Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Peking Duck in Beijing

Back in November, when we cemented our travel plans to China and Thailand, Justin began diligently researching the duck restaurants in Beijing. For weeks on end conversations revolved around the peking duck. Which place would really have the crispest skin, the most fatty of fatty ducks, the best flair upon serving? From where I sat it seemed as though Justin envisioned Beijing as one huge crackling duck ready to eat.

On day 3 of our journey we decided it was time to try the duck. Interestingly, in Beijing it is called Beijing duck, the title of Peking having been left in the olden days. We presented our 2 top duck restaurant choices to the lovely staff at our hotel. It was hotly debated. Each place had their merits. Each place had it's downfalls. Each place was a favorite with more then one person on the staff. It was a tough choice - brows were knitted, maps consulted, other staffers called over to discuss. Justin was drooling on the counter with anticipation.

In the end, we decided on the place closest to our hotel, Quan Jude. It took a few wrong turns to actually get there, up a flight of stairs and into a large, mostly empty waiting room. When we got there we had to take a number and the hostess would literally SHOUT into the microphone (in Chinese) at the 8 people waiting for a table, who were about 10 feet away at most. It was a hilarious start to a much anticipated meal. Everyone would wince in unison when she picked up the microphone. Once our number was finally yelled at us, and then translated in an equally intense manner, we were shown to our table. The place was bright and pretty and everyone was very nice (and far quieter in the dining room).

We ordered a whole duck, at this restaurant they cook it over fruit wood and carved the duck at your table. It was served with baskets of steamed pancakes, pickles, onions and sauce. Our duck came in short order and was carved into 144 pieces with panache! Even the head, sliced in half was presented. Apparently the smoked brain was a tasty nibble not to be missed. Justin and I prepared our first pancake, salivating and giggling with anticipation. 8 months of anticipation was about to come to an end.

My first bite of duck made me think of stinky fish second bite was pretty much the same. I really couldn't tell Justin this. He was wrapped and eating duck pancakes at a rapid rate. I ate one or 2 more pancakes, loading on the pickles and forcing a grin. It was so fatty and fishy and really not flavorful the way I imagined it would be. It needed salt. It needed something. I ended up feeling so gross from all the fat in it - and just the fishiness of it- that even now, weeks later I feel queazy when I think about it.

Surprisingly, Justin was also was a little let down by the experience. But, like the champion eater he is, he finished the WHOLE duck and even enjoyed the brain.

Later that night, when I admitted my true feelings about the duck, he almost agreed. It just wasn't what we had expected. We never did make it to the other Peking Duck place. Honestly, there were so many other fabulous things to eat we didn't want to waste a meal on another iffy experience.

On another note, these 2 gas mask canisters were kindly left in our room, for our convience. Since it was the first thing we saw in China, after having our tempature taken 15 times to double and triple check we were swine flu free, it was both funny and scary. We never had to open them :)

Check out my other travel posts!
Breakfast in China

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