National Peking Duck Day is celebrated every year on January 18 to recognize the national dish of China. The process of preparing Peking duck is rooted in tradition that has been perfected over thousands of years since the Yuan Dynasty was established by Kublai Khan. Today, you don’t have to travel all the way to China to taste Peking duck – it’s readily available in Chinese restaurants across the world. The trademark of a well-done Peking duck is its crispy, flavorful skin.
History of National Peking Duck Day
No one knows when the first National Peking Duck Day was celebrated or who started it, but given the popularity of this dish amongst foodies, it’s no surprise that people have unanimously continued to celebrate it. Despite its simple appearance, the preparation of the Peking duck is quite elaborate. The recipe is ancient and dates back to the Yuan Dynasty since it was established by Kublai Khan. As is true with all recipes, the preparation for Peking duck has evolved throughout the years.
The White Beijing duck, or Peking duck, is the bird that is traditionally roasted for this meal. The duck is butchered once it is 65 days old, plucked, pumped full of air between the skin and the meat, soaked in boiling water, and skewered. It is then hung to dry, glazed with sugar coating, and left for 24 hours, to achieve that perfectly crispy skin. The bird is roasted, hanging from the center of the oven to allow the fat to drip, basting the skin as it does. After which the Peking duck is often sliced artfully by the chef before being served. The traditional Peking duck meal begins with a serving of the crispy skin and a sugar dip. Next, thin pancakes are filled with tender duck meat, hoisin and bean sauces, cucumbers, onions, and garlic. Finally, the duck soup is usually made with the leftover bones — the neck, wing joints, and feet.
National Peking Duck Day timeline
An early version of the Peking duck is served to Kublai Khan, leader of the Mongol Borjigin clan and first emperor of China’s Yuan Dynasty.
Hu Sihui, an imperial dietician, mentions ‘shāo yāzi’ — the original name for ‘Peking duck’ — in the ‘Complete Recipes for Dishes and Beverages’ manual, where he suggests roasting it inside the stomach of a sheep.
The Peking roast duck becomes a mainstay on the Ming Dynasty imperial court’s menu.
Bianyifang, a restaurant dedicated to preparing Peking duck using the old closed-oven roasting style, is established in the Xicheng District of Beijing.
Chinatown comes to a densely populated neighborhood in New York City, drawing foodies and tourists, and boasting several Peking duck outlets.
A Wang family hires an original Bianyifang chef and establishes the only Bianyifang restaurant that exists today in Qianmen, Beijing, continuing the Qing dynasty Beijing cuisine tradition.
The Quanjude restaurant in Beijing, known for its roast duck specialty, is established by Yang Quanren, the man who developed the hung-oven to roast ducks.
National Peking Duck Day FAQs
What is special about Peking duck?
Peking duck has been prepared since the Imperial era. The meat is prized for its thin, crisp skin, with authentic versions of the dish serving mostly the skin and little meat, sliced by the cook before the diners.
Why is it called Peking duck?
The roasted duck dish is named after Beijing as ‘Peking’ is an old spelling of ‘Beijing.’ However, the Peking duck is from the original capital of China, Nanjing, Jiangsu. When the Ming dynasty moved to Beijing, they brought the ducks with them.
What do you eat with Peking duck?
Peking Duck is traditionally served with super-thin, Mandarin pancakes. Spread the pancake with plum or hoisin sauce. Add some green onions and maybe a few slices of fresh cucumber.
National Peking Duck Day Activities
Enjoy a meal of Peking duck
Have a Peking duck meal at a restaurant of your choice or make the dish yourself at home. Enjoy the grand feast with family and friends.
Admire the way it is made
To make it worthy of your palate, the dish is served with just the skin and a little meat which is sliced in a dramatic manner before the diners. The entire process of the Peking duck meal is quite challenging and requires a lot of patience and diligence to achieve the desired results. Visit a restaurant to appreciate the elaborateness of the dish.
Try your own version of the dish
It’s quite difficult to make the perfect Peking duck at home, but you can try your own version of it. Improvise the recipe with poultry of your choice.
5 Facts About China
The most populated country on Earth
China has over 1.4 billion people as of September 2020.
Mandarin is not the only Chinese language
There are others such as Yue, Wu, Minbei, Minnan, Xiang, Gan, and Hakka.
Chinese New Year celebrations last 15 days
It’s the biggest holiday in China and is usually celebrated in January or February.
China has one timezone
Despite its huge size, everybody uses the official Beijing time.
The biggest travel spenders in the world
The Chinese spend $260 billion every year, twice what American travelers spend.
Why We Love National Peking Duck Day
It is delicious
Peking duck is so delicious they had to put aside a day for us to enjoy the wonderful dish. Don’t forget to treat yourself on National Peking Duck Day.
The recipe is rooted in tradition
Peking duck has a long and enviable lineage. National Peking Duck Day reminds us that we are still enjoying the very same dish that was once enjoyed by Kublai Khan!
A day to explore other cuisines
Why stop at Peking duck on National Peking Duck Day? Along with this delicious dish, don't forget other Chinese cuisine favorites like wonton and dumplings.
National Peking Duck Day dates