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Peking Duck

Peking Duck, or Peking Roast Duck is a famous duck dish from Beijing that has been prepared since the Yuan Dynasty, and is now considered one of China's national foods.

The dish is prized for the 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. Ducks are bred specially for the dish, which after 65 days are slaughtered and seasoned before being roasted in a closed oven or a hung oven. The meat is often eaten with pancakes, spring onions, and hoisin sauce or sweet noodle sauce. A variant of the dish known as crispy aromatic duck has been created by the Chinese community in the United Kingdom. The two most notable restaurants in Beijing which serve this delicacy are Quanjude and Bianyifang, two centuries-old establishments which have become household names.

Duck has been roasted in China since the Southern and Northern Dynasties.Peking Duck was first prepared for the Emperor of China in the Yuan Dynasty. The dish, originally named "Shaoyazi" was mentioned in the Complete Recipes for Dishes and Beverages  manual by Hu Sihui,an inspector of the imperial kitchen in 1330. In the Ming Dynasty, the Peking Duck was one of the main dishes on imperial court menus.In the same period, the first restaurant specialising in Peking Duck, Bianyifang, was established in the Xianyukou, Qianmen area of Beijing in 1416.

By the Qianlong Period (1736-1796) of the Qing Dynasty, the popularity of the Peking Duck spread to the upper classes, inspiring poetry from poets and scholars who enjoyed the dish. For instance, one of the verses of Duan Zhu Zhi Ci, a collection of Beijing poems was, "Fill your plates with roast duck and suckling pig". In 1864, the Quanjude (È«¾ÛµÂ) restaurant was established in Beijing. Yang Quanren , the founder of Quanjude, developed the hung oven to roast ducks. With its innovations and efficient management, the restaurant became well known in China, introducing the Peking Duck to the rest of the world.

By the mid 20th century, the Peking Duck had become a national symbol of China, favoured 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 July 10, during his first 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. The Peking Duck was hence considered one of the factors behind the reapproachement of the United States to China in the 1970s. Following Zhou's death in 1976, Kissinger paid another visit to Beijing to savour Peking Duck

 

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