Many "Peking" style dishes originated in the Imperial courts, using the best ingredients in China. This cuisine uses strong flavoured roots and vegetables such as peppers, garlic, ginger, leek and coriander ("Chinese parsley"). The food of this northerly city is substantial, to keep the body warm. Noodles, dumplings, and breads (baked, steamed or fried) are served instead of rice.
The most famous dish, Peking duck, is usually prepared for a minimum of six people. To achieve the prized crisp skin, the duck is air-dried, then coated with a mixture of syrup and soy sauce before roasting. The skin is deftly carved at the table and the slivers of skin are wrapped in thin pancakes with spring onions or leeks, cucumber, turnip and delicious plum sauce.
Popular, too, are "sizzling" plates of seafood or meat, and succulent beggar's chicken. A whole chicken is stuffed with mushrooms, pickled Chinese cabbage, herbs and onions, wrapped in lotus leaves, sealed in clay and cooked slowly. Usually, the guest of honour breaks open the clay with a mallet, allowing a fragrant aroma to escape and revealing a chicken so tender that it can be pulled apart with chopsticks.