Delicacies through the dynasties

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 31 August, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 31 August, 2006, 12:00am

Peking duck has about 800 years of history. Its origins can be traced to the Yuan dynasty (1206-1368) when it was first listed among the imperial dishes in The Complete Recipes for Dishes and Beverages, written by an imperial kitchen inspector, Hu Sihui, in 1330.

But the dish became more famous after the third emperor of the Ming dynasty, Zhu Di, brought it to Beijing when he moved the court from Nanjing after over-throwing his nephew. It has remained one of the most popular dishes on the imperial court menus.

'Before the dish was brought to Beijing, people used the menlu [closed-door] roasting method to cook the ducks,' says Zhang Liqun, the 58-year-old chef and owner of Liqun Roasted Duck Restaurant.

'But Beijingers later invented the gualu [open-door] roasting method,' he says. 'Nowadays, most restaurants use this technique.'

The skin and meat are served together with flour pancakes, spring onions, cucumber sticks and a sweet bean sauce. The diner rolls the ingredients in a sauce-smeared pancake to make a hand-held wrap. The meat may also be dipped in sugar.