MUCH QUACK ABOUT DUCK
(Snapshots from Beijing, Part Three)
One of the de rigueur things to do in Beijing is to eat Peking duck. Thus, all tour groups include a lunch or dinner at one of the famous restaurants specializing in this succulent bird.
Just right off the plane, our guide announced with great flourish that we were having lunch at Quanjude Roast Duck Restaurant. She described in great detail how the 65-day-old ducks (take note, only "white-feathered" ducks were used) were "cooked the traditional way" (i.e. roasted for several hours under a wood-fuelled fire).
Preparation of the duck also apparently involves forcefeeding it with mash for the last 20 days before cooking it . . . ahh, but let's not get into that, lest our appetites get spoiled, okay?
As we went up the dark staircase to the second floor, on the landing were black & white pictures of various well-known personalities who had eaten at this resto over the years, most notably Mao Zedong and Henry Kissinger.
So there we were, feasting on various dishes when the Peking duck was wheeled in. It looked, well, quite ordinary and the same as any other duck i've eaten locally.
The waitress was supposed to carve the crispy skin and attached meat into a hundred pieces (don't ask me why. . . so that the duck gets a 100 lives in duck heaven, perhaps? :D) before serving, but everyone had heightened expectations by this time and wanted to get their hands on it as soon as possible and no one bothered to keep count anyway.
Pretty soon, everyone at our table was busy assembling slices of duck and slivered scallions, dashed with hoisin sauce, over the thin, white pancakes.
I took that first bite, and savored the crispy skin and fat of the duck mixing with the other ingredients. Hoisin sauce started dribbling down the right side of my mouth.
So, what was the verdict?
Well, i would have loved to say that this 'authentic' Peking duck was so fantastic, that it felt like the clouds roared and the blue skies parted, and a heavenly choir of angels appeared in immaculate, gleaming white robes, singing the "Hallelujah" chorus of Handel's Messiah.
But no . . . it was just . . .okay. Nothing great or spectacular about its taste or texture or flavor. I wouldn't even say it was the best Peking duck i've ever had!
In short, overrated.
[For a much more detailed account of a Peking duck lunch, with picture of an actual duck (!), please check out fellow blogger Gypsy Soul's post here, taken during her Beijing trip last year]