The city that hosted the 2008 Summer Olympics is of course Beijing. Beijing is a city in northern China and the capital of the People's Republic of China. It is one of the four municipalities of the PRC, which are equivalent to provinces in China's administrative structure. Beijing is one of the Four Great Ancient Capitals of China, and has also been known in English as Peking. The municipality of Beijing borders Hebei Province to the north, west, south, and for a small section in the east, and Tianjin Municipality to the southeast. Beijing is China's second largest city, after Shanghai. It is a major transportation hub, with dozens of railways, roads and motorways passing through the city. It is also the focal point of many international flights to China. Beijing is recognized as the political, educational and cultural center of the People's Republic of China, while Shanghai and Hong Kong predominate in economic fields. As we in the west have called Beijing Peking for as long as I can remember, we should start our culinary tour with the most famous dish from this region, Peking Duck. Peking Duck, or Peking Roast Duck, is the most famous duck dish from Beijing. It has been prepared since the Yuan Dynasty and is now considered one of China's national foods. The dish is prized for the thin, crispy skin, with authentic versions of the dish serving mostly the skin and little meat, sliced in front of the diners by the cook. Ducks are bred specially for the dish, which after 65 days are slaughtered and seasoned before being roasted in a closed oven or a hung oven. The meat is often eaten with pancakes, spring onions, and hoisin sauce or sweet noodle sauce. The two most notable restaurants in Beijing that serve this delicacy are Quanjude and Bianyifang, two centuries-old establishments that have become household names. (I guess just not in our houses though.) Duck has been roasted in China since the Southern and Northern Dynasties. Peking Duck was first prepared for the Emperor of China in the Yuan Dynasty. The dish was mentioned in the Complete Recipes for Dishes and Beverages manual by Hu Sihui, an inspector of the imperial kitchen in 1330. In the Ming Dynasty, the Peking Duck was one of the main dishes on imperial court menus. In the same period, the first restaurant specializing in Peking Duck, Bianyifang, was established in the Xianyukou, Qianmen area of Beijing in 1416. By the mid 20th century, the Peking Duck had become a national symbol of China, favoured by tourists and diplomats alike. For example, Henry Kissinger, the Secretary of State of the United States, met Premier Zhou Enlai in the Great Hall of the People during his first visit to China. After a round of inconclusive talks in the morning, the delegation was served Peking Duck for lunch, which became Kissinger's favourite. The Americans and Chinese issued a joint statement the following day, inviting President Richard Nixon to visit China in 1972. The Peking Duck was hence considered one of the factors behind the rapprochement of the United States to China in the 1970s. Following Zhou's death in 1976, Kissinger paid another visit to Beijing to savor Peking Duck. PEKING DUCK with Pancakes INGREDIENTS Pancakes: 1 cup flour 2 ounces lard 16 ounces water, hot Peking Duck: 1 (5 to 7 pound) duck, preferably fresh 3 teaspoons salt 1/4 teaspoon white pepper 1 teaspoons hoisin sauce 1/4 teaspoon five spice powder 1 gallon boiling water 1 teaspoon light corn syrup 1 teaspoon maltose 1 teaspoon vinegar Shredded carrots Sliced scallions METHOD To make the pancakes: Mix the flour, lard, and hot water together and kneed it into dough. Roll it out making the pancakes about 2 millimeters thick, cut out the pancakes in circles 5-inches in diameter. Then slightly pan-fry both sides in a hot pan without oil. To make the Peking duck: Rinse and pluck the duck and then hang to dry for about 15 minutes. Put the salt, pepper, hoisin sauce, and five-spice powder inside the duck to marinate it. Then put the duck into the refrigerator for 4 to 6 hours. Hold the duck upright and pour the hot boiling water onto its body until it is puffed. Combine the corn syrup, maltose, and vinegar. Paint the duck with a thin layer of the corn syrup mixture. Hang the duck for 4 to 5 hours in a dry area while using a fan to help blow dry it. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F oven and roast the duck for 40 minutes. Let meat rest for 15 minutes after cooking. Remove the skin and fat layer from the duck. Scrape the fat from the skin and cut the skin into thin strips. Cut the meat into thin slices. Paint a pancake with hoisin sauce. Put the skin and meat slices onto the hoisin, top with shredded carrots and scallion slices, and then roll the pancake up. Repeat with remaining ingredients. AND FINALLY... A man orders Chop Suey in a restaurant. The waiter brings out a pot with a lid but the man is afraid to eat it, because every so often the lid lifts up a wee bit and a wee pair of eyes peer out at him. He calls the waiter over, points it out, and asks "Are you sure that's chop suey?" The waiter goes, "Oh sorry sir, my mistake - I've brought you Peeking Duck." (Wah wah wah comedy trumpets) AND EVEN MORE FINALLY... Q. How do you make a duck sing? A. Put it in the oven until it's Bill Withers. CHEF GILLIGAN Going for Gold