History of Food

History of Food

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Today is National Peking Duck Day - January 18

National Peking Duck Day is celebrated annually on January 18 in the United States.  The history of how this day became to such designation is unclear.  Instead of trying to find the history of the day, why not savor the food and it's history?

Peking Duck is one of those foods that holds as much history per ounce that any poultry could ever hold while even busting out at it's seams.  It is one of the foods that China proudly boasts of it's history.  There is even a  Peking Duck Museum in Beijing, China (formerly Peking, China).  Tracing the history of Peking Duck can fill volumes - much more than this blog.

 Peking Duck carries prestige in both its preparation and consumption. It is perhaps the most famous Chinese dish in the United States today, at least since we stopped claiming that Chop Suey was Chinese.  Simply put, Peking Duck is a cultural classic.

The name comes from the ancient city Peking, now known as Beijing and still the capital of China; this is why the duck dish is referred to as either Peking or Beijing duck. The dish has always been associated with nobility due to its highly specific preparation.

The history of the roast duck can be traced back to as early as the Yuan Dynasty (1206-1368) when it was listed among the imperial dishes in the Complete Recipes for Dishes and Beverages.

Investigating the preparations of this dish, there is always meticulous preparation of the Peking Duck.  In a rather interesting step, air is pumped into the duck so as to separate the skin from the fat. It is then hung up to dry in the open air before being roasted in an oven until it is crispy on the outside and succulent on the inside.  The duck is traditionally roasted in a brick oven with open fire to get the crisp skin.

Crispy aromatic duck is a variation of the Peking Duck where the duck is deep fried instead of being roasted. There are a number of recipe variations for Peking Duck that use less complicated methods to achieve the crisp skin that characterizes the dish.

Peking Duck is always served in thin, well-cut slices. The whole duck has to be sliced into 120 pieces and diners consume it with light pancakes, sliced cucumbers and a variety of sauces, which are perfect complements to the dish.

There is a proper way to eat Peking Duck.   It usually can be divided into 3 steps. First, pick up a slice of duck with the help of a pair of chopsticks and dip it into the soy paste. Next, lay it on the top of a thin cake and add some bars of cucumber and shallot. Finally, wrap the stuff into a  bundle with the sheet cake (a thin pancake). The real secret of Peking duck's flavor lies in carefully nibbling away at the mixture.

Read more about Peking Duck History here   Peking Duck History.

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