China is one of the first countries to domesticate ducks for the table. Cooking methods include steaming, boiling, stewing, roasting, frying and so on. Historical records show that Beijing Roast Duck started some 300 years ago, and roasting duck first began in Nanjing, then known as Jingling capital city of Jiangsu province. At that time, Jinling was the capital of the early Ming dynasty. When the capital moved to Beijing, the dish was also brought to Beijing as a delicacy on the imperial menu. In about 1630, a eunuch wrote a book on the imperial diet and referred to roast goose, pork, chicken and duck as the most favor courses in the palace. Ideally, the duck must be the white Beijing variety. It should be 65 days old when slaughtered and weigh 2.5kgs every 6 hours of the last 20 days of their life, they queue obediently for a force feeding of highly nutritious mush that thickens the layer of fat under the skin. It takes four days to prepare a duck for the oven.
After plucking the bird is thoroughly cleaned, with each part carefully set aside for later use. Air is pumped into the duck between its skin and flesh to give the rich when the duck is cooked. It is then brushed with a glaze and hung up to dry for 24hours, to further separate the shin from the meat. When roasting, the duck is filled with water until the roasting is done and then the duck is hooked on a spit in a huge, round oven which can take up to 20 ducks at a time. The ducks are roasted in a doorless oven, using non smoky hardwood fuel, such as Chinese date, peach or pear to impart a subtle fruity flavor to the skin. The oven is heated to 270 degrees centigrade and the ducks are left to roast for 30 minutes, depending on the sizes of the ducks and the ducks must be turned frequently throughout the roasting process to ensure even cooking and to prevent them from burning. From time to time, the chef will hook down a duck and suspend it directly over the fire usually for no more than 30 seconds.
Since 1949 Beijing chefs have created over 100 dishes using every part of the duck from brains to webs. But while every Beijing roast duck restaurant serves its own style of all duck banquet, most people still prefer to eat duck by itself with a few glasses of wine. Connoisseurs quibble about whether to eat the crispy shin alone, or the skin and the meat, or the meat alone may be all parts, who knows? Just make your own choice and choose the parts you like. A Beijing duck dinner is more than just a meal. Normally, there is an accepted method of preparing Beijing roast duck, likewise, there is also a proper way to eat. Holding a wafer pancake in his left hand, the diner picks up two or three pieces of meat cut into 2inch square slices and having dipped them into a thick sweet sauce, places them in the center of the pancake and adding some green Chinese onion, fold the pancake and munches, Bon appetite!