Traditional Peking Duck: Rich in History and in Taste

Peking duck has a rich history spanning centuries and is one of Beijing’s most famous and delicious meals to date. It is also referred to by other names, such as ‘Beijing duck’ or simply ‘Roast duck’.

Originating as a royal delicacy in medieval China, Peking duck has since spread worldwide and is a well-known dish among those who love Asian cuisine.

Characterized by its sweet, crispy skin, and thinly sliced roasted meat, it offers a unique and tasty experience.

Keep reading to learn more about the history of Peking duck and how the signature dish is prepared.

1. The Rich History of the Peking Duck

History of Peking Duck
The origin of Peking duck dates back to the 400s and can be traced to the Yuan dynasty

The first record of Peking duck can be found in a cookbook by a royal dietary physician named Hu Sihui back in 1330 during the Yuan dynasty. However, evidence of this dish dates back even further to the 400s, which was over 1600 years ago.

Hu Sihui’s recipe was elaborate with the duck being roasted inside the stomach of a sheep. Although today’s version is still intricate, it does not call for such extreme measures.

The name ‘Peking’ is actually an older spelling variation of ‘Beijing’ but interestingly, the dish originated from the city of Nanjing. Eventually, the Ming dynasty (1368-1644) moved their imperial court to Beijing and brought Peking Duck with them which is where it grew in popularity and earned its name.

The dish made its way into restaurants and became an established staple not only amongst royals but also amongst commoners. During the 20th and 21st century, Peking duck has also contributed to Chinese international relations and is still served to politicians and diplomats today.

Nowadays, you can find it in most Chinese and Asian Fusion restaurants but not everyone is familiar with its majestic history.

2. How Peking Duck is Traditionally Prepared

Traditional Preparation of Peking duck by chefs and butchers
There are 2 traditional ways to prepare an authentic Peking duck

The extravagant preparation of Peking duck is what makes the dish so renowned.

Prior to the cooking process, air is applied under the skin so that the fat is rendered out during roasting, which makes the skin extra crispy. In addition the skin is coated with maltose syrup to give it an extra layer of crisp.

Once the ducks are ready to be cooked, they can be roasted in 2 methods:

  • Closed oven – In this method, the duck is cooked by the heat emanating from the oven’s walls.
  • Hung oven – In the second method, the duck is hung from the ceiling and roasted over burning wood.

While neither of these methods are superior to the other, it is a topic of debate amongst enthusiasts.

3. How to Make Peking Duck at Home

Making Peking Duck at home after purchasing from butcher
You can make Peking duck at home with just a few ingredients and equipment at hand

Naturally, cooking Peking duck at home is a different method altogether unless you have a wood-burning oven at your disposal.

However, there’s no need to feel overwhelmed by the thought of preparing this regal dish. There are only 6 steps standing between you and a delicious meal that has been served for hundreds of years:

  • Rinse the duck and blot it completely dry with kitchen paper. Transfer to a rack in a roasting tin.
  • Pour a home-made honey syrup over the duck until the skin is coated on all sides.
  • Leave the duck to dry out uncovered in the fridge overnight until the skin feels like parchment paper.
  • Place the duck breast-side up on the rack in the roasting tin and add 150ml of water.
  • Preheat the oven to 240°C and roast for 15 minutes. Then, reduce the heat to 180°C and continue to roast for another hour and 10 minutes.
  • Remove the duck from the oven and let it sit for at least 10 minutes before carving it into thin slices.

We suggest sticking to the time-honoured tradition and serving it with pancakes, spring onions, sliced cucumbers, and a sweet and spicy sauce, such as hoisin.

If you’re still unsure about something, our butcher is always happy to help using our live chat-box.

Bonus: For the full recipe and directions, click here and take a look at the ‘Cooking Recommendations’ tab.

Our Duck Meat Selection at La Boucherie

Duck selection at La Boucherie Butcher
Only the best duck meat is imported by La Boucherie, Malta's leading butcher

Duck meat is tender and has an intense taste which makes it attractive to most consumers. It is not only delicious, but also rich in protein, minerals and vitamins, while being low in fat and cholesterol.

As Malta’s leading butcher, at La Boucherie you can find high-quality Peking Duck, as well as a selection of other premium duck meats, including Barbary Duck Breast, Duck Legs Canard, and more.

Now that you know more about the lavish history and royal origins of the Peking duck and how to serve it at in the comfort of your home, are you ready to give it a go?

Do you have any questions for our butcher? Simply use our live chat-box, which you can see at the bottom right-hand corner of the screen.

If you prefer to purchase your meats over the counter, visit our butcher shop in Qormi to see what we’ve got in store.

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