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You need to try this Peking duck prepared 3 ways

Golden Wuish in New York City is preparing Peking duck in an innovative fashion: flambéed, smoked, and in a soup.

Golden wuish duck flambe
Peking duck at Golden Wuish being flambéed. goldenwuishnyc/Instagram

A whole Peking duck, perfectly roasted and bronzed, is one of the most prized culinary dishes in Chinese cuisine. Like China itself, the dish is ancient. It’s been mentioned as far back as the 14th century, and Henry Kissinger famously enjoyed it on several State Department visits to China during the 1960s and 1970s.

Traditionally, it’s served one way — carved table-side into slices and eaten with thin pancakes, julienned leeks, and sweet bean sauce. At Golden Wuish, a modern and elevated Chinese restaurant in New York, restauranteur Kevin Zhen and Chef Jesper serve Peking duck three ways: flambéed with Chinese baijiu wine, smoked table-side with lychee wood, and in a rich soup.

“Peking duck is one of the national dishes in China, and probably also the most famous Chinese dish within the U.S.,” said Chef Jesper. “We opened the restaurant hoping to promote Chinese culture via authentic Chinese food. So we put Peking Duck on the menu. Also, Kevin and I haven’t found a good, solid Peking duck in New York City. We really hope to have guests experience a delicious Peking duck.”

Golden wuish duck sliced
Slices of Golden Wuish Peking duck breast. goldenwuishnyc/Instagram

Preparing Peking duck

Preparing a Peking duck is a laborious multi-day process. Besides efforts made to enhance the flavor and tenderness of the meat, much effort is made to ensure the crispest skin possible. A drying period allows the skin to become wonderfully crisp, and the bronze sheen of the bird is due to a glaze of maltose and vinegar. Because of this complicated process, Peking duck is a restaurant dish in Chinese cuisine, not something prepared in home kitchens. It’s a dish reserved for special occasions and celebrations.

At Golden Wuish, Chef Jesper starts by sourcing their ducks from Long Island, New York. Because Peking Duck is such a specialized dish, he’s very particular about the size of his birds. “First, we always choose the duck that weighs around 5 pounds,” Chef Jesper said. “It is the best size. The skin is not too fatty, and the meat is not too lean. That’s why we can only serve 25 Peking ducks per day.”

To begin the process, Chef Jesper starts by cleaning the ducks thoroughly. Then, he marinades the ducks in a mixture of galangal, star anise, five spices, orange peels, Chinese cinnamon, and other spices. The spices are also placed within the duck’s stomach and massaged to ensure all the flavors are absorbed. The duck is then sewed shut with a needle and thread. Air is blown into the stomach, separating the skin for crispness. After this process, the duck is bathed in a solution of boiled water, vinegar, lemon, and maltose and hung for a 24-hour air-drying process. Finally, to cook, the duck is roasted for 40 minutes before being presented whole to the diner.

Golden Wuish Peking duck service
Golden Wuish Peking duck breast slices with sauce. Hunter Lu/The Manual

From flaming to smoking, modern innovation at Golden Wuish

However, at Golden Wuish, their Peking duck is quite different than the traditional version. The most obvious variation is that the Golden Wuish serves Peking duck three ways. When a customer orders Peking duck at Golden Wuish, a server will wheel out the whole duck and present it table-side. Then, before the duck is carved, the server will pour Chinese baijiu wine over the duck and flambé it. Not only is this a spectacular show, but this also achieves even crispier skin and a unique aroma.
As the server begins carving the duck breast, they’ll save some slices for the second way — smoked Peking duck. Slices of duck are placed in a pot rich with the fragrant smoke of lychee wood, inspired by a traditional roast duck from Chef Jesper’s hometown in Southern China. The result is an intensely smoky duck still tender, fatty, and crispy. It’s a completely different flavor profile than most Peking Ducks.
“Kevin and I are both from Xinhui, Guangzhou province, and we grew up eating lychee wood roast duck,” said Chef Jesper. “It is our favorite. However, due to kitchen operation limitations, we can’t make it here in the U.S.; thus, we came up with the idea of smoking the Peking duck with lychee wood that we imported from Japan.”
The last and third way is in a rich duck soup. Using a duck’s leftover meat and bones is very common in Chinese cuisine. “It is not only no-waste but also completing the whole experience by enjoying a hearty bowl of soup,” said Chef Jesper. “Which is also a tradition in the Cantonese region. Every single meal will include some soup dish, either sweet or savory.”
For the experienced Peking duck eater, one bite of the Peking duck at Golden Wuish reveals another aspect besides the spectacle of flambéing and smoking — a Southern Chinese Cantonese influence. This combination of regional Chinese flavors gives the Golden Wuish Peking duck a distinctive flair and is perhaps one of the best ways to try this Chinese classic anywhere in America.
“The marinade we use for the duck is actually a traditional recipe for Cantonese roast duck,” said Chef Jesper. “Kevin and I both think, unlike roast duck, the traditional Peking duck can be slightly bland when you taste the meat without the sauce. That inspires us to use more spices when marinating the duck.”
Mark Stock
Mark Stock is a writer from Portland, Oregon. He fell into wine during the Recession and has been fixated on the stuff since…
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