Editor's Note: This article is produced in collaboration with the Chongqing Institute of Foreign Studies as part of a series of ongoing reports exploring the city's abundant resources in intangible cultural heritages.
It has a long-standing reputation for its distinctive processing techniques in Chongqing, where numerous delicacies exist. In keeping with the times, it continues to reform and innovate. As one of China's "three renowned ducks," along with Beijing Roast Duck and Nanjing Salted Duck, Baishiyi Pressed Salted Duck has been awarded the honorary title of "China's Time-honored Brand." Since it has been passed down from generation to generation, Baishiyi Pressed Salted Duck has become a local legend.
In Chinese folklore, there is a story about Baishiyi Duck. The aroma of a restaurant attracted an officer passing by during the Republic of China period. As the waiter shouted, "Sir, would you like a duck?" the aroma from the kitchen made everyone's mouths water, so the officer ordered one and cut it up to serve with baijiu. Upon tasting it for the first time, the officer praised it highly in Chongqing dialect: "Oh! Yummy! Delicious!" The people assumed that the officer's praise meant it must be very tasty. Soon after, the Baishiyi Pressed Salted Duck became famous in alleyways and streets by word of mouth.
There is nothing like the tenderness, golden color, and robust taste of smoked, salted duck flesh. Immediately after steaming the duck, the air fills with its aroma. People usually cut it into small pieces for a better taste, drizzle sesame oil on top, and sprinkle pepper powder on top.
Even though the dish was delicious, it faced another difficulty. Ma Xinghua, the second-generation inheritor of Chongqing Baishiyi Pressed Salted Duck, remarked when he was almost 40 years old that he had yet to find an inheritor to pass down the craft. Many people came to learn from him, but Rome was not built in a day, and neither were traditional skills like mixing sauce proportions, controlling baking temperature, and smoking time. Eventually, all the young men who came to learn wore out their enthusiasm, and they left one by one. But in Ma’s eyes, crafting the perfect duck was not just a job but a responsibility. He refused to witness the traditional skill lose any of its authenticity because of slackness. Because of his father's perseverance in such a difficult situation, Ma Jun quit his job and returned home to continue the family business. Having been subconsciously influenced by his father as a child, he practiced more after returning home. In addition to his continuous study, Ma Jun shares the skill through We-media so that more people can get to know it, learn it, and pass it along.
Locals in Baishiyi consider Ma's persistence and that of his son to be a favorite tale. For some people in Chongqing, having ducks during the Spring Festival has become a tradition. It is not only clean water that washes the duck, but it also washes away all the weariness of the whole year. The duck is put in the steamer, surrounded by several generations, and hundreds of miles away, you can hear laughter. Baishiyi Pressed Salted Duck continues to flourish in markets thanks to its traditional technique, tenacious craftsmanship, and innovative spirit.
Chinese script: Ye Wenjing
Tutored by: Yang Xiyunfan
Translation: Tan Meiling
Tutored by: Lu Siying Tu Qingqing Hu Wei
Voice-over: Dong Qiling
Tutored by: Xin Dandan