The First Art Newspaper on the Net   Established in 1996 United States Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Why did the Peking Duck cross the country? Museum marks anniversary of Quanjude restaurant
Clay figures portraying the production of Peking Duck, in the museum at the Quanjude restaurant in Beijing. The restaurant, the flagship of a chain with franchises as far away as Australia, is marking its 150th anniversary by opening a museum dedicated to its history of producing the famous Peking Duck dish. AFP PHOTO/Greg BAKER.

BEIJING.- Where does Peking Duck come from? It is a trick question: the dish named for China's capital has its origins in Nanjing, hundreds of kilometres to the south.

The tidbit is one of the revelations in a museum opened earlier this month to mark the 150th anniversary of the Quanjude restaurant, now the seven-storey flagship of a chain with franchises as far away as Australia.

Statues of roasters, photos of officials dining and menus going back 100 years trace the duck's route from humble waterfowl to culinary institution.

No secret ingredients are revealed, but around 20 models detail each stage of the duck's journey to the plate. Slaughtered when it weighs around three kilos, pumped full of air to separate skin from fat, the bird is gutted and filled with boiling water to help a sweet basting syrup penetrate the meat before being dried, coated and roasted.

"The baking time is about 50 minutes," a museum panel reads. "The roast duck coming out of the oven looks plump, in a colour of jujube red all over its body, full of oily luster, with a crisp skin, a fresh and tender mouthfeel, tasting delicious but not oily, bearing a subtle fragrance of the fruit tree."

A roast duck style was first developed in the court kitchens of Nanjing, China's then capital in the eastern province of Jiangsu, and the dish only came to Beijing when the Ming dynasty Yongle emperor moved his seat north in the 15th century.

Fuchsia Dunlop, a British writer who specialises in Chinese food, describes today's Peking duck as "a more recent innovation".

"When Quanjude was set up, in 1864, the guy who started it employed some chefs who worked in the imperial palace and they used this hanging up technique from imperial kitchens to roast the duck," she said.

"It's a clay oven, with the ducks hanging inside, with a fruit wood fire in the mouth of the oven."

Once cooked the bird is dissected at the table by a skilled chef, his hands usually protected from the heat only by a flimsy plastic glove as he reduces the carcass to precise sections of meat and slivers of crispy skin.

"If he has a good cut, he can cut it into a hundred slices," says Dunlop.

At the restaurant, diner He Yufan said: "When I watch the chef cut it, he makes it look like art. That's why it feels good to eat it."

Her friend Guo Jin was indifferent to the birthplace of the dish. "Beijing is the only place in the world that has authentic Peking duck," she said. "You can't get this anywhere else."

Duck diplomacy
According to Quanjude, which boasts of having sold 196 million ducks around the world, the dish has played its part in Chinese international relations.

Its chefs would accompany Chinese diplomatic missions and pictures in the museum show Henry Kissinger and Richard Nixon, who made a landmark visit to China in 1972, eating duck.

"Ping-Pong diplomacy, Maotai diplomacy and roast duck diplomacy were once called the three great diplomatic manoeuvres of China by (former Premier) Zhou Enlai," a panel says, referring to China's pungent fermented sorghum spirit.

On one occasion, Zhou dined with Charlie Chaplin in 1954 in Geneva, where the British actor was living in exile from the US after questions were raised over his alleged Communist sympathies.

"I have a special feeling for ducks," Chaplin is quoted as telling Zhou. "I created a character who is hilarious when walking, and his posture is from the duck, so I do not eat duck as a rule. But I will break rules this time."

Gastronomic traditions
There has been talk of Beijing applying next year to have Chinese food included on UNESCO's list of global intangible cultural heritage, which so far only includes a few culinary items, among them French haute cuisine and Japanese dietary customs called washoku.

According to Dunlop the Quanjude museum is part of a nationwide trend to showcase China's gastronomic traditions.

She attributes the phenomenon to a hugely popular television programme, "A Bite of China", that highlighted different areas' cuisines and dishes.

"Lots of their cooking techniques have existed for centuries and are very specific, depending on the region they are coming from in this huge country," she said.

The show "encouraged people to stop taking it for granted, showed them it's something to be proud of and learn about, and tell the outside world about", she added.

It "seems to have really woken Chinese people up to the fact that they have an amazing food culture and it's part of their heritage".

© 1994-2014 Agence France-Presse

Today's News

July 30, 2014

As Paris tourists have picnics, more and more rats are seen at the Jardin des Tuileries

Getty Foundation announces grant to conserve iconic masterpieces by Caravaggio and Rubens

'Ships, Clocks and Stars: The Quest for Longitude' on view at the National Maritime Museum

Emily K. Rafferty, President of Metropolitan Museum of Art for past decade, to retire in 2015

Cincinnati Art Museum announces Memphis Brooks Museum's Cameron Kitchin as new Director

Turner Prize winning artist Jeremy Deller launches app to mark WWI centenary

Bonhams to sell 1957 Ferrari GT Pinin Farina Series 1 Cabriolet at Quail Lodge Sale

Why did the Peking Duck cross the country? Museum marks anniversary of Quanjude restaurant

Giant public artwork designed by Tokyo-based Junya Ishigami divides opinion in Sydney

Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art announces curatorial team developments

Lady Gaga's jackets and bodysuit worn in Harper's Bazaar photo spread to be auctioned

Bonhams to sell important film props from the collection of legendary actor Sir Christopher Lee

Annette Messager’s first retrospective exhibition in Australia opens at museum in Sydney

Taiwan first lady resumes Japan visit after museum row

Hollywood cars going up for bid at Auctions America's California Sale

Gazelli Art House opens exhibition of commissioned photographic works by artist James Ostrer

'Foundland: Escape Routes and Waiting Rooms' opens at International Studio & Curatorial Program

Scott Daniel Ellison’s fourth solo show at ClampArt opens in New York

Steven Holl Architects presents two films on the Reid Building at The Glasgow School of Art

Summer FUN U.S. coins results surpass $9.7+ million

Solo exhibition of the street artist ALO's work opens at the Saatchi Gallery

Important collection of British and Irish glass will be auctioned at Dreweatts & Bloomsbury Auctions

Most Popular Last Seven Days

1.- New Rembrandt found after being bought at London auction

2.- Exhibition at Fotohof focuses on groups in society who are at risk of marginalisation

3.- John Brennan collection of Rock n Roll memorabilia offered at RR Auction

4.- A Bob Dylan guitar fetches $495,000 at auction

5.- Exhibition in San Francisco focuses on the latter half of René Magritte's career

6.- 'Mad' king Ludwig II of Bavaria lost gift to composer Richard Wagner gets rare show

7.- New Royal Academy of Arts opens in celebration of its 250th anniversary

8.- Researchers uncover Anne Frank's 'dirty jokes'in her diary

9.- New York art sales near $3 billion in two weeks as uber-rich hunt trophies

10.- Berlin's Ethnological Museum returns grave-plundered artefacts to Alaska

Museums, Exhibits, Artists, Milestones, Digital Art, Architecture, Photography,
Photographers, Special Photos, Special Reports, Featured Stories, Auctions, Art Fairs,
Anecdotes, Art Quiz, Education, Mythology, 3D Images, Last Week, .


Ignacio Villarreal
Editor & Publisher:Jose Villarreal - Consultant: Ignacio Villarreal Jr.
Art Director: Juan José Sepúlveda Ramírez

Royalville Communications, Inc
Founder's Site. The most varied versions
of this beautiful prayer.
to a Mexican poet.

The First Art Newspaper on the Net. The Best Versions Of Ave Maria Song Junco de la Vega Site Ignacio Villarreal Site
Tell a Friend
Dear User, please complete the form below in order to recommend the Artdaily newsletter to someone you know.
Please complete all fields marked *.
Sending Mail
Sending Successful