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FOOD HOLIDAY: Peking Duck Day

Today is Peking Duck Day. We’ll be running out to our favorite Chinese restaurant for the real deal, which we’ve been enjoying since childhood. Ask what our favorite Chinese dish is: The answer is Peking Duck.

To make Peking Duck, a whole duck is roasted to crisp perfection. Then, an experienced maitre d’ slices it in front of you, expertly converting the whole duck into slices of meat and slices of crisp skin.

To assemble your food, wrap-style, you take a crêpe, add a slice of duck, garnish with hoisin sauce and scallions (green onions), roll and eat. It’s heavenly.

The duck carcass goes back to the kitchen, where it is presumably used to make stock. We’ve dined with more than one friend who asked for the carcass “to go,” and did the same at home.

By the way, Peking Duck, the roasted duck dish and Pekin duck, a breed of white duck that inspired the creation Donald Duck, are not the same. While Peking Duck is typically made with a Pekin duck, learn the difference between Peking Duck and Pekin duck.

Here’s how to enjoy almost-there Peking Duck tonight.

  • Pick up a cooked roast duck. We like Maple Leaf Farms Duck, which is fully cooked and frozen, ready to heat-and-eat. The skin won’t be thick and crisp like a specially prepared Peking Duck, but it’s close enough for your quick homemade dinner.

    Peking Duck, waiting for the maitre d’ to slice
    and plate the duck meat and duck skin.
    Photo by Fotoos Van Robin | Wikimedia.

  • If your store has flat (as opposed to filled) crêpes ready made (often in the caviar case), pick them up. Otherwise, pick up some (much thicker) 8-inch tortillas.
  • Grab a few bunches of scallions.
  • Get a jar of hoisin sauce from the Asian food aisle.
    You’re almost ready to celebrate Peking Duck Day.

    1. While the duck is heating, slice the scallions into sticks (see photo) and plate them. Put the hoisin sauce in a bowl.

    2. Remove the duck from the oven and slice. Don’t worry if it doesn’t look pretty; it’s going into a wrap.

    3. Heat the crepes/tortillas for 10-20 seconds in the microwave.

    4. Sit down and enjoy the fruits of your labor. Take a crêpe/tortilla, add some duck, scallion and hoisin sauce, wrap and eat.

    The beverage choice is yours. We enjoy a cup of good black tea (no sugar needed, and definitely no milk) or a beer.

  • Hoisin sauce is a thick, sweet-and-pungent condiment that’s used much the way we use barbecue sauce (but the taste is completely different). It can be used to coat meat and poultry prior to cooking, it can be stirred into dishes and, as in the case of Peking Duck, it can be used as the principal condiment—a very elegant “ketchup.”
  • The flavor of hoisin sauce has always seemed pruny-plummy to us (in the sense of a sweet fruitiness of roasted plums). In fact, recipes for a hoisin sauce substitute can include prunes.
  • However, there’s no fruit in traditional hoisin sauce; unless you count a touch of chiles, which are, by botanical definition, fruit.
  • The base of hoisin sauce is soybean paste, which is flavored with garlic, vinegar and sometimes some other spices. The resulting sweet-and-spicy paste is extremely flavorful and may overwhelm people who try it the first time. But keep trying; you’ll learn to love it.

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