Having 400 years of history, Peking duck (Beijing duck or simply Chinese roast duck) is one of a few Chinese dishes where a piece of meat is cooked whole. By the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), Peking duck wasn’t just reserved for royalty and was a well-established dish.
In its traditional form, Peking Duck is a specific breed, the Imperial Peking duck, which is force-fed and maintained in a small cage: its inactivity helps make a more tender meat. The bird is killed and dressed at the age of six weeks with the head and neck left intact, the guts are removed and the lower part is sewed. The air between the skin and flesh is forced to thrust out the skin so that the fat is dissolved out during roasting, and the skin, the privileged part of the dish, is very crunchy. The inflated bird is painted with a sugary syrup and various spices left to dry overnight and then roasted in one of two methods in a cylindrical clay oven.
The first traditional method of preparing Peking Duck is Menlu. It involves using a closed oven. But in the 1860s a new method arrived, called Gualu when the ducks are hung inside an open oven.
All slicing is done by the cook, often in front of the diners, because in Chinese dining, cutting food with knives at the table tends to be a bit vulgar.
Peking Duck is one of China’s national dishes, which should never be eaten with turtle meat. It even has its own museum in Beijing. It inspired poetry and has been a basis for the ruling class for generations. KFC even has a breakfast version of the dish accessible in China.