Beijing Roast Duck: The Epitome of Cultural Dining

One of the precious aspects of the Notre Dame in Beijing Summer Language Intensive Program (NDiB) is the opportunity to partake in a Chinese language table with students and professors. Every Friday, the students are rewarded for a hard week’s worth of studying and are taken to Beijing’s most popular restaurants.

The first Friday (June 23rd), we were taken to a restaurant known for its perfection of Beijing Roast Duck. To understand the “craze” for Beijing’s famous specialty, one first has to know it’s history. “北京烤鸭” has a royal lineage beginning in the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368) in which the dish was only served to imperial courts. Notable mentions of the dish can be seen in classical literature and poetry. The lengthy preparation of the dish begins from raising the duck for exactly 65 days. After, air is pumped under the skin to separate it from the fat and then coated with maltose syrup (yumm) to make the skin nice and crispy. The last step consists of the actual roasting. Although there are two different methods; a traditional closed oven, or a “hung oven technique”, in which the duck is hung on the oven’s ceiling and roasts over burning wood.

Finally, thin crisps of tender, roasted duck and its skin is served. It is customary to wrap the duck in a thin crepe, accompanied by thin slices of cucumber, spring onions, and sweet bean sauce. Such a glorious experience. Peking duck is a timeless dish and will continue to impact the experience of both locals and foreigners alike.

Safe to say, the highlight of my experience thus far in Beijing has been the culinary aspect. As a self-proclaimed “foodie” my taste buds (and stomach!) are ready for anything, even fried scorpion! Part of cultural immersion hinges on venturing past culinary comfort and I think I am on the right track to fulfilling this aspect. Join me next time for more Beijing insights and FOOD!




My name is Chaya Cassell. I am a rising sophomore from Indianapolis, Indiana and I live in McGlinn hall here on campus. Currently, I am majoring in Chinese and Political Science here at the university, but my studies in both these areas began long before even high school. My parents home-schooled me all the through middle school and I spent many of these years learning Chinese off and on from a variety of teachers, including my mother. In high school, I developed a deeper interest in studying Chinese and decided to make it my focus in college. Outside of my studies, I enjoy spending time reading, swimming, and having great conversations with friends. As this is my first visit to mainland China, I am very much looking forward to this experience and am extremely grateful for the opportunity.


I began taking Chinese learning more seriously once I realized that a complete grasp of the Chinese language and culture was necessary for full engagement with China. China’s global influence is growing and I would like to be in a position to build on my understanding of China. The SLA grant is important to me because it provides a wonderful opportunity to accelerate my Chinese studies through the full-immersion experience. This summer session will bring me closer to fluency more quickly. Additionally, as a political science major, it will be helpful to get an inside perspective on its current society, history, and government for the purposes of analysis and further studies of East Asia.


My primary hope is to achieve a greater level of ease with speaking and reading Chinese. I am sure that the rigorous curriculum will help me get there. My secondary aim is to observe and learn about the culture and environment of Beijing through our cultural excursions and visits to Chinese companies. Through these experiences, I hope to come to a better understanding of the local Chinese perspectives on work, civil society, and global events. This may be ambitious for a first year student, but my hope is to at least begin exploring the traditional and modern Chinese attitudes, as well as their influence on the systems in place.

Finally, I hope to form and establish connections in China in the further hope that I can revisit these in the near future. I am considering devoting a greater portion of my undergraduate (and perhaps graduate) studies to China, and having connections there will allow for more rich and efficient dialogue.


1. At the end of the summer, I will have acquired greater Chinese speaking proficiency by fully engaging in conversations in the language curriculum and outside of it in all daily activities.

2. At the end of the summer, I will have familiarized myself with Chinese culture and society (at least within the Beijing region) through careful observation and questions.

3. At the end of the summer, I will be able to read and write more extensively in Chinese by reaching at least the second-year level.