January 25, 2008

Peking duck

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It's been almost 7 years since my last trip to Beijing, so I was really looking forward to attending our Access China conference this year. While I spent a lot of time inside the hotel/mall, I did manage to get out and finally have some Peking duck...

I didn't do much homework on where to go, so when my friend suggested that we go to Duck King (鸭王), a popular chain, I happily went along with it. At least it was going to be better than Quan Ju De (全聚德)... We ended up at the branch next to Saite (賽特), across the street from the St. Regis, as it was the closest location to the Grand Hyatt. Since this was going to be my only chance to eat outside of the hotel/mall, I didn't mind over-ordering.

We started with duck feet with mustard sauce (芥末鴨掌), which was nicely de-boned and served cold. The mustard sauce, however, didn't do much for me.

The other starter we ordererd was deep-fried duck tongue with salt and pepper (椒鹽鴨舌). This was pretty yummy. Usually I only eat duck tongue at Shanghainese restaurants, so it is normally braised with soy sauce. This is definitely another take which would go down well with some alcohol (like beer).

What followed was the classic whole duck done three ways (一鴨三吃) - the traditional crispy skin and meat wrapped in pancake (脆皮肉分片), diced meat fried with pine nuts and wrapped in lettuce (鴨松),and finally the duck soup cooked in claypot (沙鍋煲鴨湯). The skin was excellent - crispy on the outside, tender and juicy (or should I say oily) on the inside, but without too much of the yellow fat under the skin. The meat was also lean but juicy and tender, full of flavor. Both are sliced evenly in small pieces for ease of wrapping in pancakes.

The diced meat was also nice, with bits of Chinese crullers (油條) and pine nuts. The lettuce leaves adds a refreshing balance to the otherwise oily/fried texture.

The soup, on the other hand, was nothing to write home about. But then again, I was never a big fan of this.

We left the restaurant very stuffed and with doggy bags for about half the duck... It was good to finally have had duck in Beijing after such a long absence, but next time I'll look for the smaller operators.

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