Easy Peking Duck with Mandarin Pancakes

Ever since we left Beijing to come back to the US, one of the things we really miss is the abundance and variety of the authentic foods China had to offer, including authentic Peking Duck.

What Is Peking Duck?

Peking duck (as it’s commonly known in the U.S.) is a famous, centuries-old dish hailing from Beijing. Whole ducks are roasted in wood-fired ovens, rendering out fat and leaving behind perfectly crisp skin. Thin shavings of the crispy skin and meat are skillfully carved from the duck and served with Mandarin pancakes (or sometimes steamed lotus leaf buns), along with a variety of condiments, including hoisin sauce, scallions, and julienned cucumber. Each person can wrap their own portion and enjoy it the way they like at their own speed.

We were also introduced to some unusual toppings and condiments in China, including julienned cantaloupe and garlic oil. Cantaloupe in particular may sound strange, but it’s a refreshing and delicious addition!

Eventually, we started avoiding the more expensive, touristy restaurants and took to the local places, where you could get a whole Peking duck for around 20 USD. Judy’s favorite part was taking home the duck carcass to make duck soup with napa cabbage and tofu for the next day. It always made for a really good meal (or two!).

Easy Peking Duck Recipe with Homemade Mandarin Pancakes, by thewoksoflife.comEasy Peking Duck Recipe with Homemade Mandarin Pancakes, by thewoksoflife.com

Simplifying Peking Duck for the Home Cook

Making a whole Peking duck at home here in the U.S. is far easier said than done, which is why we’ve come up with this easier recipe.

In Beijing, fresh ducks are cheaper than chickens and plentiful in local wet markets. However, no one considered making Peking duck at home in China. Many Chinese homes do not have ovens, and with duck so plentiful in restaurants, why bother?

Despite all of the avid home cooks here in the USA, it’s still pretty impractical to roast a whole duck, Peking-style. For starters, who has a fruit wood fired oven large enough to hang ducks inside? But there had to be a way to recreate our favorite Peking duck at home.

We think this recipe perfectly captures the flavors and textures of Peking duck without all the hassle and artistry that comes with a whole duck. One thing is certain–you’ll definitely impress family and friends with this one. And you can still look forward to traveling to Beijing one day to get the oven-roasted real deal, with all of the ambience and fanfare that goes with it.

Slices of seared duck breast with crispy skin, by thewoksoflife.comSlices of seared duck breast with crispy skin, by thewoksoflife.com

Easy Peking Duck with Homemade Mandarin Pancakes, by thewoksoflife.comEasy Peking Duck with Homemade Mandarin Pancakes, by thewoksoflife.com

Easy Peking Duck: Recipe Instructions

First, marinate the duck.

Mix the salt, soy sauce, Shaoxing wine, and five spice powder in a small bowl and massage into the duck.

For the record, authentic Peking duck you get in Beijing is quite bland (the focus is on the flavor of the skin and duck fat) and likely does not use a marinade or five spice but we took the liberty to add more flavor to our easy version.

Leave the duck breasts skin side up on a plate uncovered, and let sit in the refrigerator overnight to marinate and to let the skin dry out. (If you don’t want to wait overnight, reduce the marinating time to 30 minutes).

Next, prepare the Mandarin pancakes.

Mix the flour and salt in a heatproof bowl. Pour the boiling hot water into the flour mixture and use chopsticks or a spatula to mix until a dough ball forms. Once it is cool enough to handle, knead the dough for 8 minutes until smooth, adding flour if the dough is too sticky. Cover with plastic and allow the dough to rest at room temperature for at least 1 hour.

Roll the dough into a cylinder and cut into 12 equal pieces.

Chinese pancake dough, by thewoksoflife.comChinese pancake dough, by thewoksoflife.com

Form each piece into a dough ball, then flatten them out into a small disc about 2 inches in diameter. Lightly brush 6 of the discs with oil, ensuring the sides of the discs are also brushed with oil.

Brushing dough with oil, by thewoksoflife.comBrushing dough with oil, by thewoksoflife.com

Layer the remaining 6 discs over the 6 oiled discs so you have 6 pieces, each comprised of 2 discs.

Pressing two discs of dough, by thewoksoflife.comPressing two discs of dough, by thewoksoflife.com

Two stacked dough discs, by thewoksoflife.comTwo stacked dough discs, by thewoksoflife.com

Use a rolling pin to roll the discs into 7-inch circles, flipping the pancakes frequently so both of the dough discs are rolled into the same size.

Rolling out dough for mandarin pancakes, by thewoksoflife.comRolling out dough for mandarin pancakes, by thewoksoflife.com

Heat a wok or frying pan over medium low heat, and place one pancake into the pan. After 30 to 45 seconds, you should see air pockets begin to form between the two pancakes. Flip the pancake; it should be white with just a couple of faint brown patches. Any more than that, and they are overcooked.

Cooking Chinese mandarin pancakes in wok, by thewoksoflife.comCooking Chinese mandarin pancakes in wok, by thewoksoflife.com

After another 30 seconds, the air pockets should be large enough to separate the two pancakes.

Cooking Mandarin Pancakes in wok, by thewoksoflife.comCooking Mandarin Pancakes in wok, by thewoksoflife.com

Remove the pancake to a plate, and let it cool for another 30 seconds. Now carefully pull apart the two pancakes at the seams. Place finished pancakes onto a plate and cover with a warm kitchen towel. Repeat until all pancakes are done.

Pulling apart Mandarin pancakes, by thewoksoflife.comPulling apart Mandarin pancakes, by thewoksoflife.com

The pancakes can be reheated in a steamer for about a minute when ready to serve. They also keep in the freezer for up to 3 weeks if you decide to make a larger batch.

If you’d like to serve your Peking Duck with steamed lotus leaf buns (pictured below) rather than mandarin pancakes, see our steamed lotus leaf bun recipe.

Steamed Lotus Leaf Buns, by thewoksoflife.comSteamed Lotus Leaf Buns, by thewoksoflife.com

Next, prepare your fixings.

Place in small bowls to serve alongside the duck. (Using cantaloupe as one of the add-ins was new to us but was quite common in China. It’s a surprisingly delicious addition!).

Julienned scallions, cantaloupe, cucumber, by thewoksoflife.comJulienned scallions, cantaloupe, cucumber, by thewoksoflife.com

Cook the duck and assemble the dish.

Next, preheat the oven broiler on low heat. Heat an oven-proof pan over medium-high heat, and add 1 tablespoon of oil to coat the pan.

Sear the duck breasts, skin side down, for 6-8 minutes. Move them frequently so the skin crisps up and fries in the duck fat that renders out. Turn the heat down to medium if needed.

After 6-8 minutes, or when the duck skin is a bit crispy and dark golden brown, carefully drain off the duck fat and discard (or save for later application to other recipes!).

Flip the duck breasts so they are skin side up.

Searing duck breast in cast iron pan, by thewoksoflife.comSearing duck breast in cast iron pan, by thewoksoflife.com

Transfer them to the broiler for about 3 minutes. Be careful not to burn the skin.

Remove the duck from the broiler and let rest for 10 to 15 minutes. The duck will be cooked about medium to medium well, and will be very juicy.

Seared duck breast cross-section, by thewoksoflife.comSeared duck breast cross-section, by thewoksoflife.com

Transfer to a cutting board and, using a sharp knife, cut into thin slices.

Sliced duck breast, by thewoksoflife.comSliced duck breast, by thewoksoflife.com

Serve the duck with your warmed pancakes, fixings, and sauce.

How to Wrap Peking Duck

Place a warm pancake on your plate, and spread a teaspoon or more of hoisin sauce around the center of the pancake. If you enjoy raw garlic, now is the time to add a little bit.

Hoisin sauce on mandarin pancake, by thewoksoflife.comHoisin sauce on mandarin pancake, by thewoksoflife.com

Add a few slices of duck in the center of the pancake, and top with cucumber, melon, and scallion.

Peking duck toppings and condiments, by thewoksoflife.comPeking duck toppings and condiments, by thewoksoflife.com

Sliced crispy duck breast, by thewoksoflife.comSliced crispy duck breast, by thewoksoflife.com

Easy Peking Duck with Homemade Mandarin Pancakes, by thewoksoflife.comEasy Peking Duck with Homemade Mandarin Pancakes, by thewoksoflife.com

Fold the bottom quarter of the pancake up and then fold the both left and right sides over the center (or you can do a more secure “burrito-style” wrap). Whatever way you do it, take a bite, and enjoy!

How to eat Peking Duck, by thewoksoflife.comHow to eat Peking Duck, by thewoksoflife.com

Wrapping duck into mandarin pancakes, by thewoksoflife.comWrapping duck into mandarin pancakes, by thewoksoflife.com

Holding a peking duck pancake, by thewoksoflife.comHolding a peking duck pancake, by thewoksoflife.com

Homemade peking duck wrapped in mandarin pancake, by thewoksoflife.comHomemade peking duck wrapped in mandarin pancake, by thewoksoflife.com


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