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The Origin and Evolution of Roast Duck

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Chinese people began to domesticate wild duck two thousand years ago, but European people did not do that. Instead, they domesticated the goose very early. As China had specialized in producing duck for thousands of years, this fowl became a special product of the country and was preferred by Chinese people to the goose, which was generally not in favor. Furthermore, the duck used for producing roast duck was of an excellent species bred painstakingly by Chinese over a long period of time. The scientific name of the species is Beijing duck. It was imported by the United States in the year 1874 under the name of Peking duck, and thereafter it came to be spread all over the world.
Nevertheless, the duck of this species being bred in China now is still reputed to be the best.

The method used at first in China for roasting a duck was almost the same as that used in the Western world for roasting a goose.


It was called "roasting duck in the hermetic oven". As a matter of fact, its main features were essentially those that characterized the Western mode of preparation of roast goose. An oven was built by laying stones or bricks. A fire was made to burn inside the oven, so that a large amount of heat was absorbed by the walls of the oven, and the duck placed in the oven later was roasted by the heat dissipated by the walls until it was well cooked.

Both Beijing duck(Peking Duck) and American roast turkey originated from the roast goose of the Mediterranean regions. Birds were the aid and gift that God gave man. But man likes to eat only those birds that are big and fleshy. The goose is a fleshy fowl and is also the special product of the Mediterranean regions. When it is roasted for food, its meat is delicious and tender. Therefore, roast goose is a traditional dish in Europe and is widely recognized as a delicacy.

The Origin and Evolution of Roast Duck

When Europeans arrived in America, they found that the bird which God gave them as a gift this time was the turkey. So they ate roast turkey and offered thanks to God. After learning of the origin of roast turkey you would find it easier to accept as true the following story about roast duck. The roast goose of the Western world may be considered in a sense the progenitor of the roast duck of China.

The technique of roasting the goose was twice passed on to China---once during the Yuan Dynasty, when China was ruled by Mongols, and later again during the Qin Dynasty, when China was under the rule of the Manchurian conquerors. The Mongolian Empire occupied an enormous territory extending from the east of China westward to the regions of the Mediterranean Sea. This was the reason why people of the Western world, such as Marco Polo, could have come to China. They brought to China quite a lot of the culture of the Western world, including the cannon and the roast goose. How did it come about that roast goose was transformed into roast duck? The cause of the transformation was no different from that of the transformation of roast goose into roast turkey.


roasted duck

During that period, Chinese people made a far-reaching innovation in the duck-roasting process. They did away with disembowelment of the duck. Only a small hole was bored in the body for removal of the viscera. Air was forced under high pressure into the space between the skin and the flesh so that the two became separated from each other. Then the duck body was smeared with maltose syrup and left to dry in a cool place. The whole duck would become almost crimson in color, as if it had been painted with red lacquer. Therefore, roast Beijing duck came to be called jokingly by some foreigners the "lacquered duck".

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