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Roast Duck: Tips, Techniques & Tradition


Fat Guy
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My understanding has always been that 'Beijing' is now considered a more accurate transliteration of the Chinese name for their capital city than 'Peking'. However, we don't always update names to keep abreast of etymological, historical or political changes. Siamese cats are not now known as Thai cats, for example. Rhodesian ridgebacks are not, I believe, preferably called Zimbabwean ridgebacks.

Not precise analogies I know, but it indicates that one needs to decide whether 'Peking duck' is the proper name of the dish, or whether it is a phrase which refers to the dish and includes the proper name of the Chinese capital. If the latter, there might be a case for updating to 'Beijing'.

I doubt if there's a right answer.

Edited by Wilfrid (log)
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Too bad nothing was ever named after Upper Volta. That would have been a jarring name change.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
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Too bad nothing was ever named after Upper Volta. That would have been a jarring name change.

The three Volta rivers (red, white, and black) are still called that, as far as I know, as is Lake Volta in Ghana. Upper Volta got its name because it was further up the rivers.

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I would favour Peking Duck - think of it as a phrase in itself rather than the constituent parts. The obvious example is Bombay Duck, as opposed to Mumbai Duck! Similarly Peking University is still called Peking University as opposed to BJ Uni (www.pku.edu.cn)

Bear in mind there is a case for sticking with Peking in any case. Beijing is, after all, the name in Chinese rather than English. After all we don't called Florence Fiorentia, Turin Torino or Lisboa Lison when we're talking in English

cheerio

J

More Cookbooks than Sense - my new Cookbook blog!
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Well, I would be in favor of Beijing Duck, even though Peking Duck is by far the more prevalent translation in the US, because then diners would no longer conflate Peking Duck with Pekin breed duck.  :hmmm:

Why not keep Peking Duck and change the name of the Pekin breed to Upper Volta Duck?

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Well, I would be in favor of Beijing Duck, even though Peking Duck is by far the more prevalent translation in the US, because then diners would no longer conflate Peking Duck with Pekin breed duck.  :hmmm:

Why not keep Peking Duck and change the name of the Pekin breed to Upper Volta Duck?

Same problem, people would just confuse it with the Muscovy duck (which isn't really a duck, so it already is confused enough).

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Bear in mind there is a case for sticking with Peking in any case.  Beijing is, after all, the name in Chinese rather than English.  After all we don't called Florence Fiorentia, Turin Torino or Lisboa Lison when we're talking in English

Yuh, but it's arguable that Peking is just a transliteration of a different spoken Chinese, unlike Florence, which is clearly an English bastardisation that has become its own.

Just to confuse the issue, it's still (more or less) Peking if you're Cantonese, no?

(For me, the city is always Beijing, but the duck can go both ways)

So who's been to Xianggang recently?

Edited by Kikujiro (log)
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Yuh, but it's arguable that Peking is just a transliteration of a different spoken Chinese, unlike Florence, which is clearly an English bastardisation that has become its own.

I think "Peking" happened because of a misunderstanding of the very cumbersome transliteration systems devised by the European missionaries to China in the 18th and 19th centuries (as an example, voiced consonations were written as the consonant letter followed by an apostrophe, unvoiced without, so to really pronounce "p" it would be written p', whereas a "b" sound would be written p, and somewhat similar transliteration rules applied to "k" and "j".

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It's not clear to me that b for p & j for k is a big linguistic shift.

Now nothing is clear to me, but what I meant was that there was never a linguistic shift -- Beijing was always pronounced Beijing. Western missionaries (who were among the first to translate the classic Chinese philosophers, compile dictionaries...) just had a very misleading system of transliteration in which unvoiced consonants weren't used.

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The obvious example is Bombay Duck, as opposed to Mumbai Duck!

Which if I am not mistaken (which is entirely possible, if not likely) is a type of fish or preparation of fish and further adds to one's confusion.

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Oh, Toby's right. I always assumed that Peking came from a transliteration of the Cantonese pronuncation , which would also explain why "Peking duck" triumphed in a restaurant industry in the US largelu run by Cantonese. But it seems is in fact that it is to do with weird transliteration systems designed to reproduce the same sound as "Beijing". Less clear is which system. Some sources claim "Peking" is Wade-Giles but others point out the correct WG version would be "Pei-Ching" (which makes more sense). Seems we may have some Germans and Scandinavians to blame.

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In my copy of Mathews' Chinese English Dictionary (originally published 1931, 1943 American edition), which uses the Wade-Giles romanization system (devised in 1890s) the entry for "bei" (=north, first syllable in Beijing) is listed with primary pronunciations as "po" = (bo) or "pe" (=be), and then a note says usually pronounced "pei" (=bei) and next to the characters for north + capital (=Beijing), they give the definition, "Peking." Interestingly, Nanjing (= southern capital), is defined as Nanking. I think very early translations of the Chinese classics used "King" instead of "Jing" (another character, meaning essentially "canonical work", as in "Yi King" = "I Jing"). I don't have any information about systems of romanization earlier than Wade Giles; James Legge who translated the classic works in the mid-19th century used an earlier system (since updated to Wade-Giles in later reprints of his translations); Ezra Pound may have relied on earlier versions of Legge, since he sometimes uses "king" instead of "jing"; he also used Fenallosa and B. Karlgren (who was Scandinavian) and was more interested in ancient and archaic pronunciations and transliterations.

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The obvious example is Bombay Duck, as opposed to Mumbai Duck!

Which if I am not mistaken (which is entirely possible, if not likely) is a type of fish or preparation of fish and further adds to one's confusion.

Geoduck?

=Mark

Give a man a fish, he eats for a Day.

Teach a man to fish, he eats for Life.

Teach a man to sell fish, he eats Steak

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As discussed in the "Food Media and the News" forum, the current edition of Art Culinaire describes lacquering. Below is an excerpt on Peking duck:

"Chinese culinary historians maintain that [peking duck] does not have a long history. ... The ducks are then inflated by blowing air between the skin and the body. The skin is pricked and then doused with boiling water, and the ducks are hung up to dry in an airy spot from four to give hours -- or sometimes overnight during the winter months. ..."

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  • 2 months later...

I spent years thinking that Cantonese Roast Duck was the high point of Chinese poultry cookery. Then I visited Hong Kong and discovered that all those ducks hanging in the window were not ducks but geese.

Was I shocked to discover this goose cult. Going out to a goose restaurant is one of the famous things to do when you're chasing good Chinese cooking in HK.

In NYC though, no one seems to make BBQ Goose just Duck. We raise geese, but they rarely make it to market. Why do you think? Whatsup? What's the situation in your community? Which do you prefer? Why?

Edited by eatingwitheddie (log)
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I love roast goose, when I can get it. Teochew style goose braised in soy sauce, cloves, 5 spice powder etc is available in some restaurants, but roast goose is harder to come by. My favourite Cantonese restaurant calls me whenver they have deliveries of geese and my (even more preferred) favourite pigeons- apparently the birds travel as hand luggage, so there is usually only 10 pigeons and even fewer geese each time.

I don't know why roast goose is not more commonly found. It may be that it is more fatty and gamy than duck. I know some people have problems with duck so goose would be unthinkable for them.

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We can get roast duck quite easily in Malaysia. Roast goose is available too but it is a lot less common.

roast goose ... is more fatty and gamy than duck

Hmmm...to me, roast duck tastes more gamey than roast goose. Maybe the ducks we get here are different! I prefer roast duck to roast goose as the taste of roast duck is more intense while roast goose is relatively bland.

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