensive, touristy restaurants and took to the local places, where you could get a whole Peking duck for around 20 USD. Judy’s favorite part was taking home the duck carcass to make duck soup with napa cabbage and tofu for the next day. It always made for a really good meal (or two!), according to The Woks of Life.



  1. To begin with a perfect Peking duck recipe at home, firstly choose head on (easy to hang for air drying out), clean and lean ducks. Add around 1 teaspoon of white vinegar in clean water and soak the duck for 1 hour. Then prepare lines and tie the ducks from the top of the neck. Hang them on hooks. I hang the ducks on the top of kitchen pool.

  2. Mix 2 tablespoons of oyster sauce with1/2 tablespoon of Chinese cooking wine and 1 teaspoon Chinese five spice powder. Spread the sauce on the inner side of the duck.

  3. In a small bowl, mix 2 tablespoons of maltose with 2 tablespoons of hot water and 1/2 teaspoon white vinegar. Then brush the liquid evenly on the duck skin (the liquid should be warm for the first brushing). Then wait for 30 minutes and brush again. Hang on for at least 24 hours (I don’t recommend making this is summer, autumn and winter are the best seasons). In winter, you can hang up for 5 days.

Roast the bird:

  1. Seal the bottom before roasting with soaked toothpicks.

  2. Pre-heat oven to 180 degree C. Place the duck on a baking grill and use a lined baking pan to catch the drops. And then roast for 20 minutes. Then take the duck over and roast the other side for another 15 minutes. Lower the temperature to 120 degree C and continue roasting for 30 minutes. (My bird is around 1000g each one, if you get larger ones, lengthen another 10 minutes for 500g weight addition).

Let the skin even crisper

  1. Option 1: heat enough hot oil, then hold the neck and pour the hot oil on the skins. I use a very deep bowl for this step. Be carefully, do not get burnt by the hot oil. This help to make the skin even crisper.

  2. Option 2: Set the oven temperature to 180 degree C again and re-roast for 6-10 minutes (watch carefully at this step and do not let the skin get burnt.)

How to cut the duck

  1. Firstly cut a line around the breast. Then divide into two part in the middle. Then slice the breast meat with skins one by one. You can hand-shred the left meat off and leave the leftover bones for a soup broth.

Side ingredients for serving

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Photo: Foods Guy
  1. Make peking pancake during the roasting time, cut cucumber into small strips. Cut the leek onion in half, take the green part out and cut the remaining white shell and then cut into small shreds.

  2. Sweet bean sauce (甜面酱): mix 2 tablespoons of sweet red bean sauce with 1 tablespoon of sesame oil.

How to assemble

  1. Take one duck wrapper, brush around 1 teaspoon of sweet red bean paste on the bottom, lay a small brunch of shredded leek onion and a small strip of cucumber. Then place two slices of duck breast. Roll up and enjoy.

The History of Roast Duck

Duck is a traditional meat in China, and the dish was once called "shāo yāzi" (燒鴨子). It was mentioned in the Complete Recipes for Dishes and Beverages (飲膳正要) manual in 1330 by Hu Sihui (忽思慧) who was an inspector for the imperial kitchen.

In the Ming Dynasty, Peking duck was one of the main dishes on imperial court menus. The first roast duck restaurant, Bianyifang (便宜坊), opened near Qianmen in Beijing in 1416. Then Quanjude (全聚德) was opened in 1864. His roast duck dishes were distinctive in that they innovated roasting the ducks in huge open ovens fed with fruit tree wood. Bianyifang, in contrast, still employs traditional smaller closed ovens.

Beijing roast duck (also known as Peking duck) has been eaten since Imperial times, its first mention dating back to the Yuan Dynasty (1279–1368) when it appeared in a text written by an inspector of the Imperial kitchen.

During the subsequent Ming Dynasty (1368–1644) roast duck was regularly included on the imperial menu. In 1416 the first known restaurant to specialize in roast duck opened in Beijing called Bianyifang. There they roasted the duck in a closed oven having first heated the walls of the oven using sorghum stalks to give a crispy finish to the duck.

In 1864 another famous duck restaurant opened called Quanjude. There they used a different method of cooking by hanging the duck to roast over flames in an open brick oven. Versions of these two restaurants still exist today, so we recommend you try at least one of them whilst you’re visiting Beijing, according to China Hightlights.

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