Updated: Jul 13, 2018
Origin - China, Beijing
China has a long history of duck grilling/roasting, the origin of Peking Duck can be traced back to early 15th century when Zhu Yuanzhang （朱元璋）, the first emperor of Ming Dynasty, moved the capital city from Nanjing (southern China) to Beijing (northern China), and brought the famous Jin Ling Sliced Duck (金陵片皮鸭）over with him.
The dish had a few updates after being transferred to Beijing -- first of all, Beijing local ducks, which are bigger and fatter, replaced Nanjing's lake ducks. Secondly and most importantly, the cooking method changed. Previously, the ducks were baked statically in a closed oven, using hay as the fuel and cooking the duck with the heat instead of direct fire.
While the new method, which hangs the ducks in an open wood fire oven to roast the ducks directly in the fire. The firewood used for the oven are from fruit trees which create a special aroma, infusing into the duck with the smoke. Because the wood burns longer than the hay, chefs can now constantly adjust the duck's position during the roasting process.
All the new changes brought the flavor of the roasted duck to another level, the dish also started to get popular outside of the emperor's palace to normal people's life. It was also then, the name Peking Duck became the dish's official name. Among all the restaurants that serve Peking Duck, there is one that is considered as the absolute representative -- Quan Ju De (全聚德）.
Quan Ju De opened its first restaurant in Beijing in 1864 where their method for preparing and cooking the duck was very unique. After removing the feathers, the technician will open a small hole near the duck's right bladder, take out all the organs from that hole, clean the duck thoroughly, blow up the duck's skin with air, fill the duck with water, sew the hole up, and then finally, send the duck into the fire. This method, in a sense, is basically roasting the duck from outside while boiling it from the inside, which guarantees the result of crispy skin but tender meat.
People say slicing the duck is almost as important as cooking the duck. The duck needs to be sliced right after it's finished cooking before its chest loses the hot air that was trapped inside. Every slice is supposed to include some crispy skin and tender meat, to create the best sensation of texture.
To eat it properly, take a couple slices of cucumber, green onion dipped into the red fermented sauce (甜面酱）, use a thin, translucent flour crepe to wrap them up together with a couple pieces of the duck slices. You would be impressed by how harmonious everything is combined to create the most amazing taste and texture.
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