You can’t go to Peking without tasting the duck, so after our long day on the Great Wall we treated ourselves to a fine dinner at Quanjude Roast Duck Restaurant. Quanjude is a classic Beijing establishment with a long standing culinary tradition. It’s been serving up portions of plump boneless duck daily since 1864 and is a perfect place to experience this avian culinary treasure.
The Main Quanjude on Quianmen Street
Although Quanjude has several locations, we visited the main one conveniently located in the center of Beijing at 32 Qianmen Street. It’s also close to Tian’ammen Square and the Imperial Palace. Thankfully, we could walk from our room at the Wangfujing Hilton.
The façade features a beautiful Chinese arch.
This Quanjude location has five floors, 41 dining rooms, with a capacity to serve 5,000 roast duck meals daily! Our greeter, adorned in costume, showed us to our dining room.
We rode the elevator to our destination and were seated in one of the many dining halls. The décor was very modern with a disco vibe. In all honesty, I thought it gaudy to the point of sensory overload. Case in point, the walls are back-lit to highlight panels of roses and other mod designs. Not to mention the circular, mirrored dics hanging from the ceiling.
Topping it off are lavender-colored satin table and chair covers.
Despite the decor, the dining room was white-glove clean and the staff worked in metronomic precision.
Peking Duck fit for a King
Quanjude’s heritage of roast duck preparation has evolved over centuries. Originally reserved for imperial families, the upper class ultimately claimed Peking Duck as its delicacy. Today everyone, in spite of income level or class status, can enjoy this succulent dish.
Paying homage to its provenance, specialized chefs have mastered the art of roasting the skin to a soft crispness that melts in your mouth. At Quanjude, the dining experience begins on farms where white-feathered Beijing ducks feed on grains and soybeans. In preparation for the table, the chefs lacquer them with molasses and fill them with air. Next, they hang them from hooks and slowly roast them over an open fire using hardwoods such as Chinese date, peach, or pear to give the meat its unique fragrance. Finally, the culmination of these painstaking steps produces a golden crisp skin. Diners can watch the cooking process through a glass wall.
The Art of Carving a Peking Duck
Dinner at Quanjude is a ceremony in itself. Waiters bring roasted ducks on trays and carefully carve them near your table. A skilled chef is able to cut between 100 and 120 slices in four or five minutes, each slice with an equal portion of skin and meat.
Here’s a photo of our duck breast served in the shape of a flower. The platter is pre-painted with the stem, leaves and typography. Wish I knew what it said.
Tips for Eating Peking Duck
The most popular condiment paired with roasted duck is a dark tangy bean sauce akin to hoisin sauce. Traditionally, hoisin sauce is made using toasted mashed soy beans. Scallions are also a perennial favorite.
If you want to enjoy Peking duck like a true Mandarin, the most common method of consumption is the pancake method. The pancake method employs a few slices of roast duck slathered in hoisin and topped with scallions. Next you simply fold your pancake in half twice and roll.
I think everyone can find something to enjoy at Quanjude. Well, almost everyone.
For once, the Aflac duck was speechless!