The royal lineage of the crisp, golden, much-relished Peking Duck dates back over 700 years, to the imperial era of the Southern and Northern Dynasties of China. In those days, roast duck (called Shaoyazi, which literally means ‘burning duck’) was a preferred dish of the ruling emperors of the Yuan Dynasty. Black-feathered, small ducks were brought from Nanjing, one of the Four Great Ancient Capitals of China, to make the dish that was recommended for the royals by their dietary physicians.
The Ming Dynasty is credited to formalising the recipe of the Peking Roast Duck, which then became one of the prominent dishes in court menus. The extremely elaborate process of preparing the dish usually took 2-3 days, and the imperial kitchens developed a hung oven to roast the duck. The slow and meticulous roasting process rendered the duck incredibly delectable, with a thin, crisp outer layer making way for tender meat inside. By the time of the great Qing Dynasty, the recipe had garnered praises from the highest echelons, inspiring poets and writers alike.
After the masses got a taste of the regal recipe through the Quanjude restaurant in 1864, it rose to culinary fame, only to become a national symbol of China in the mid 20th Century. Nowadays, white-feathered Pekin ducks are used to prepare the dish, authentic versions of which are served rolled in pancakes, with scallion, cucumber sticks and sweet bean or hoisin sauce.
As time has progressed, so have recipes for the Peking Duck. Chefs have given creative culinary twists to this oriental dish, none more relished than those by Chef Da Dong of Beijing’s Da Dong Roast Duck restaurant. Considered as one of China’s greatest chefs, Chef Da Dong has made huge innovations to its cooking technique keeping health and wellbeing in mind, the result of which is the immensely popular ‘super lean’ roast duck recipe. While the dish retains the crisp outsides and juicy meat inside, it is less greasy. Chefs have also taken inspirations from the ‘Eight Culinary Cuisines’ of China, adding distinctive ingredients to the recipe and rendering novel flavours.
Today, a museum in Beijing is dedicated to the city’s most famous gastronomic creation. A Chinese proverb reminds you that your trip to Beijing is incomplete if you haven’t savoured the recipe. And for most tourists, celebrities and dignitaries who have tasted the goodness of the Peking Duck, its imperial essence remains ingrained in the memory for long.
ITC Grand Chola pulls a leaf from the pages of Chinese culinary heritage with traditional and novel preparations of the Peking Duck. Experience a recipe that remains true to its oriental flavour and presentation, at Pan Asian from 20th to 30th September.