During the homestretch of our trip to China, we returned to Beijing. Of course we had to have Bei Jing Kao Ya (北京烤鸭), aka Peking Duck. In doing my research, I'd come up with a short list which included the old favorite Quan Ju De and the very popular Da Dong. So what we did was poll the Missus' and my Mother In-Laws friends and acquaintances. It seemed an interesting divide, the older generation, more steeped in tradition told us to go to Quan Ju De established during the Qing Dynasty(1864) and long the gold standard for Peking Duck. The younger generation preferred Da Dong, lighter, less fatty, using more modern techniques. To make matters more difficult, there was the possibility of Bian Yi Fang, home of the other Beijing Kao Ya, also established(1855 or 1885) during the Qing Dynasty. The differences in the duck are vast, Quan Ju De makes what they call "hung-roast duck" where the duck is roasted in a wood burning oven fueled by, if I'm to be believed what I was told date wood. Bian Yi Fang makes "closed oven" or "braised" duck. In the end, after being told that, "If you intend to return to Beijing, I'd suggest Quan Ju De, it is considered the original and most famous. Next time, try whatever is most popular, be it Da Dong or whomever might take its place." Which made sense, plus the Missus had Her first Beijing Kao Ya at Quan Ju De and I thought this would be a nice touch to a day where we'd explore what was left of "Her" Beijing.
We took the bus over to the Tiananmen area and walked over to Quan Ju De. We arrived and were escorted up the elevator to the dining area, which was quite busy.
When our duck arrived we were handed a card with our duck's serial number and some information. I made sure to tell the Missus, "it's ok, only a number....if our duck had a name, we wouldn't be able to eat it."
Our duck arrived and was carved for serving......
We both loved the Tian Mian Jiang, also known as sweet bean paste, sweet noodle sauce, or plain sweet duck sauce. It's not hoisin, Tian Mian Jiang is more savory and much more salty than hoisin.
The pancakes for the duck were very thin, you could almost see through them and had a fine mild stretch.
You are of course, waiting for the duck photos, so here goes:
As is customary with this type of duck service, the meat was carved and placed on a plate. Slices of meat covered by skin. I gotta say, this wasn't the neatest presentation I've ever seen.
The really crisp skin was placed on another plate....this was really great stuff.
Crisp, yet light, after the first "crunch" it almost melts in your mouth. The rest of the duck was rather oily and a bit on the rich side, but the meat had a nice flavor to it.
We also each got a small bowl of bone soup, something the Missus usually really enjoys, but this one was too funky for Her, having a strong almost offal flavor.
I kinda liked it.....very thick, with a real "wild" flavor.
We also needed something with a nice crunch and a bit of bitterness to offset the rich duck so we went with some simple gai lan.
No big deal.....
Overall, this was a mixed bag...not quite as good as expected, except for the crisp skin. The Dan Bing and Tian Mian Jiang were excellent.
As we finished our meal, the Server told us to go upstairs where we could see the ducks being prepped to roast. For me, this was actually the highlite of the meal.
The ducks were hung getting ready for the ovens which still burn fruit wood. A couple of years back there was a big uproar when Quan Ju De made the decision to go with electric burning ovens. The backlash was so bad that the decision was reversed and the chain still uses the wood burning ovens for roasting the ducks.
After lunch we got on another bus as the Missus tried to find our way to Her "roots" in Beijing. I've done earlier posts on the Missus and QingDao, where She spent Her childhood. The Missus ended going to high school in Beijing, so we set-off in search of the school, heading down streets turning into various hutongs. We first managed to find where my Father In-Law first taught in Beijing. Originally Furen University, formed by the Order of Saint Benedict, Furen eventually merged with Beijing Normal University. The Missus made sure to stop and take a couple of photos for Her father, telling me that this is one of the few places that looks almost the same as She recalled.
The Missus was able to gain Her bearings from the front of the university, leading me down the narrow alleyways of the hutong, along a path She walked everyday about 20 years ago. Her "compass memory" took over as we walked pass doorways and little shops, winding our way through the hutong, the Missus telling me that this was among the last bit of the Beijing of Her memory that still exists.
After one of the turns, She stopped in front of these gates.......
These were the dormitories, where the Missus lasted a whole week before moving back in with Her parents. Having room-mates just isn't Her thing. I sometimes marvel at still being in one piece after all these years......
After a couple of more streets, alleys, and turns we stopped in front of these gates.
"You went to high school in a Prince's palace?"
"Yeah, I totally forgot....."
"Man, that's pretty neat, kind of cool....."
"Not really, I mean it wasn't important enough for me to remember...."
Just then we were jarred out of our reverie by the ringing of bicycle bells. A hoard of pedicabs came to a stop. Turns out that Prince Tao's Mansion, aka Beijing numer 13 High School is a stop on the "Hutong Tour".
For some reason, this tripped a wire and set off my somewhat weird sense of humor. I just found it funny in a odd way. Like your high school being a stop on a Hollywood Map tour kind of way...... I still chuckle when I think of it.....my wife went to high school in a former Prince's Palace that is a stop on the Hutong Tour....I know, you had to be there........