An Insider's Guide on a Beijing Roast Duck Adventure
A tour to Beijing would be senseless without taking a bite of the roast duck that the capital holds for pride for centuries. Peking Duck is as universally renowned as the Chinese Great Wall, both of which are must-have for visitors to Beijing. The duck features mouth-watering brown luster, crispy skin and juicy meats that lusciously melt in one's mouth.
A life-time Peking duck experience could be fulfilled by their arcane cooking methods, delicate ways of serving and most importantly the palatable mouthfeel. Here we will direct you on how to order and eat Peking duck like a veteran as well as the best restaurants to obtain a lifetime Peking duck experience.
The traditional Beijing roast duck is definitely not a simple dish that one can manage in a home kitchen. Making a deliciously crispy and tender Peking duck usually needs a long-time and sophisticated process, but it is worth the effort.
After being slaughtered and plucked, the duck would be firstly pumped by air through the neck cavity so that its skin would be off from meat underneath and the fat will drain from the duck as it renders. Then the guts of the duck are removed through a tiny hole under one of the wings, and the belly is stuffed with wheat or sorghum to keep the skin taut.
Next, the whole duck would be lacquered with maltose syrup or honey to have a rich red-brownish color. After drying up, finally the duck would be hung upright in an oven heated by fruitwoods. Boiling water inserted into its check cavity steaming the meat tenderly and slowly, while the fire renders the skin into crispy.
The ordering is not just about a duck, which actually depends on how to enjoy it and what with. For a successful Peking duck experience on your own, here we will walk you through the tips on ordering.
Most brand duck restaurants in Beijing offer similar menus. There is a whole duck (for 3-5 people) and a half duck (1-2 persons) available for ordering. The duck would come with some side dishes like pancakes, sesame cakes, cumcumbers, scallions, hoisin sauce and garlics. If you want to go all duck, you can opt to have the skin going with Chinese pancakes, the meat as a main dish and the duck bones made into soups.
Even you could order some entrails of ducks like heart, liver, or tongue. The easiest way is, of course, to follow a set menu that most roast duck restaurants provide to first timers. There will be attendant helping you choose the package that suits the number of diners.
The duck would be delivered to your table right out of the oven, remaining fresh and hot, while the service of knife-wielding chef is an eye-catching course at the beginning of the big treat. Your chef will first come to your table to handle the roast duck in an amusing but sophisticated manner. They have incredible skills to take off the inflated skin while the flesh underneath is completely undisturbed. The duck is carefully split and sliced into more than 120 pieces, and placed neatly in the plate. Watch carefully, because it takes literally seconds to finish the artistic action.
The mind-bogglingly crisp skin is the essence of whole duck, and there are special techniques to enjoy it at most. Once the chef takes down and slice it, you could grab the slivers of skin, dip them into the sugar sauce and throw them into your mouth. It is definitely a glorious and shatteringly crispy bite that you would never forget. Let all the skin melt over your tongue, and then move onto the hands-on wrapping part.
Now you could pick one of the thin pancakes, spread a small amount of the sweet bean sauce, add several slices of the duck meat, slivers of scallion, spring onions, cucumbers, and even smashed garlics. Roll it up and enjoy the juicy meat with layers of seasonings that flow into your mouth just in one bite. If you opt for the baked sesame cakes, you could just split it into halves as a sandwich bun, and stuff it with same fillings for a mouth-watering treat!
There are over ten renowned Peking duck brands with branch restaurants across Beijing city. Here below we list some of the most popular restaurants favored by foreign travelers, which can be accessed from most centrally-located hotels.
Founded in 1864 during Qing Dynasty, Quanjude is the oldest and most well-established Peking roast duck restaurant in China. With branches across the globe, Quanjude is the brand that introduces Peking duck to the rest of the world. They offer unique all-duck banquets and more than 400 special dishes, while the mid-range price makes it affordable to any travelers to the city.
1. No. 30 Qianmen Street, Dongcheng District
2. No. 14 Qianmen West Street, Xicheng District
3. No. 9 Shuaifuyuan Hutong, Wangfujing Street, Dongcheng District
As another time-honored brand, Bianyifang Roast Duck Restaurant offers something new for the experienced foodies. There you can not only find the authentic ducks of original flavor, but also ducks in rich flavors, such as flowers, tea, lotuses, garlics and dates. Different from the open-oven roasting methods, their ducks are roasted in a closed oven, making the skin crispier and meat juicier.
1. No. 18 Chongwenmen Outer Street, Glory Plaza 4/F, Chongwen District
2. Xianyukou, East Side of Qianmen Street, Chongwen District
Named after the restaurant's owner and chef Dong Zhenxiang, Dadong is one of the most sought-after brand especially for locals. The cooking method of roast duck is greatly innovated concerning a healthy diet. The waitress is friendly and willing to show customers different ways to enjoy the duck. There are always waiting lines in the restaurants, so making a reservation is suggested.
1. Southeast corner of Changhong Bridge on East 3rd Ring Road, Chaoyang District
2. F1-2, Nanxincang International Mansion, Dongsishitiao, Dongcheng District
3. Floor 6, Donghua Gold Street Shopping Center, 301 Wangfujing Street, Dongcheng District
If you want to find the most authentic duck of old Beijing, Sijiminsu would be your option. The restaurant features a traditional flavor of the roast duck, and offers genuine Beijing dishes like Zhajiangmian. Ducks are expertly roasted to get shatter-crisp skin and unctuously tender flesh. Particularly, the restaurants are blessed with classic atmosphere with stylish décor and well-drilled staff, while you could sat alongside locals instead of tourists.
1. No. 11 Nanchizi Street, Dongcheng District, near the east gate of the Forbidden City
2. No. 23 Dongsi Shitiao, Dongcheng District
Hidden in a narrow hutong southeast of Qianmen, Li Qun is a family-run restaurant established by Zhang Liqun, a former chef at the Quanjude. The restaurant is more like a run-down neighborhood hangout, where dinners can have an authentic courtyard experience with unique atmosphere. Frequented by both locals and foreigners, reservations are needed in case of queuing in line.
1. No. 11 Beixiangfeng Hutong, Qianmen Dongdajie, Dongcheng District