What many know of Imperial China is left in history books and old buildings. Yet, its grand culinary creations continue to live on in classic Chinese kitchens. From there comes the legendary and iconic Peking duck, a glistening golden-brown bird that truly is the crowning glory of any Chinese dining table.
What seems like just roasted duck on the table is really the result of tedious and careful preparation that has been perfected centuries ago. Ducks are glazed in a flavoured syrup, marinated in five-spice powder, left to dry-age for a few days — all to achieve the ultimate, teeth-shattering skin. Typically only the skin (which is considered the best part of the duck) is served to the table, making the Peking duck a truly indulgent dish. These days, the rest of the flavourful duck can be used soups, noodles or rice as an additional cost.
In Singapore, Chinese restaurants are whipping up their own takes of this legendary duck. Only a few restaurants are serving up the best, going to the extent of picking up the best duck and customising ovens for the dish. Here’s where to try the best Peking duck in Singapore.
Imperial Treasure’s passion for Peking duck is materialised as this fine-dining affair, dedicated to authenticity and theatrics of the craft in equal measure. Considering the bold choice of name, the restaurant is very serious about its signature dish and chefs take lengthy measures to guarantee a perfectly prepared duck. So, diners must pre-order the item at least three days in advance. Fresh ducks are imported from Malaysia every day and roasted in an oven stoked with lychee wood: important details to achieving smooth, crisp skin. There’s careful attention to detail: even the way the duck is carved follows traditional techniques and procedures. Leftover meat can be made into duck floss for free too.
The one-Michelin-starred Cantonese restaurant at Four Seasons Hotel offers a list of barbecue meats, but their signature Peking duck is one of their main highlights. Instead of lychee wood or applewood, Jiang Nan Chun uses a mesquite wood-fired oven when roasting the duck for a smokier flavour and crispier skin. Besides scallions and pancakes, the magnificent roast also has caviar as a topping for an indulgent umami punch.
The Peking duck at Min Jiang is considered one of the best renditions in Singapore, even considered legendary with gourmands. The restaurant follows an ancient Chinese recipe and even has a custom wood-fired oven built specifically for roasting ducks. Each part of the duck is enjoyed differently: the crispy skin enjoyed with a sprinkle of sugar, for one. The rest of the duck is then served the traditional way with pancakes and leek or with garlic paste. Surprisingly, there’s also a vegan option on the menu as well: mock Peking duck with pancakes, sauteed tofu and black pepper sauce.
Tunglok Xihe offers possibly one of the most authentic Peking ducks around. As its name suggests, the restaurant is a collaboration between Tunglok and the Beijing-based Xihe Group (which is best known for its Peking ducks). Only ducks from the Ireland-based Silver Hill Farm, prized for their fatty meats, are used here. While the Peking ducks here are prepared the authentic way — air-dried and infused with herbs — they are accompanied with a range of traditional and modern condiments. Besides the standard black bean sauce and cucumber, the restaurant also offers blueberry sauce, honey mustard and popping rock candy to experiment with.
Cantonese fine-dining establishment Yan also offers Peking duck done the traditional way. The restaurant offers half or a whole duck, depending on the number of diners. Each Peking duck is carved and wrapped with pancakes, leek and hoisin sauce before it is served to the table. The rest of the duck can be prepared in a number of ways, in a stir fry with noodles or fried rice, for an additional cost. We recommend having the meat as it is, chopped up and simply served with some sauce.