We’d already had a pretty full day, what with Tiananmen Square, The Forbidden City and the Silk Factory tour, and had worked up quite an appetite by midday, so we opted to eat our only “included dinner” at that time.
Our guide, a 12-year veteran of customizing his clients’ itineraries, suggested we enjoy our meal in “the original” Qianmen Quanjude Restaurant, which is in an older, more “authentic” building. Beijing Duck is now quite the tourist draw, and I spotted at least four restaurants specializing in that and only that on the inner city map. And although I usually avoid stairs, I loved our view from the second floor of this wonderful old building.
We knew we were having roast duck, but we left the ordering of the “sides” to our guide, who did a fabulous job of catering to all our preferences. For me, he made sure there was no soy in anything, so I was free to indulge in all the tasting plates set on the table without fear of poisoning myself. (The others were free to add soy sauce to whichever foods they wanted.)
The chef—or at least the guy wearing the tall, white, chef hat, brought a cart right to our table and carved our bird there. Our guide knows everyone, so he got a bag full of duck carcasses to take home to make soup. I suspect there were plenty of good pieces in the bag, too, and I don’t begrudge him that bonus in the least. We definitely had plenty to eat!
For starters, we got to sample the roast duck skin. Our guide showed us how to gently tap it into a little tray of sugar before popping it into our mouths. The sweet, slightly salty, and crunchy texture was addicting, and we emptied that “appetizer” tray rather quickly.
Then the duck dishes just kept coming—much more than the meat of the one solitary duck we saw carved. One had been roasted with cumin, another in a kind of BBQ brine. There was sweet and sour duck, and thin slices to wrap in tortilla-like see-through thin pastry, along with green onions, bok choy, and so forth. Each of us had a different “favorite” preparation.
We also had a plate of fruit, roasted chestnuts, and some phyllo dough pastry cookie thing for dessert. We very nearly cleaned the whole table of food, and were more than satisfied by this experience when our meal was finished.
And now I am among the few who can honestly say they’ve eaten Beijing Duck… IN BEIJING!!