Today I went to lunch with a small group of volunteers, including Mei Li, one of the Mandarin speaking volunteers. Mei Li had been craving Peking Duck and made reservations at a very nice place just a few blocks from my apartment called DaDong. Peking Duck is a famous dish in Beijing (Beijing used to be named Peking), and it’s considered one of the national foods of China. Ducks are bred specifically for the dish and then roasted.
We ate so much.
The waitress worked with Mei Li to create a menu for us. There must have been a dozen dishes – at least. They just kept coming. We had chicken, lobster noodles and lobster tail, cod, asparagus, veal, some sort of blueberry mash, two soups, six or seven desserts, a “sorbet” dish, chilled fruit… AND Peking Duck.
Peking Duck looks a little bit like a deep fried turkey – the outside is very crispy and brown. The skin is very thin though, and doesn’t contain any fat (well, it doesn’t include any layers of fat like you might find under the skin of a piece of chicken). A Peking Duck chef presents the entire bird and then carves it for the table. Here’s a quick video of our bird being carved:
You can barely tell that he’s cutting anything because the duck is sliced so thinly.
To eat Peking Duck, you start with the skin; you take a small piece and dip it in sugar. I know that sounds odd, but it is so good!
Then, you eat the rest of the duck… They give you small dishes with sugar, hoisin sauce, strips of cucumbers and radishes, crushed garlic and ginger which you assemble into little wrap sandwiches using warm “tortillas.” The tortillas are very thin and I’m pretty sure they’re made of rice instead of flour.
When we were done with the duck, they took our leftover meat from the table and made a soup out of it – which they served us later in the meal.
The desserts… not so good. Not bad either, I guess, but definitely not the same. Peas turned into gelatin will never call out to me in the middle of the night like a plate of cookies might. When I get back to the US, my first meal might be chocolate cake with a side of Oreo pudding, ice cream and cupcakes.
My camera battery died before I captured all of the dishes and plate arrangements, but you can find a few on Flickr here. The surprising thing about Chinese food is that after you overeat (which I did), you don’t feel terrible.