It's a given that no visit to Beijing
would be complete without a walk, however brief or labored, on the
Great Wall of China and a visit to the Forbidden City. Equally so,
no sojourn in this magnificent capital city would be worth its
stamp without experiencing the course-by-course wonders of a Peking
duck dinner at one of the city's gargantuan duck houses.
legend, the first Peking duck dinner was served in 184 during the
Tongzhi reign of the Qing Dynasty.
There is no
reason to believe that the basic recipe has changed much in the
intervening years: Take a freshly killed duck, immerse it in a
traditional mix of condiments and spices, blow it full of air to
separate the skin from the meat and then roast it over a fruit-tree
wood fire until it turns date-red.
Once the duck is
done, its skin oiled and crispy, the carver -- with a sanitary mask
over his mouth and nose and disposable plastic gloves on his hands
-- cuts the tender meat into slices, with skin attached, and serves
them with thin pancakes, scallions and a thick plum sauce. It is
the diner's responsibility to fold all of the ingredients, into a
neat pocket for easy, if somewhat messy, eating.
best-known chain of Peking duck restaurants is that of the Qaunjude
Restaurant, which include outlets familiarly known to locals as Big
Duck, Small Duck, Wall Street Duck -- the connection, apparently,
is nearby financial services -- and the so-called Sick Duck,
located near the Beijing Union Medical College Hospital.
At the Wall
Street Duck, framed photos of President Richard Nixon, Zhou Enlai
and other 20th century political notables line the walls of the
seven-story restaurant, where more than 2,000 guests can be
accommodated in more than 40 separate dining rooms.
One can only
guess how many ducks meet their maker on a daily, weekly, monthly
or yearly basis here.
information on duck houses, go to www.chinaquanjude.com.
in Beijing are:
China Club: Don't expect to walk in here off the street
and get a table. The China Club -- Beijing, an offshoot of an
exclusive Hong Kong property and the former residence of former
Republic of China President Yuan Shikai, is a lavish restaurant/inn
set in a 400-year-old, courtyard-style Qing Dynasty complex of
traditional palace rooms.
To become a
member requires a $20,000 initiation fee and $1,500 in annual dues.
Among the specialties at a recent banquet: marinated tuna with
vermicelli; deep-fried sweetened-corn roll filled with shredded
chicken; steamed sliced garoupa (fish) with Yunnan ham and black
mushrooms; and sauteed cauliflower with chopped egg and
with an excess of free-enterprise bucks to spend, a good word from
a knowledgeable concierge should be enough to get you a table for
Restaurant: This opulently decorated venue specializes in
the seafood cuisine of Hangzhou, which is at once a major
metropolis, the capital city of Zhejiang province and home to West
Lake, reputedly one of the most beautiful locations in
The name of the
restaurant means "giggling baby," of whom there are more than a few
encountered on the streets of Beijing. With 80 dining rooms, it is
a perfect place for a group get-together. It's also centrally
located, close to the Forbidden City.
To contact reporter Joe Rosen, send e-mail to [email protected].
For more details on this article, see "The Forbidden City: History with a dash of