Beijing Roast Duck dates back 300 years, and originated in the imperial kitchens of Jingling (today’s Nanjing).
Beijing’ s first restaurant which served roast duck was started by Yang Quanren, who arrived in Beijing from nearby Ji County, Hebei Province, to establish a business in 1835. Yang opened a stall to sell roast chickens and ducks on Beijing’s Qianmen (Front Gate) Street during the mid-19th century. On July 18, 1864, he had saved enough money to buy a grocery at Number 24 Roushi(Meat Market) Street-today, the busy avenue that stretches south from Qianmen. Calling his shop Quanjude (Repository of All Virtues), Yang began to sell ducks he roasted in a special hanging oven that had formerly been used in the palace kitchen to cook whole piglets. His process involved filling the dressed ducks with boiling water, tying them tightly with sorghum fibres, and then hanging them to roast. During the cooking, they were constantly roasted, resulting in a dish with crisp skin, tender and delicious meat.
On the side he offered stir-fried duck liver, a steamed egg custard made with duck fat and a duck bone soup. Customers began to flock in and Yang soon set up a restaurant on the site. This technique was invented by an imperial kitchen chef more than 600 years ago.
Before 1949, Beijing Roast Duck was an expensive dish enjoyed only by the rich. Today’s Beijing duck restaurants are crowded with ordinary people every day.
In 1954, a branch was opened in Xidan. Another branch started in 1959 at Shuaifuyuan just off the Wangfujing Street. The original restaurant was also expanded, but was still not large enough to cater to all those insisted on eating Beijing Roast Duck. To meet the demand, a seven-storey building covering an area of 15, 000 square metres was constructed at Hepingmen on West Qianmen Street, which opened for business in May 1979. The restaurant has 41 dining halls of varying sizes and can seat up t0 3, 000 customers at a time. The banquet hall can accommodate 400 people, and about l, 000 roast ducks are served each day. Hepingmen is the first restaurant in China which serves only one main dish to occupy a seven-storey building.
The chefs in the restaurant can make more than 30 kinds of cold dishes and 50 0 hot dishes-all using ducks as the main ingredient. The ovens for roasting the ducks have changed from the old hanging type to gas, electric and even automatic machines. Toady, a duck order can be roasted automatically in several minutes. The ducks are now sold in halves, thirds or even smaller quantities.
There a are many Beijing Roast Duck restaurants in the major cities of the world, such as Belgrade, Tokyo, London, New York, , Los Angeles, San Francisco, Indonesia, Singapore and Hong Kong. But Beijing Roast Duck is the real McCoy in Beijing because the ducks themselves are raised in a special way on the outskirts of the Capital City.
Beijing Duck is roasted in a specially constructed oven, which is square outside, has a crescent-shaped door, and is round inside, where there are two racks for hanging the ducks for roasting. Underneath is the fire pit where hardwood such as date, peach and pear are used as fuel. These give plenty of heat with little smoke and impart a fruity fragrance.
The duck is basically roasted by the heat reflected through the oven to the roof and sides of the oven. This way of roasting makes the outside well-done and the inside tender, the skin crisp, and meat savoury.
To prepare the duck for roasting, the stomach is emptied and air pumped in. Then it is brushed with a maltose solution and dried in an airy Place. The carcass is plugged, half-filled with hot water; the duck is then ready to be hung for roasting. The crucial point of roasting is the fire and timing. Too short a time means that the duck is underdone and the skin browned unevenly; too long a time makes the meat tough and the skin dry. Experienced chefs are able to regulate the heat and turn each duck to maintain the right temperature. Generally speaking, veteran chefs use heir experience to watch colour, temperature and timing to accurately judge the degree of doneness. When the duck has turned golden brown, with the gravy inside becoming clear and transparent, it means it is ready to serve. It takes 5 years for chefs to learn to roast the duck, but 15 years to master the technique which is today a special branch of cookery science in China.
Beijing Roast Duck is one of the famous specialties in the city. It is prepared from a 2-month-old white Beijing Duck. When it is roasted and steamed for about 45 minutes, the duck is ready for serving, the whole duck is carried to the table on a platter, and the’ chef will often make an appearance to display his culinary creation. The skin is cut into small pieces, which are then served to the guests. The slices of golden skin are eaten by wrapping them inside thin pancakes or in sesame cakes which are dipped in a sauce of chopped scallions.
More Beijing Food Informations.