Home > News > Regional
Tuesday July 29, 2014 MYT 2:14:00 PM
Tuesday July 29, 2014 MYT 2:22:24 PM
A chef slicing Peking Duck for diners at the Quanjude restaurant in Beijing. The restaurant, the flagship of a chain with franchises as far away as Australia, is marking its 150th anniversary by opening a museum dedicated to its history of producing the famous Peking Duck dish. - AFP
"The baking time is about 50 minutes," a museum panel reads. "The roast duck coming out of the oven looks plump, in a colour of jujube red all over its body, full of oily luster, with a crisp skin, a fresh and tender mouthfeel, tasting delicious but not oily, bearing a subtle fragrance of the fruit tree."
A roast duck style was first developed in the court kitchens of Nanjing, China's then capital in the eastern province of Jiangsu, and the dish only came to Beijing when the Ming dynasty Yongle emperor moved his seat north in the 15th century.
Fuchsia Dunlop, a British writer who specialises in Chinese food, describes today's Peking duck as "a more recent innovation".
"When Quanjude was set up, in 1864, the guy who started it employed some chefs who worked in the imperial palace and they used this hanging up technique from imperial kitchens to roast the duck," she said.
"It's a clay oven, with the ducks hanging inside, with a fruit wood fire in the mouth of the oven."
Once cooked the bird is dissected at the table by a skilled chef, his hands usually protected from the heat only by a flimsy plastic glove as he reduces the carcass to precise sections of meat and slivers of crispy skin.
"If he has a good cut, he can cut it into a hundred slices," says Dunlop.
At the restaurant, diner He Yufan said: "When I watch the chef cut it, he makes it look like art. That's why it feels good to eat it."
Her friend Guo Jin was indifferent to the birthplace of the dish. "Beijing is the only place in the world that has authentic Peking duck," she said. "You can't get this anywhere else."
According to Quanjude, which boasts of having sold 196 million ducks around the world, the dish has played its part in Chinese international relations.
Its chefs would accompany Chinese diplomatic missions and pictures in the museum show Henry Kissinger and Richard Nixon, who made a landmark visit to China in 1972, eating duck.
"Ping-Pong diplomacy, Maotai diplomacy and roast duck diplomacy were once called the three great diplomatic manoeuvres of China by (former Premier) Zhou Enlai," a panel says, referring to China's pungent fermented sorghum spirit.
On one occasion, Zhou dined with Charlie Chaplin in 1954 in Geneva, where the British actor was living in exile from the US after questions were raised over his alleged Communist sympathies.
"I have a special feeling for ducks," Chaplin is quoted as telling Zhou. "I created a character who is hilarious when walking, and his posture is from the duck, so I do not eat duck as a rule. But I will break rules this time."
There has been talk of Beijing applying next year to have Chinese food included on UNESCO's list of global intangible cultural heritage, which so far only includes a few culinary items, among them French haute cuisine and Japanese dietary customs called washoku.
According to Dunlop the Quanjude museum is part of a nationwide trend to showcase China's gastronomic traditions.
She attributes the phenomenon to a hugely popular television programme, "A Bite of China", that highlighted different areas' cuisines and dishes.
"Lots of their cooking techniques have existed for centuries and are very specific, depending on the region they are coming from in this huge country," she said.
The show "encouraged people to stop taking it for granted, showed them it's something to be proud of and learn about, and tell the outside world about", she added.
It "seems to have really woken Chinese people up to the fact that they have an amazing food culture and it's part of their heritage".
Tags / Keywords:
Peking Duck, China, Nanjing, food, dishes
Railway project bid successful
Round-the-clock report on pollution from Tianjin
China’s ICBC sees first quarterly profit fall in 6 years
Strong field makes it to first base in US$12b Australian energy sale
Philippines seeks US ‘assistance’ in South China Sea
Abbott rules out random visa checks
Wanted: Pier blast suspect
Egypt court hands Al-Jazeera reporters three years in jail
Palembang shrouded in worst haze this year
Christian group occupies Philippine highway for second night
Five unusual ways to build endurance for a marathon
Chua: Treasury to look into the matter following appeals
Legendary trainer Cummings dies aged 87
Nokia agrees on "Shanghai Bell" joint venture with China Huaxin
Copyright © 1995-2015 Star Media Group Berhad (ROC 10894D)(Formerly known as Star Publications (Malaysia) Berhad)