The Evolution Of Peking Duck

BEIJING - FEBRUARY 27: Ducks are roasted at a restaurant on February 27, 2006 in Beijing, China. A nine-year-old girl in East China's Zhejiang Province and a 26-year-old woman farmer in East China's Anhui Province were confirmed to be infected with H5N1 bird flu, reported by the Ministry of Health on February 25, according to state media. (Photo by Guang Niu/Getty Images)

On the outskirts Beijing, China, Ducks live an extravagant life and are well fed for about 42 days before becoming Beijing's contribution to cuisine: Peking duck.

It will take a day of efforts and secret recipes from a hole in the wall to the finest Beijing restaurants to make sure the duck is fit for an emperor.

Local food writer Jen Lin Liu served as a culinary guide for CBSSunday Morning's correspondent, Barry Petersen . She said in the past, regular people could not taste the dish.

"It was sort of an emperor food," she said.

In the 1200s, the emperors of the Yuan dynasty first developed a taste for Peking duck, and by the 1500s it was a favorite with Ming dynasty emperors.

It took prosperity and a bit of capitalism to get duck to the people.

"It's only been in the past five or 10 years that you average Beijinger could actually afford it," Liu said.

Chef Zhang Liqun works in one of the city's oldest neighborhoods. He explained that the skins must be dried so they taste tender and crispy and cooked in a brick over a real fire because that is the only way to make Peking duck. It's one of the reasons people can't cook the duck at home.

Turn it every five minutes, he tells Petersen, and before taking it out of the stove, swing it a bit.

Across town, in the fanciest of restaurants, it's still about cooking the old way with extras in the recipe that we asked chef Jin Giang to explain and he said, no. Every dish has a secret, he says, hat's what makes a chef an artist. Peterson and Liu tasted for themselves.

"The skin has to be crisp, the meat should be succulent, tender. The other part that's really important is the skin," Liu said.

The meal is actually three courses. The first is skin and fat, with sugar and garlic for dipping. Course number two is the meat, which begins with a delicate pancake. The meat is dipped into plum sauce, then leeks and cucumber are added.

"It's sort of like a burrito," Liu said.

Finally, what's left is taken away and made into a lovely soup.

Delicious as it is, Liu said authentic Peking duck can only be found in Beijing.

"It's a Beijing thing," she said. "Peking duck is one of the few things that started here and has always been here."