The True National Dish of China: 北京烤鴨

Posted By | Posted On Apr 22, 2013

Although Chop Suey was listed in the 1939 edition of The Joy of Cooking as “the national dish of China”, the real honor should have gone to Beijing Kao Ya, better known here as Peking Duck.

The first reference to the dish we know and love today is from 1330, and the first restaurant to specialize in Peking Duck was established in Beijing in 1416.

Peking Duck is traditionally roasted in a closed brick oven preheated with sorghum straw. The duck is placed in the oven immediately after the fire burns out to slowly cook through the convection of heat remaining within the oven. Before roasting, the duck is plucked, eviscerated and rinsed with cool water. Air is pumped through the neck cavity under the skin in order to separate the skin and fat. After a brief soaking in boiling water, the duck is hung to dry and brushed with maltose syrup.

Peking Duck is traditionally served in three courses. The crackling, crisp skin is served in thin wheat pancakes with scallions and a sauce called Tian Mian Jiang. The sauce is made from fermented wheat flour, sugar, salt, and fermented yellow soybeans. Tian Mian Jiang is available in Asian markets under the name “sweet bean sauce”. In the United States, some places use hoisin sauce as a substitute, but this is not as authentic. The duck meat is stir fried with vegetables as a second course and can be and served with noodles. The carcass and bones are made into a rich fragrant soup.

The best place to experience Peking Duck here in the Boston area is at China King in Chinatown.  With 24 hours notice, and for a mere $38, owners Erwin and Doris Mei will serve up a feast that will easily feed four people.

China King is located at 60 Beach Street, on the corner of Oxford,  and can be reached at  617- 542 -1763.

 

Written by Jim Becker-Chinatown guide

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