EAT LIKE A LOCAL...
When visiting new places, we always try to eat the local specialities- in part because local food is readily accessible and generally cheaper(!), but also because it gives you an insight into the place and how it works- rounding out your experience and helping to highlight each place as unique.
Eating Peking duck in Beijing pretty much rates up there alongside climbing the Great Wall as a must-do and is (sad, we know!) one of the things we were most excited about coming here for!
Having only ever eaten Western versions of the food from our local Chinese takeaways, we were keen to sample the real deal and see just how much it differs from its more commercial cousin.
...DINE LIKE A KING.
The history of the roast Peking duck can apparently be traced back to as early as the Yuan Dynasty (1206-1368) when it was listed among the imperial dishes in a recipe book written in 1330 by an inspector of the imperial kitchen.
Guided by our good friend and best guide ever, Sariah, we were to sample this dish at the famous Quanjude restaurant.
Just as duck was the food of choice for emperors past, nowadays this restaurant is where prominent world bigwigs (and the Hewitsons) get their fill of the famous dish!
Founded in 1864, it is the most well-established roast Peking duck restaurant brand in China and has gained worldwide recognition for its gourmet duck- the restaurants founder being the first chef to hang-roast them in an open oven.
Set in a huge building over five whole floors, (capable of seating over 2000 people!) this place was incredible!
On entering, if not reserved, you pick up a numbered ticket from the counter and then sit around waiting for your table to get called- luckily we arrived fairly early so our wait was not too long, but it is not uncommon to have to wait here a good few hours for a seat!
Once seated, we let Sariah dictate play and ending up ordering from the set menu selection. This turned out to include around 10 different plates of food(!) with a whole roast duck at the centre!
You can watch the chefs roasting the ducks from the comfort of your blissfully air conditioned table- the birds placed in the open oven using long hooks and turned every so often for even cooking before emerging with a light, fruity flavour and an enviable tan.
The ducks here are all reared on farms owned by the restaurant, guaranteeing their quality in upbringing and in taste. You even get a wee certificate providing the breeding number and other stats on your duck should you feel line investigating the origins of that which graces your plate!
When the masterpiece arrives, it is accompanied by a chef who expertly slices it in front of you…
The process is incredible to watch- taking around only 4/5 minutes to prepare, a whole bird gives two full plates of meat- an auspicious 108 slices to be precise; each slice the perfect balance of meat and melt-in-the mouth, crispy skin…
You are also given the head to pick away at, which with a satisfying crunch is split in half for easier access and eating… Umm, maybe next time, ay!?
To eat, you smear thick bean sauce onto thin pancakes, pile on your duck slices, skinny cucumber strips and strings of spring onion before folding taco-style and scoffing with mighty eye-rolling, lip-licking pleasure…
The difference between this and other ‘Peking duck’ we’ve had before is pretty laughable- this meat was so tender & juicy; the fat rendered so thin its no longer greasy but rather just dissolves… Not at all like the drier shredded versions we thought were King before!
If heading to Beijing to try this, we reckon it’s definitely worth it to splurge on the good stuff!
We didn’t try any of the cheaper street versions (which you can find everywhere!), but to be honest, if you’re going to spend the money, better to do it once and do it right, right?!
So… reckon this looks good enough to travel for?! Have you tried ‘real deal’ Peking duck? How do you reckon it compares to your local?! Let us know your food thoughts below!