Thursday, November 27, 2008

When in Peking, eat Peking duck

Day 1 Part 2 (Wed, 19 Nov 2008)

This is supposed to be a travel, not a food blog, but we are such foodies that the meals tend to be highlights in themselves.

Dinner on our first day in Beijing was memorable to say the least. My cousin brought us to DaDong – one of the most celebrated Peking duck restaurants in Beijing. To give you an idea of how popular it is, my cousin made reservations for 7pm and we didn’t get a table until 7.45pm. The place was teeming with well-dressed locals and westerners – everyone was patiently waiting for a table, no one dared to complain. The restaurant is so overbooked that you’re lucky if you can get them to accept a reservation. This is practically unheard of in Beijing where new restaurants spring up everyday and the clientele is as fickle as the wind, in a city where gastronomic choices beckon at every corner.

At the waiting area of the restaurant, you can see an army of chefs behind a glass window roasting a factory line of ducks, at a large kiln.

We were starving by the time we got a table and if you weren’t overwhelmed yet, you would be when you saw the menu. A luxurious coffee table style book as thick as a telephone directory is presented to you – the menu. Every page has the name of a dish with a glossy picture – great for non Chinese-speaking westerners. Yet despite its western-friendliness, the food was distinctly Chinese, unlike the fakey stuff some of the fusion restaurants try to pull off. The restaurant regularly adds new, innovative dishes, such is the ingenuity of Chef Dong, the owner of the restaurant.

Of course we ordered the Peking duck – two in fact. According to my cousin and her friend who had joined us for dinner, this was the place with the best Peking duck. This is no idle boast. The duck, perfectly and freshly roasted, was carved in front of us and a waitress demonstrated the three ways of eating it – dipped in sugar, wrapped in skin with spring onion, or stuffed in 烧饼 (sesame biscuit) with radish and cucumber.

The duck was exquisite. I cannot say more. The skin was thin, crisp and without a drop of grease. The meat was tender, moist and soooo yummy. Each duck yielded two plates of duck (as in pic below) and I think one entire plate was consumed by Andre practically alone! He loved dipping it in sugar the most, and he unceremoniously licked the sugar off the plate.

We also ordered a rich, eggy tofu soup with chestnuts, mushrooms with goose liver, stir fried bamboo shoots, and another meat dish that I cannot, for the life of me, remember what. But it was all scrumptious.

My cousin's friend and colleague is a warm and incredibly hospitable person. She bought dinner, in fact. Great company, great food. No better welcome than this!
My cousin took home the two duck carcasses - duck porridge tomorrow!


Lilian said...

The menu is really like a coffee table book filled with gorgeous food pictures. Goose liver sounds delectable!

From the picture, I think this Peking Duck is really the original type, which is more salty than the sweet reddish type that's served in Hongkong restaurants. I prefer the latter, where the skin seems roasted. The original Peking duck seems deep fried, and is very oily; I ordered one when I was in Hongkong, at a highly-recommended restaurant, and we all didn't like it. Guess we are used to the 'bastardised' Hongkong version.

monlim said...

It was definitely more salty than sweet, but it wasn't oily at all. I think that's why my cousin likes this place cos we don't like the greasy type either that's so common in Beijing.

But the duck itself is fat, I don't know how the chef managed to carve the slices without the fat. When we had porridge the next day, it was oily from the duck grease!!

Alcovelet said...

Wahaha! Food!

For Peking Duck in most restaurants in Beijing, I found it strange that they tend to serve the fat together with the skin - this is something I'm not used to at all (and of course, being fat conscious, don't like) as they don't do it here in Singapore. It looks from your photo that the one you had is pretty fat free - just nice crispy skin, yums!

Alamak. I have a bad case of Need-For-Peking-Duck now ... Reading this blog past 12 is high risk, I can see!

monlim said...

Haha! You feel like I always feel after reading Lilian's blog - hungry!! I guess in Beijing, it's all about knowing where to go. True Beijing food is sooo greasy and salty I suppose only the locals who have to endure the extreme cold can stomach.

We originally wanted to try zha jian mian but Kenneth's friend says the Beijing version, you might as well as scoop salt into your mouth :P