China's oldest Peking duck restaurant chain, Quanjude (Group) Co., Ltd., plans to use electric ovens to replace traditional hand-roasting procedures in cooking ducks.
The move is aimed at maintaining food quality while the company expands its business across China after it became listed on the Shenzhen Stock Exchange a month ago.
In the traditional way, the duck is hung in the oven roasted by flames burning from fruitwood. It takes about 45 minutes for the duck to be done and chefs keep adjusting the duck to ensure it's evenly roasted.
The electric ovens, based on computerized operation jointly developed by Quanjude and a German company, will keep the handmade techniques and simplify roasting procedures, said Xing Ying, general manager with Quanjude, according to Monday's Beijing Morning Post.
Many of the Beijing-based outlets and those in other regions of the country must use the new ovens that will ensure quality standards and automatic duck production, said Xing.
However, many feared that ducks may lose the original flavor of the firewood and computer-controlled roasting may not run as precisely as experienced chefs.
In addition, people consider the human-monitored roasting technique, which has been passed on for more than 140 years, a key tradition of Quanjude and part of Beijing's culture. Computerized production may diminish the attraction of the famous brand.
Quanjude said they will spray a special natural fruit juice on the ducks before roasting and promised to keep using traditional hand-roasting techniques in some key restaurants in Beijing.
The company, which sells more than 3 million ducks a year to some 5 million patrons, has raised 388 million yuan (52 million US dollars) on the Shenzhen bourse to support its goal of growing into an international brand.
The company said it would use the proceeds for outlet renovation and expansion and upgrading its food production bases and logistic centers.
Quanjude has nine restaurants in Beijing, Shanghai, Chongqing and Changchun and 61 franchised outlets, including 56 on the mainland and five overseas.
Founded in 1864 during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), the last imperial rulers of China, it is one of the most renowned restaurants in China. Eating roast duck has become a main attraction for overseas tourists.
The company posted net profits of 25.62 million yuan (3.46 million US dollars) in the first quarter of 2007 with about 600 million yuan in total assets (81 million US dollars).
(Xinhua News Agency December 24, 2007)