Eight Treasures Gourd Duck (Babao Hulu Ya)

Eight Treasures Gourd Duck

The Eight Treasures Gourd Duck, known as “八宝葫芦鸭” in Chinese, is a traditional dish originating from the Huaiyang cuisine, specifically popular in Nanjing and Suzhou, Jiangsu Province. Legend has it that this dish was created during the Qing Dynasty by Emperor Qianlong when he visited the Jiangnan area. After savoring the local delicacy of gourd duck, he found it delicious and commanded the royal chefs to enhance it with various exquisite ingredients, giving birth to the Eight Treasures Gourd Duck.

The name “葫芦” (gourd) phonetically resembles the words for “福禄” (fortune and prosperity), symbolizing family prosperity. This association often makes the Eight Treasures Gourd Duck the highlight of festive banquets. However, the artistry of its preparation surpasses its name, demanding a high level of culinary skill from the chefs. Chefs in Suzhou and other areas often employ small pointed knives, and with a 4.5-inch incision on the duck, they can debone it without damaging the skin, demonstrating a seamless and skilled process.

The next step involves preparing eight kinds of fillings, such as glutinous rice, lotus seeds, dates, chestnuts, ham, chicken, and shrimp, stir-frying them until slightly cooked. After stuffing them into the duck and tying it securely with straw rope, the duck is meticulously crafted into the shape of a gourd. Steamed until fully cooked, the gourd-shaped duck embryo is then deep-fried until golden brown. Through multiple cooking processes, the duck skin becomes crispy and shiny, the meat tender and juicy, and the stuffing soft, fragrant, and flavorful. The combination results in a harmonious blend of savory, fresh, and aromatic tastes.

The Eight Treasures Gourd Duck not only delights the palate but also reflects the rich culinary heritage of Huaiyang cuisine. Its intricate preparation, symbolic name, and exquisite flavors make it a culinary masterpiece that continues to captivate the taste buds of those who have the privilege of savoring this traditional dish.

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