Beijing Roast Duck, also known as Peking Duck, is one of the staple Chinese dishes that’s gaining popularity across the globe. The duck meat (sometimes just the skin while the meat is served with veggies) is served wrapped in Mandarin pancakes and topped off with hoisin/plum sauce and cucumbers. It’s a truly delicious parade for the taste buds and, fortunately, you can make it from scratch in your own kitchen.
There’s quite a bit of history behind the Beijing Duck as it originated in China’s royal palace more than 7 centuries ago. And the process involved in the preparation of this dish is definitely interesting enough to make it fit for royalty.
Traditional Preparation Process
The traditional step-by-step guide involves some rather complex practices. To start off the preparation, it’s necessary to pump the air that gathers between the duck’s skin and meat in order to drain the fat perfectly. And to tighten the skin once again, it’s necessary to bring the entire duck to boil. Once the duck is all dried, it’s time to brush it with a glaze made of sugar. In the end, the duck gets roasted over the oven or by the method of rotating it on its side every half an hour. The results are amazingly tasty, with tender meat and crispy skin. However, even though this traditional manner of preparing Peking Duck is absolutely fascinating, it’s not the easiest thing to do in your regular kitchen today. That said, the following instructions will allow you to create the Beijing Roast Duck Recipe in a more simplified manner.
Choose Your Duck
To start off your Peking roast duck, you obviously need to get a duck first. It would be ideal to get the Peking duck breed for this particular recipe. Don’t worry, it’s not difficult to find this duck breed in the US. As it happens, White Peking Duck is largely raised in the US and is often referred to as Long Island Duck. Even if the label on the duck doesn’t specifically state what breed it is, chances are that it’s going to be the Peking one.
The Question of Crispy Skin
One of the most notable characteristics of the Beijing Roasted Duck is its tasty and crispy skin. In order to achieve this, it’s important that you effectively separate the skin from the meat. As mentioned, this was typically done by pumping the air, but it’s not that difficult to do it by hand either. Essentially, all you have to do is get your hand between the skin and the breast right at the cavity and start breaking the connections gradually. And conveniently, the fat will have an easy way to drain without you having to resort to cutting and slashing the duck’s skin.
Once the skin and meat are separated and the fat all drained, you need to leave your duck to dry out in the refrigerator for at least 12 hours. It’s perfectly fine to leave it there for a couple of days as well. The goal here is to remove all of the moisture from the skin to create ideal conditions for getting that crispy goodness.
Boil the Duck
The boiling process is rather simple itself, but the only gripe you may have with it is that you don’t actually have a large enough pot, depending on the size of your duck. In general, all you have to do is bring water to a boil, toss the duck in with some salt, leave it for about 1 minute and take it out. But, if your duck can’t fit any of the pots you have, you can also pour the boiling water over the duck, paying attention to cover every single inch of it, inside and out. This tightens the skin nicely. You can leave the duck to dry once again, but in all honesty, the second dry doesn’t make much of a difference in taste and crunchiness, and you could easily skip it.
The Beer Can Roasting Method
There are many different suggestions when it comes to the ideal roasting process for the Peking Duck, but, in the end, it would be best and most efficient for your modern-day oven to position the duck vertically. So, how are you going to do that? The answer lies in a beer can.
It’s said that there should be half a can worth of beer as you position your duck on it so that the beer can steam and release its aroma as well. This isn’t really true and doesn’t make a difference in taste and aroma at all. In that sense, you can honestly take an empty can and fill it with water. It will work beautifully.
So, basically, jam your duck on top of the open beer can filled with water half-way and put the whole thing in the oven/grill vertically. This particular positioning is perfect for the Peking Duck as it will allow the juices to drain properly while the entire bird will be cooked evenly, resulting in a lacquered and crispy skin.
Make the Mandarin Pancakes
Mandarin Pancakes are as thin as the French crepes but they have a chewy texture and a pasta-like taste. Making those is rather simple as you only really need 3 ingredients: flour, boiling water, and oil. You basically make the dough from mixing the flour with boiling water and roll the dough into thin pancakes. Things can get a bit tricky here as you need to roll and steam two pancakes together. So, to avoid them sticking to each other, brush every pancake with oil. Cook the pancakes on a dry skillet for 1-2 minutes on each side, until they get golden and blistery. Once the pancakes are cool, find the steam bit in the middle made from the oil layer and separate them carefully. Keep the pancakes wrapped in tea towels to retain their moisture as you continue cooking.
Slice and Serve Your Duck
Once your duck is roasted and the pancakes are ready to eat, it’s time to slice your duck. The easiest way to go about this is to remove the breast from the bird first. Once you do that, it will be much simpler to make thinner slices compared to carving into the entire duck. You can also remove the wings and legs.
Now that you have your duck slices, simply take one of the Mandarin pancakes, spread your plum or hoisin sauce over it, add some cucumbers and/or green onions, place your duck slices, and roll everything up! And if you’re looking for an extra way to spice this recipe up, don’t hesitate to pair it with some fine Merlot wine.
Just because you may not be able to visit China right now doesn’t mean you can’t try the traditional taste of the delicious Beijing Roasted Duck in all its glory. Visit us at our Ichimora restaurant and enjoy the warmth and comfort of the staple Asian food. We put a great deal of love, care, skill, and tradition into our dishes so that you can truly enjoy a mindful moment and make both your tummy and heart happy and satisfied.