Peking Duck by Dad Bear
Peking Duck, a photo by Dad Bear on Flickr.

On the journey back from Bali, my wife C told me (4 times to be exact) that she couldn’t stand the food on Air Asia and when we got home, she wanted to eat peking duck. When we got home, the website HungryGoWhere stated that the peking duck at Asia Grand Restaurant was ranked number 1 in Singapore. A phonecall and a booking later, we were on our way.

Peking Duck, as the name suggests, is a dish which originated many years ago in China, in particular, during the Northern and Southern Dynasties in China (420 to 589AD). It gained popularity only in the Qing dynasty when the scholars from the upper class favored the dish, especially during composing poetry.

The first restaurant which specialised in Peking Duck was one called Bianyifang, and it exists even till today. I was fortunate to taste the duck at Bianyifang back then in 2005, when my friend Uncle U brought us there. We also tried the highly rated peking duck at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Beijing. If I recall right, the duck skin was light and crispy, and the pancake along with the spring onion blended perfectly. In Beijing, one also had the option of consuming it with sugar (not unlike roti prata) but the preferred sauce (in Singapore) for the Peking Duck, is the hoisin or brown sweet sauce.

So what makes the Peking Duck so special? I believe it is not only the way you eat it, but the way you prepare it. To prepare an awesome Peking Duck, you need a bird about 5-7 kgs. After the duck has been slaughtered, plucked and eviscerated, the next step is the critical one. A small cut is made at the neck and air introduced, such that it separates the skin from the underlying dermal fat. In medical sense it is really like creating skin emphysema. The duck is then soaked in hot water for a while before it is hung out to dry. Following which it is coated with a layer of maltose syrup, and hung to dry for a further 24 hours. The last step involve slow roasting of the duck in an open or closed oven for 30-40 minutes at a temperature of about 270’C.

Routinely, the entire duck is presented at the restaurant to the patron. The duck skin is then carved out and served with cucumber sticks dipped with hoisin sauce, and wrapped with the pancake pastry. The remaining parts can either be chopped up and eaten at the table, or used to make duck noodles. We chose the latter tonight.

The duck at the Asia Grand Restaurant was simply outstanding and worthy of the number 1 rating on HungryGoWhere. @ $33 (special offer) a bird, we figured that we will be back whenever C gets a Peking Duck itch again!

More photos of the Peking Duck @ Asia Grand Restaurant can be seen here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/tanyongkuan/sets/72157626735933553/

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