Wednesday, September 24, 2008

My First Peking Duck Experience

Last night, we went out for a friend's birthday to one of the ritzy Peking Duck restaurants in town. We showed up around 9PM, so I was very sleepy the entire time. There was a 30 minute wait, so we took a number and helped ourselves to the tea, pop, water, and wine that was available while you waited for your table (this place was quite fancy and full of foreigners). We sat down and paged through a huge tome filled with elaborate descriptions and pictures of side dishes that you could order with your duck. We settled on a nice variety, and waited for the appearance of the legendary duck. After some time, a man in a tall white hat arrived with our duck on a large platter and began to carve it with no lack of ceremony. I'm not sure if he was really the a cook or someone who just went around carving duck.

So the duck arrived on our table along with a stack of pancakes and 8 accompaniments: plum sauce, various julliened veggies, garlic paste, pickled cabbage, something black and salty, and rock sugar. A friend demonstrated the proper technique for loading your pancake with sauce, duck, and veggies, then folding and eating, all using chopsticks. It was quite an exercise. There was also crispy skin slices which you dipped in the rock sugar before eating (this was my favorite). After the duck came a milky-looking soup. It wasn't clear to me whether this soup was made from duck, or just what you usually eat afterwards, but it wasn't very spectacular.

All in all, I was pretty disappointed with the flavor of the duck. The meat was very moist, but didn't actually seem to taste like anything. The skin was awesome, but how could it not be? I'm glad we went once, but I'm not sure I need to go eat it again, especially for the cost of 70 plates of dumplings.

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