First things first, I have no idea why the dish is still known as Peking Roast Duck when the city is now Beijing. I suppose you just don’t screw around with a good thing. (Take note, Prince — or whatever symbol he goes by now.)
I’ve had Peking duck many times before in Chinese restaurants in Canada but never in its namesake. So as they say: when in Rome, er, I mean, Beijing.
There are two restaurant chains famous for their Peking duck. We went to the Quanjude Roast Duck Restaurant. Look for the enormous neon dancing ducks on the outside of the building.
The secret of the duck
The essence of a great Peking duck lies in the skin. It should be a crispy deep red, slightly glistening with oil, with tender slivers of meat underneath.
Cooking a Peking duck is quite complicated. At Quanjude, ducks are roasted in huge ovens, over flames stoked by wood from fruit trees that give added flavour. It takes about an hour for the fat to melt off and the skin to get crispy.
The duck is rolled out to your table when it’s ready and a chef carves it into thin slices with a generous helping of skin. To eat, take a thin flour pancake on your plate, slap on a few pieces of skin/meat, add a spring onion and slather on the sweet sauce (tastes like a hoisin/plum sauce combo). Roll it up like a fajita and enjoy with your hands. Dee-lish.
Other duck delights
Quanjude may stake its fame on the crispy Peking duck but its chefs are just as talented with the rest of the bird. We also had surprisingly tender fried duck heart, boiled duck liver and seasoned duck gizzards.
The duck was great. My cholesterol levels not so much.
Quanjude, 32 Qianmen Avenue. Beijing, China, +86 (0)10 6701 1379. Open daily 11 a.m.-1:30 p.m., 4:30 p.m.-8:30 p.m. Website here.