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Naturally it is the white Pekin duck with its premium meat that is used to prepare the Chinese specialty Peking Duck. It is also called Peking Roast Duck, Beijing Duck or Beijing Roast Duck. The preparation of authentic Chinese Peking Duck is a culinary secret of Chinese chefs. For the labour and time intensive preparation experience and expert know-how are needed.

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Peking Duck: Preparation

During the first step the skin is detached from the meat. A duck without plumage but with head and feet attached is needed, and the skin has to be without abrasions or cuts. To detach the skin, a small cut is made right under the trachea. Through this cut the duck is inflated like a balloon. The chef has to spread the air evenly with his palms until it is separated from the whole body of the duck.

Now the feet are cut off at the ankles. Through a small cut underneath one wing the giblets are removed. This is a difficult task and only specialists of Chinese cuisine are able to do it right.

The duck is then hanged with a special wire loop around wing and neck and basted with boiling water from all sides. This procedure makes the skin susceptive to the following honey bath.

Depending on the recipe there are different ingredients to flavour Peking ducks. It is said to be best to baste it only with honey dissolved in almost boiling water. Afterwards the duck is hanged in a special oven and dried in circulating hot air for up to four hours. The air cushion between skin and meat produced by inflating the duck, is preserved during cooking. The skin gets firm and crispy and adopts its shiny, dark red colour.

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Peking Duck: History

Peking ducks are a creation of the Ming dynasty (1368 to 1644). Ducks raised for this dish are butchered after exactly 65 days and weigh no less than 2 kg (4 lbs). About two weeks before they are butchered, the ducks are fed a rich mixture of millet, mung beans and wheat grist four times a day. During this time the ducks have to spend their time sitting still, which is supposed to make their skin thin and their meat tender.

Before the duck is prepared, it has to dry for several hours in a well-aerated place. In earlier times, when there were no air-conditioned storage rooms, experts ordered Peking ducks only if the weather had been good for at least half a day. Air humidity on rainy days made it impossible to dry the skin of the ducks correctly, with the effect that the skin did not get crispy enough. The sugar content of the honey that saturates the skin acts hygroscopic, which means it draws water.

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Peking Duck: Presentation

In good Chinese restaurants a Peking duck is served in a ceremonial presentation. The duck is presented whole to the diners before the chef shaves the skin from the meat with a sharp wide knife. The skin is cut in diamonds or rectangles and served on a so called lotus leaf pancake. The pancake is rolled up with the duck skin, sauce and scallions and served as a starter. The fat underneath the skin is often removed before serving to make the dish easier to digest.

The meat is served separately as a second course. It is cut in thin slices and served with side dishes. While the diners eat the second course, the kitchen can use the carcass to cook a soup that is served as the third and last course.

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