The key to good Peking duck is the elaborate preparation that takes place before cooking. The bird should be thoroughly plucked and cleaned. Then it must be wiped, preferably with a bit of gin and hung to dry. Let the air flow through the bird for several hours. Keep the mouth open, a small cardboard tube works well.
Fill a large pan with water and bring it to a boil. Add in the ginger and scallions, followed by the honey, vinegar and sherry. Put the duck into a metal colander and suspend it over the boiling water with one hand. With the other, ladle the duck with the soupy mixture for about ten minutes. Then, hang the duck up to dry again.
Preheat the oven to 350°F/177°C.
Prepare a pan for the oven by filling it with water to 2 inches deep. Place the pan in the bottom of the hot oven and immediately put the duck onto a rack above. Roast for half an hour, during which the pan catches the drippings and adds moisture. Turn over and cook for another half an hour. Turn the bird over one more time and roast for a final ten minutes.
Warm the Mandarin pancakes during the final period and set the scallions and Hoisin sauce on the table.
The skin should be crispy and the meat well done. Peking Duck should be served hot out of the oven and sliced in front of the diner. Bring the duck directly to the table. There, use a knife to slice off very thin layers from the breast.
The meat is then sprinkled with scallions and wrapped in a warm pancake. The result is dipped in Hoisin sauce and eaten. Be alert in order to catch diners who swoon from tasting this delicious dish.
Peking Duck is by far the most well-known recipe hailing from the royal courts of China. For hundreds of years prior to the 20th century the finest chefs in the land would train for years to prepare this delicacy. They knew their lives depended on doing it right. While the stakes may be lower today, with proper care the results achieved can be the equal of those royal dinners.
The duck used in historic recipes was a small, black mallard raised in Nanjing. But long tradition has also used the species that gives the recipe its name: Peking Duck (Anas platyrhynchos domestica)
Food in Asia