The most authentic style in Beijing is where the duck is roasted in an open oven fired with Chinese date wood. Apricot and apple wood is also used. Why? Probably because it was abundant at some stage and had little demand for structural or decorative work. The optimal fire temperatures and cooking times would have been worked out by the masters and specifically proscribed.



 


The duck may be used for three courses of a meal.
  • The Beijing Duck pancakes.
  • A stir fry dish with vegetables
  • Duck soup.
Traditionally each slice of duck has the covering of skin attached.. The skin is actually separated from the carcass using compressed air. The ducks are roasted on a pole vertically and the roast bird is brought to the dining area by the carver and the slices of skin skilfully cut from the bird.

The carcass is then returned to the kitchen where the meat is taken off and the remainder is used to boil a soup.

The skin pieces are placed onto a pancake with some special sauce, spring onions and strips of cucumber. Wrapped and eaten. The most flavoursome aspect of this dish is the sauce and having tasted the ideal it's always a disappointment to be served an alternative sauce.
So what is this sauce?

Tiánmiànjiàng.   甜麵醬 (Literally: Sweet Noodle Paste}
or Zhajiangmian 茶蔣瞇岸

Unfortunately many restaurants in the west believe the sauce is the familiar Hoi Sin. It's not and it's not the lesser known huangjiang or yellow bean paste sauce.

So who is going to cook their own Beijing Duck? Probably no-one.
The reality is that a home served Beijing Duck is an easy to do special treat. It really comes down to the special sauce and if you can find it, your guests and /or family  will love you for evermore. A top quality Chinese grocer should have this sauce and please don't let them sell you Hoi Sin or huangjiang. The comparison is simply not there. The Chinese duck pancakes are easily available at a Chinese food supplier. A quick steam just before serving will freshen them up nicely. If you wish to make your own they are a simple process with recipe for Mandarin Pancakes here

Chinese restaurants in China Towns of the west will probably have street pods or open windows selling the fresh roasted duck at going home from work, time. Buy one, certainly ask them to cut it for you but they probably won't do the skin style but rather layers of meat with a bit of skin adhering. That's fine. The meat still works. If you find that there's a lot of meat over you can simply dice it, mix it with the sauce and serve it on crackers as Beijing Duck canapés. Works well.

The cold duck served in bread rolls with the spring onion and cucumber with a little added sauce is a great easy lunch and an enjoyable way of handling any leftovers.