• I made Peking duck at home and it was a success. (Angie Cui )Source: Angie Cui
I finally made my first Peking duck, and it wasn't as hard as I thought.
Angie Cui

16 Mar 2021 - 1:16 PM  UPDATED 16 Mar 2021 - 1:16 PM

I never thought I could make Peking duck at home.

The first time I had Peking duck was during my school holiday program in Beijing when I was 14 years old. The tourist guide took us to a local Peking duck restaurant where I had "real" Peking duck, and I have missed that flavour.

Although there are many Peking duck restaurants in Australia, they can be overpriced. I have tried a few places. They usually only serve a tiny amount of crispy duck with very thick mandarin pancakes, which are neither authentic nor worth the money (I paid $88 for a set in Chinatown last time, and the meat was dry).

My husband and children had not tried Peking duck until recently. One day my husband had an idea to cook a duck, but we didn't know it would turn into a Peking duck. It was only that my husband found some leftover pancakes and Vietnamese rice paper. We also had cucumbers and spring onions in the fridge and all kinds of sauces, so we decided to make Peking duck. 

It was nice to make Peking duck at home.

Peking duck is a dish from Beijing or Peking, the capital of China. The authentic Peking duck I had when I was 14, had crispy skin. The waiter had suggested I dip it into a sweet sauce after he wrapped meat, cucumber and spring onion up in a pancake. That flavour was rich and hard to forget.

Cooking Peking duck can be a long process. It is traditionally prepared by sewing the duck up and inflating it with air to puff up the skin, then roast the duck, and that's how its skin becomes crispy. However, because we have hungry children, and it was hard for us to find the time to sew and inflate the duck, we decided to use the simple roasting method to cook our Peking duck that day.

"One day my husband had an idea to cook a duck, but we didn't know it would turn into a Peking duck." 

We put a lot of salt around the duck skin, and I stuffed chopped cinnamon sticks and garlic in the tummy before roasting it in the oven. Then I mixed five-spice powder, honey and a bit of oyster sauce as a sauce base in a bowl. My four-year-old boy assisted me with brushing the sauce over it.

When it was almost cooked, we changed the oven setting to grill. Soon, the skin was dehydrated or crispy. Then we took the duck out and carved it off with a knife. We could even hear the crunch of the crispy skin as we put a slice of meat with spring onions and cucumber in the pancakes.

The dipping sauce plays a vital role in Peking duck. The two sauces main sauces are tian mian jiang (甜面酱) and yellow soybean paste (黄豆酱). Nowadays, many restaurants tend to create their own Peking duck sauces.

When we had Peking duck at home, we prepared two different sauces. One was to mix the sweet or plum sauce with yellow soybean paste for the kids. Another spicy one was for my husband and me, so I mixed the plum sauce with guilin style chilli sauce.

Homemade Peking duck is such a beautiful dish.

Mandarin pancakes are essential for the dish. They look quite similar to Chinese spring pancakes and Bangladesh roti. However, Vietnamese rice papers are also a good option. They are not as thick as mandarin pancakes to hold the juicy meat, but are thin and easy for young children to chew. I even wrapped some leftover duck with it for my children's lunch the next day. My children made sure that I wrapped the duck meat properly with other fillings, and again they wanted extra sauce on the side.

It was nice to make Peking duck at home. Although it had a different flavour than the one I had in Beijing, it was delicious and an experience.

Homemade Peking duck is a beautiful dish. It can be a late snack or even an appetiser, and it can be a part of formal or informal dining. Most importantly, it didn't leave a huge mess in the kitchen, which makes it even sweeter.

Love the author? Follow Angie Cui on Twitter @angiecuiwrites.

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