Tuesday, April 19, 2011: Beijing Cuisine
全聚德 Quanjude: Peking Roasted Duck
Man we were hungry by 5pm that day. We met up with our driver, who was incredibly nice that he brought us fresh vegetables to eat. He drove us back to the hotel, and all the while, Mom and I were munching on a long cucumber. Yes, I took my time with my cucumber, and Kelly later told me I looked pained eating the raw green vegetable. I never craved to have salt at hand as that particular time =/
We fetched for Dad and went out for dinner. He had to hobble like a tortoise with his ‘Lucy’ walker. I never had to walk this slow in my life, but I had to support my pops like a good daughter.
I loved how amidst the high, old Chinese style buildings there was a Starbucks. Yes, Starbucks, every medical student’s crash concoction and every New Yorker’s morning addiction. It’s like Starbucks was teleported back in time to the Ming dynasty and served up the imperial rulers and concubines.
Our driver/tour guide now suggested we ate at this famous Peking Duck House called 全聚德 Quan Ju De. What does the restaurant’s name symbolize? Quan (全) means complete perfection, Ju (聚) means gathering without departing, and De (德) means virtues to be supreme. Therefore, Quanjude together implies perfection, union, and benevolence.
Serving the best roast duck in all of Asia since 1864 during the Qing dynasty, Quanjude has kept its traditions and continues to attract tourists and natives alike every day. The chefs cook the perfect duck using open ovens and non-smoky hardwood fuel such as Chinese date, peach, or pair to add a dash of fruity flavor. To top of the wonderful aroma and flavorful flesh is the golden-brown crispy skin oozing with glittering grease. Originally made for the imperial families, Peking Duck is now enjoyed by all of Asia, the West, young and old. Under the first Quanjude manager, Yang Ren Quan, who obtained an old chef from the imperial palace after selling street meat, the restaurant became the first to bring roast duck to the common people. Multiple Quanjude branches operate together, forming one of the biggest, busiest food enterprises in China.
This is by far my absolute favorite restaurant! THE BEST. Of course, it’s expensive, well-decorated, and high class. You also have to wait in a LONG-ass line. Good thing Mr. Kang went ahead and got us a ticket while we were escorting Dad. Even then, we had a solid 15-minute wait. The place was packed to the limit, downstairs AND upstairs, but everyone was merrily drinking and festive. The place had a radiating atmosphere, thanks to the expansive restaurant, superb service, camaraderie, and stomach-satisfying cuisine. You certainly get what you pay for. It is the place to eat the original and most authentic Peking Duck. Perfect for families, friends, and couples, Quanjude is absolutely delightful!
My family ordered a whole slew of appetizers, cold and hot, with Peking Duck as the main course, of course. As China’s pride and joy, it’s 北京烤鴨 ‘Beijing Kao Ya’ in Chinese, literally translating to Beijing’s Fire-Roasted Duck. Here’s a sample of what we ate: spicy pepper and potato slices, mushed light taro, Chinese dates, duck, gimbap vegetable roll, lemon-flavored sweet and sour meat, flaky and crunchy taro cake, and liver.
The highlight of the dinner was obviously the Peking Duck. I’ve been raving about it since way in the beginning. One of the master chefs comes out with a cart and skillfully carves the gorgeous duck right in front of you. Boy was it cooked to perfection! The tender, smoky meat is wrapped with sliced cucumbers and green onions with just a light slab of savory oyster sauce, all bundled together in a thin tortilla wrap called 餅 bo bing. We had two different types of 薄餅 bo bing, one was made from corn and the other was regular white wheat. I think I ate maybe 5 of those babies. So delicious!!! By one of my last ones, I was still too excited I dropped a bo bing onto the floor. I got a frown from Mom, and Kelly gave me another one. Oops!
Our first night at Beijing concluded with a major food coma. On the drive back to the hotel, our driver, who’s name is Mr. Kang, took us near Tianamen Square. We got a night view of the square ahead of time, as we would be visiting it the next morning. That will be next post!