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Peking Duck at Z & Y Peking Duck

Limited Availability, Exceptional Flavor: The Art of Peking Duck at Z&Y Peking Duck

Peking Duck sliced in 108 pieces
Authentic Peking Duck sliced into 108 pieces

In the heart of San Francisco’s bustling Chinatown, a culinary gem shines brightly with the opening of Z&Y Peking Duck. This new restaurant, led by the esteemed Chef Li Jun Han, offers a deep dive into the traditional and labor-intensive preparation of Peking Duck, a dish that has captivated food lovers around the world with its rich history, complex preparation, and unforgettable flavor.

Chef Li Jun Han
Chef Li Jun Han

Chef Li Jun Han: A Maestro of Peking Duck

Chef Li Jun Han, founder of the celebrated Chili House and now Z&Y Peking Duck, is a master of his craft. With a culinary journey that began over three decades ago, Chef Han has dedicated a significant part of his life to perfecting the art of Peking Duck. His first encounter with this iconic dish was in 1991 at the Grand Hotel in Beijing, where he learned the meticulous steps that go into creating the perfect Peking Duck.

Right now, the standard has reached what we initially set out for. An experienced Peking Duck chef spends his life learning. I wanna strive for perfection. I want to exceed what previous masters have taught me. The future Peking Duck chefs will surpass me too.

Chef Li Jun Han

By 1995, Chef Han was making Peking Duck on his own, and over the years, he has refined every aspect of the dish — from the choice of duck to the precise carving technique that makes each slice a work of art. His dedication is evident in every aspect of the dining experience at Z&Y Peking Duck.

The Peking Duck Experience at Z&Y Peking Duck

The Peking Duck Experience at Z&Y Peking Duck

Selecting the Perfect Duck

The journey of Z&Y’s Peking Duck starts with the selection of the duck. Chef Han auditioned four different breeds before choosing a Long Island duck, prized for its tender meat and balanced fat content. These ducks are sourced from reputable farms in New York and are chosen for their quality and consistency.

The 48-Hour Preparation Process

Preparing Peking Duck at Z&Y is a painstaking 48-hour process that begins with cleaning and hanging the ducks. Chef Han explains, “Three fingers from the neck, hook through the duck’s neck joint. This prevents the skin from tearing and ensures it cooks evenly.”

scalding and basting Peking Duck

Scalding the Duck

The ducks are then scalded, which helps the skin to achieve a plump, smooth appearance. After scalding, the ducks are hung to dry with a glaze made of honey, water, maltose, and white vinegar. This glaze not only contributes to the rich maroon color of the duck but also helps the skin become irresistibly crispy after roasting.

A perfect Peking Duck is maroon in color. The duck’s skin is crispy, and the quality of meat is juicy and very tender. This is the authentic and traditional Peking Duck.

Chef Li Jun Han
air drying Peking Duck

Air-Drying

The ducks are air-dried in a specialized room where the temperature, wind speed, and humidity are carefully controlled to create the perfect environment for drying. “Our temperature is maintained at 45 to 46-degrees Fahrenheit for seven to eight hours,” Chef Han notes, highlighting the precision involved in this step.

Freezing

Following the initial drying, the ducks are frozen for 24 hours, which thickens the skin — a crucial step for achieving the melt-in-your-mouth crispiness that Z&Y’s Peking Duck is known for.

thawing Peking Duck

Thawing and Second Air-Drying

After the freezing step, the ducks are thawed and undergo a second air-drying process. “Once the ducks have been thawed, they are placed back in the duck room for additional air-drying and defrosting for another seven to eight hours,” Chef Han details. This step is essential to further tighten the skin and enhance its crispiness.

roasting Peking Duck

Roasting to Perfection

The ducks are roasted in a traditional Peking Duck oven imported from China. “Roast the duck for 50 minutes to an hour at 375-degrees Fahrenheit,” says Chef Han. This process allows the fat to render slowly, basting the meat internally and ensuring it remains juicy and tender.

carving Peking Duck

Carving the Duck

Carving Peking Duck is an art form in itself. At Z&Y Peking Duck, this process is performed tableside, adding an element of theater to the dining experience.

The first cut is made at the duck’s breast, then the part of the breast that is near the neck.

The duck knife is held at a 45-degree angle, and sliced evenly.

The duck is carved into 108 precise slices, each with a perfect balance of skin, meat, and fat. This meticulous technique ensures that every bite is a harmonious blend of textures and flavors.

Fresh from the Oven:

Wisps of steam still rise from the glistening Peking Duck as it arrives at your table. The carver has arranged the prized breast meat front and center, a technique known as “fish-scale plating.” This placement reflects the importance given to the first bite, ensuring the most enjoyable experience for guests at high-end banquets.


Fun fact: In Beijing, carving ducks in itself is a profession.

To master, this will require training for more than three-years.

Professional carving masters must carve up to 7,000 to 10,000 ducks.

One might not know how to roast the duck, but if they can carve, they’ll be known as carving masters.

traditional accompaniments: julienned cucumbers, scallions, housemade hoisin sauce, and thin pancakes.

The Accompaniments

Z&Y Peking Duck serves its Peking Duck with traditional accompaniments: julienned cucumbers, scallions, housemade hoisin sauce, and thin pancakes. These elements complement the rich flavors of the duck, allowing diners to create their own perfect bite. For those looking to elevate their experience, there is also an option to add caviar for a luxurious twist on this classic dish.

Now, let me show you the correct way to enjoy Peking Duck. First, take the hot duck wrap, and place it onto the pre-warned plate. Take the cucumber strips and dip it in some duck sauce, place it at the top of the wrap. Top it off with the slices of duck meat. Next, add the green onion strips. Take the bottom section of the wrap and fold it upwards, followed by left to right folds of the wrap. With this wrapping technique, you’ll get to experience in your first bite the crisp of the skin, fragrance of the duck meat, and the blend of duck sauce and green onion. It’s a full and satisfying sensation.

Chef Li Jun Han
wrapping Peking duck in pancakes

A Menu Beyond Duck

While Peking Duck is the star of the show, Z&Y Peking Duck offers a variety of other dishes that reflect the rich culinary heritage of China. Spicy wontons, pork dumplings, and noodles in bean sauce are just a few of the offerings that showcase the versatility and depth of Chinese cuisine. For those who prefer a bit of heat, the menu includes spicy prawns, fish with pickled vegetables in a clay pot, and spiced lamb with beef.

The Art of Enjoying Peking Duck

To fully appreciate the Peking Duck at Z&Y, Chef Han recommends a specific way to assemble and enjoy the dish. “Start with a hot duck wrap, add cucumber strips dipped in duck sauce, then top with slices of duck meat and green onion strips,” he advises. This method ensures that diners experience the crispness of the skin, the fragrance of the meat, and the perfect blend of flavors in every bite.

Limited Availability, Exceptional Flavor

Due to the labor-intensive nature of its preparation, Z&Y Peking Duck offers only a limited number of ducks each day:

25 on weekdays

40 on weekends

This limited availability underscores the care and attention to detail that goes into each duck and ensures that every dish served is of the highest quality.

Peking Duck in San Francisco

Reservations

Z&Y Peking Duck is conveniently located at 606 Jackson St. in San Francisco’s Chinatown.

Hours of operation: 11:30 AM to 3:30 PM and 4:30 PM to 9:30 PM, Monday-Tuesday and Thursday-Sunday.

Given the meticulous preparation process and the immense popularity of Peking Duck, reservations are highly recommended.

To secure your table and savor this culinary experience, call (415) 986-1899

Z & Y Peking Duck

Z & Y Peking Duck, a Michelin-approved S.F. Chinese restaurant

A Legacy of Flavor: The Enduring Allure of Peking Duck

Z&Y Peking Duck is not just a restaurant; it’s a destination for those who appreciate the art and history of Peking Duck. Chef Li Jun Han’s dedication to this dish is evident in every aspect of the dining experience, from the careful selection of ingredients to the skilled preparation and presentation.

Whether you’re a longtime lover of Peking Duck or a newcomer eager to explore the depths of this iconic dish, Z&Y Peking Duck promises an experience that is as unforgettable as it is delicious.

Photo credit Bon Appetit:

https://www.bonappetit.com/video/watch/handcrafted-how-a-master-carver-makes-peking-duck-40-hours

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