This Peking duck video made us really, really hungry
In the kitchen: How Peking duck is roasted at Made in China, Grand Hyatt Beijing. (Video by Nicole Pang/CNNGo)
Many travelers come to Beijing with one question in mind: where do I find good Peking duck, or kaoya (烤鸭)?
“Tourists all want to have a taste of Beijing roast duck because it's the most typical and local food,” says chef Fan Jiabiao (范家标), 44, who has been roasting duck for more than two decades in Beijing.
“I like eating kaoya, too, especially the crispy skin,” Fan adds. “Eating the skin can also beautify the skin of those who eat it.”
The Anhui native has been the kaoya chef at Made in China, Grand Hyatt Beijing’s Chinese restaurant, for the past nine years. The 126-seat restaurant is one of the best places to eat Peking duck in China’s capital.
Peking duck dates back to the fifth century. It became a main course on the imperial court menu during the Ming Dynasty and has since become a staple of Chinese cuisine.
“Peking roast duck is made using Beijing white ducks,” says Fan, who learned his kaoya cooking techniques from a chef who had previously worked at Quanjude (全聚德), an established kaoya brand in China.
“Farmers feed their ducks several times a day to make sure they mature between 36 and 45 days,” says Fan.
“The best weight [for a Peking duck] is around three kilos.”
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After the ducks are killed, plucked, eviscerated and washed, they're pumped full of air to separate skin from fat. This process enables the skin to crisp up during roasting.
“A good raw Peking duck needs to have shiny skin,” says Fan. “Its skin should be complete and without any cuts -- this is the key to achieve real crispy skin later.”
Next, boiling water is poured over the skin, then a layer of maltose water. This gives the ducks their distinctive shiny brown color.
Ducks are hung up to dry for two hours.
At Made in China, this process is repeated twice. Often, ducks are stored in a large freezer until the following day.
Grand Hyatt Beijing’s assistant PR Manager Sophia Sun suggests travelers should pass up Peking duck restaurants that have subpar freezing facilities -- during hot summer months, this can result in ducks going bad if they're stored overnight.
When the ducks are ready to be roasted, they're brought into the restaurant’s open kitchen and hung inside the oven.
Oven temperatures range from 250-260 C.
The ducks are cooked for up to 75 minutes over flames made from a hard date wood (枣木). This fruitwood gives Peking duck its special, fruity flavor.
Sun says that chefs used to roast duck for only 45 minutes. This left the meat more moist and dripping with grease than today's typical version.
Nowadays, more and more restaurants are increasing the roasting time to allow more oil to drip out in order to satisfy health-consciousness diners.
While the ducks are hanging in the oven, the chef selects them one at a time and swings them closer to the flames. This process gives the skin an extra crispiness.
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Fan says chefs usually carve Peking duck right at the table.
Chefs separate the crunchy skin, then carve the lean meat.
Once all the meat has been carved, chefs bring the remaining fat, meat and bones back to the kitchen to boil with a soup, which is served at the end of the meal.
According to Fan, diners should eat Peking duck in the following order:
1. Taste the skin with sugar.
2. Breast meat with shallot, cucumber and sweet soybean paste.
3. Leg with cucumber, garlic paste and sweet soybean paste, wrapped in a pancake.
“In this way, you will feel the flavor increases, step-by-step,” says Fan.
A Peking duck at Made in China costs RMB 268 (US$42), plus 15 percent service charge. The dish includes all condiments and soup. Two hours' notice is required.
Made in China (长安壹号), 1/F, Grand Hyatt Beijing, 1 Dong Chang’an Jie, near Dongdan Bei Da Jie, Beijing 北京东长安街1号北京东方君悦大酒店1楼，近东单北大街, +86 10 8518 1234 ext: 6024, 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m.; 5:30 p.m.-10:30 p.m., beijing.grand.hyatt.com
Other notable Peking duck restaurants in Beijing
1. Duck de Chine (全鸭季)
This 150-seat restaurant is part of a nostalgic Beijing-style dining and nightlife complex, 1949 The Hidden City. Few restaurants in Beijing can beat its atmosphere.
1949 The Hidden City, Courtyard 4, Gongti Bei Lu, near Nansanlitun Lu, Beijing 北京市工体北路4号院1949内, 近南三里屯路, +86 10 6501 8881, 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m.; 5 p.m.-10 p.m. Price per duck: RMB 238 ($37), plus 10 percent service charge. Condiments cost an extra RMB 8 ($1.25) per person.
2. Li Qun (利群烤鸭店)
This hole-in-the-wall serves down-to-earth food, with reasonable prices and rowdy charm. Book in advance to ensure you get a duck. The hustle and bustle of this noisy eatery hidden down a little hutong in one of Beijing’s oldest areas is a great experience.
11, Beixiangfeng Hutong, Dong Da Jie, Qianmen, Beijing 北京市前门东大街北翔凤胡同11号, +86 10 6705 5578, open 24 hours. Price per duck: RMB 220 ($34), no service charge and including condiments.
3. Da Dong (大董烤鸭店)
Da Dong is an old time favorite in Beijing. The restaurant has classic decor at both locations, an extensive menu of encyclopedic proportions, and free wine and beer while you queue for a table.
Dong Shisitiao chain, 1-2/F, Nanxincang International Plaza, 22A Dongsishitiao, near Dongmencang Hutong, Beijing 北京市东四十条甲22号南新仓商务大厦1-2楼, 近东门仓胡同, +86 10 5169 0329, 11 a.m.-midnight
Tuanjiehu chain, Building 3, Bei Kou, Tuanjie Hu, Beijing, 北京市团结湖北口3号楼, +86 10 6582 4003, 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Price per duck: RMB 238 ($37), plus 10 percent service charge. Condiments cost an extra RMB 8 ($1.25) per person.
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