Peking duck is a dish from Beijing (Peking) that has been prepared since the Imperial era. The meat is characterized by its thin, crispy skin, with authentic versions of the dish serving mostly the skin and little meat, sliced in front of the diners by the cook. Peking duck was one of the main dishes on imperial court menus.
By the mid-20th century, Peking duck had become a national symbol of China, favored by tourists and diplomats alike. For example, Henry Kissinger, the Secretary of State of the United States, met Premier Zhou Enlai in the Great Hall of the People on 10 July 1971, during his first (secret) visit to China. After a round of inconclusive talks in the morning, the delegation was served Peking duck for lunch, which became Kissinger's favourite. The Americans and Chinese issued a joint statement the following day, inviting President Richard Nixon to visit China in 1972.
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Yield: 6 servings
1 duck, about 5.5 lb
2 tbsp fine salt
For the syrup
2 tbsp honey
½ cup hot water
1 tsp vinegar
For the stuffing
2 stalks scallions
1 head garlic
2 apples quartered
4 star anise
4 bay leaves
2 pieces of cinnamon
peking duck pancakes
Pat the duck dry then rub the salt over the skin and the cavity. Put the duck over a wire rack with a baking sheet underneath to collect any drips. Leave to rest on the counter for 1 hour.
Bring about 6 cups of water to a boil, then gently pour it over the entire duck (both sides).
In a bowl, mix honey with hot water and vinegar until completely dissolved. Brush a layer of the mixture over the duck skin. Leave to rest in the fridge for 1 hour then brush another layer.
Keep the duck refrigerated uncovered (over the rack, on a baking sheet) for 24 to 48 hours.
One hour before roasting, take the duck out of the fridge to bring it back to room temperature. Put all the stuffing ingredients (scallions, garlic, apples, star anise, cinnamon and bay leaves) into the cavity. Use toothpicks or skewers to seal the openings of the cavity.
Preheat a convection oven to 400°F. Put the duck over the middle rack of the oven with the breast side facing up. Place a roasting tray at the bottom of the oven to collect any dripping fat during roasting. Leave to cook for 15 minutes.
Lower the temperature to 350°F. Cover the tip of the wings and the end of the legs with aluminum foil. Continue cooking for a further 60 minutes.
Check the doneness by inserting an instant-read thermometer into the inner thigh area near the breast. The temperature should be 165F°.
Take the duck out of the oven and leave it to rest on the counter for 15 minutes.
Steam the pancakes for 3 minutes to warm up if they’re cold. Slice the duck into pieces.
When eating, spread a little sauce over a pancake, put the duck, scallions and cucumber in the middle. Wrap up into a cylinder and enjoy.