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The Art of Peking Duck

The Art of Peking Duck

Auli Cinantya
18 January 2024

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With its long and complex history and irresistible combination of flavors and textures, Peking Duck is a culinary masterpiece that transcends time.

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If you’ve ever savored the delights of Peking Duck, you know why it holds the crown as a culinary masterpiece. The succulent tenderness of the duck meat, coupled with the crispy allure of the duck skin, creates a symphony of flavors that dances gracefully with the seasoned, salty notes of hoisin sauce. It’s the kind of luxury cuisine that’s reserved for special occasions, meant to be relished in good company.

The sheer sight of its plump, glossy skin, adorned with captivating caramel hues, is always a feast for the eyes. And let’s not forget the theatrical experience of having it expertly carved right at your table. Armed with a long knife, the skilled chef masterfully shears off slices of lacquered skin, unveiling succulent meat that’s then meticulously arranged on a serving platter. Freshly steamed pancakes, are adorned with rich tian mian sauce and then layered with slices of duck, complete the whole bite with delicate shards of leek and cucumber. The dish creates a delightful symphony of contrasting flavors and textures, just the thought of it already makes my mouth watered.

What Does Peking Duck Symbolize?

Peking Duck, an icon in the realm of Chinese gastronomy, has been captivating palates for centuries with its distinctive flavors and time-honored cooking methods. It’s not just a dish; it’s a culinary legacy, a symbol of a tradition meticulously refined over the ages.

Much like the Forbidden City or the enchanting old hutong lanes, Peking Duck stands proudly as one of the great treasures of Beijing. While pork, chicken, and lamb dominate the local meat scene, duck takes center stage when it comes to Peking duck — a culinary exception embraced by the locals.

Legend has it that this delectable dish originated in the 13th century in Hangzhou, not far from the bustling city of Shanghai. Initially sold door-to-door by street vendors, roast duck became a culinary specialty in nearby Nanjing, the inaugural capital of the Ming dynasty.

Peking Duck isn’t just a culinary delight; it’s a cultural emblem, embodying the grace, refinement, and artistry inherent in Chinese cuisine. Crafting this masterpiece demands not only culinary skill but also a profound understanding of the precise ingredients and techniques that elevate it to a culinary masterpiece.

Traditional Preparation of Peking Duck

Crafting an authentic Peking Duck is a meticulous journey that spans three days, commencing with the careful selection of a specific duck variety. The preferred candidate is the white Beijing duck, a “force-fed” specimen weighing approximately three kilograms.

Day One: Slaughtering and Cleansing
Initiating the process, the first day involves the humane slaughter of the duck, followed by feather plucking and a thorough water rinse. The duck then hangs overnight for natural drying, with a notable step being the delicate removal of the neck bone without compromising the skin.

Day Two: Inflating and Drying
Progressing to the second day, air is delicately pumped into the duck through a small opening, creating a separation between the skin and fat layers. This technique imparts the skin with its signature glossy and crispy texture post-roasting. After inflation, the duck undergoes another drying phase, this time with a luscious honey glaze adorning its skin.

Day Three: Roasting and Presentation
The final leg of the preparation unfolds with a 40-minute roast in a wood-fired oven. The heat, combined with the aromatic essence of fruit tree wood (such as pear, peach, or date branches), imparts the duck with a distinct flavor and a rich reddish-brown hue.

Where to Find Peking Duck in Jakarta

Amidst Jakarta’s rich Chinese influence and heritage, discovering a delightful serving of Peking Duck becomes a seamless adventure. For an upscale dining experience, you can explore renowned establishments like Jia Dining at the Shangri-La Jakarta, The Chinese National at Swissotel Jakarta PIK Avenue, or Twelve Chinese Dining. If you’re looking for a more accessible or home-enjoyment option, consider places like The Duck King Group at the mall or Suck My Duck for a satisfying Peking Duck encounter.

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