One of the activities I was secretly looking forward to in China was eating the traditional Peking Duck. I became a fan of Peking Duck in my native Lima, where Chifa, a culinary tradition that mixes Cantonese and Peruvian elements, is one of the most popular types of foods. The Limenean variety of Pecking Duck is served over two courses: the first consists of the traditional roast duck breasts served alongside pancakes, hoisin sauce and scallions; this is followed by a sauté of the dark meat parts and vegetables like bean sprouts, which is usually served with romaine lettuce leaves to make small wraps.
In Beijing, a group of us visited the Shuangyushu branch of the renowned Quanjude Roast Duck Restaurant, only a few blocks away from the Remnin University subway station. Since there was about a dozen of us, we were seated at a private room in a different floor of the restaurant, away from the frenzy of the restaurant’s crowd. The individual dishes started arriving shortly after we ordered. Together, the full duck meal consisted of over 7 dishes and different types of vegetable accompaniments, which made the Peruvian version that I had been used to seem like an appetizer in comparison.
The duck meal opened with thin pieces of crisp skin, which could be eaten alone or dipped in sugar, to stimulate the appetite. Next came the traditional pieces of sliced meat, served with pancakes, cucumber slices, green onions, and sweet bean sauce. As opposed to the Peruvian version, which includes large chunks of meat, the traditional version at Quanjude had mostly skin and little breast meat. Four different dishes of giblets made their appearance soon thereafter. The first was a very smooth and creamy duck liver mousse, or foie gras, which was among the best I have tasted. This was followed by gizzards alongside duck tongues, neither of which I had tried before, but had a delicate flavor. The third was a duck heart dish served with vegetables, which had a strong, gamey taste but was nevertheless one of the groups’ favorites. The last was a dish made from duck blood curd, which I initially stayed away from, but which I finally tried after seeing the positive responses from my more adventurous peers. A vegetable dish made from bitter melon, an Asian fruit I had never tried before, was also served as an accompaniment. The vegetable certainly lived up to its name: its bitterness was overpowering, making it perhaps the least popular dish of the night (although I found it to be an effective palate cleanser, so found myself going back to it repeatedly). The last duck meat dish consisted of deep fried portions of duck breast, which were juicy and given extra flavor by their skin. The duck meal proper was ended by a creamy duck broth, served without any meat and vegetables, and by a sweet duck shaped pastry with a bean paste filling—a great way to end a traditional all-duck banquet.
The duck meal at Quanjude Roast Duck Restaurant was the fanciest meal we enjoyed during our trip to China—it was a delicious and memorable experience that I will certainly look back to whenever I go out to eat Peking Duck back in Lima.