恭喜发财 – Gung Hei Fat Choy – Happy New Year, Citizens!!! It is the Year of the Monkey, and let’s celebrate with a most auspicious (and involved!) recipe!
I have celebrated a Chinese New Year Banquet for many years now, and few dishes are welcomed with such reverence as the classic, Peking (properly referred to as Beijing) Duck.
The dish dates back to imperial China, though the exact date of origin is unknown. A recipe for roast duck, called shaoyazi, appears in a cookbook called “Complete Recipes for Dishes and Beverages” written by Hu Sihui, an inspector of the imperial kitchens, in 1330!
A specialist restaurant called Bianyifang, which opened in the Qianmen neighborhood of the city then called Peking opened in 1416.
Peking Duck is traditionally roasted in either a closed oven or hung oven. The closed oven is built of brick and fitted with metal griddles (Chinese: 箅子; pinyin: bì zi).
The oven is preheated by burning Gaoliang sorghum straw (Chinese: 秫秸; pinyin: shú jiē) at the base. The duck is placed in the oven immediately after the fire burns out, allowing the meat to be slowly cooked through the convection of heat within the oven.
The hung oven was developed in the imperial kitchens during the Qing Dynasty and adopted by the Quanjude restaurant chain. It is designed to roast up to 20 ducks at the same time with an open fire fueled by hardwood from peach or pear trees.
The ducks are hung on hooks above the fire and roasted at a temperature of 270 °C (525 °F) for 30–40 minutes. While the ducks are cooking, the chef may use a pole to dangle each duck closer to the fire for 30 second intervals.
Almost every part of a duck can be cooked. The Quanjude Restaurant even served their customers the “All Duck Banquet” in which they cooked the bones of ducks with vegetables.
The cooked Beijing Duck is traditionally carved in front of the diners and served in three stages. First, the skin ONLY is served with steamed pancakes (simplified Chinese: 春饼; traditional Chinese: 春餅; pinyin: chūn bǐng), spring onions and sweet bean sauce.
Several vegetable dishes are provided to accompany the skin, typically cucumber sticks and scallions. The diners spread sauce, and optionally sugar, over the pancake.
The pancake is wrapped around the skin with the vegetables and eaten by hand. The meat is then served in a second course stir-fried with bean sprouts and a light sauce. The remaining fat, meat and bones may be made into a restorative digestive broth, served as the third and final course to properly conclude the meal.
The problem is that very few restaurants – if any – in the U.S. do Beijing ya right, serving it in 3 separate courses – skin, stir-fried meat and soup.
I’ve grown tired of merely remembering the authentic bird I sampled in Hong Kong, so this recipe – all three courses – are now enumerated for your dining pleasure!
Note that to attempt to make this dish, the weather MUST be dry – zero humidity or the skin will not be crisp and you will have wasted your efforts.
Citizens, I recognize that Beijing ya is a very complicated dish – that said, I hope you will decide to usher in the Year of the Monkey with this fantastic dish! Finish off with another Northern Chinese classic, Shandong candied Apple fritters!
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