Greetings from the future!
Hello dear readers! It’s just past 11:30 p.m., and I am sleepily writing this dispatch with a belly full of Peking duck. I’ve had Peking duck before in the U.S., but experiencing this famous dish in its namesake city (Beijing used to be called Peking in English before the modern pinyin transliteration) was an unforgettable food-life moment.
From preparation to table side presentation and demonstration, the Peking duck makes for a collaborative and hands-on affair — more than just a meal, it’s an occasion. Here are five steps to ordering and eating Peking duck based on our experience tonight.
1. Order a whole duck. I don’t care if you’re dining alone. The presentation is lost on a half order, so bring a friend to dinner or make room in your stomach because it’s worth it.
2. Not too long after putting in the order, the chef and his carving station rolled up to our table to deliver the whole, crispy and beautifully browned duck, and without a word he began carving away.
3. Once a plate full of meat was ready (there will be several total), the waitress began her demonstration of how to assemble the meal. Peking duck is served with paper thin pancakes to wrap the duck and its fixings. From what I could discern, the fixings included cucumber, pickled radish, scallion, finely minced garlic and the critical fermented bean sauce (like hoisin sauce). Additionally, there were two condiments that I couldn’t identify, but one tasted sweet like a firm piece of strawberry jam and the other was possibly a mushroom type of relish. The waitress wore a clear mouth shield to presumably prevent her from spitting or breathing on our food during the presentation, which was interestingly considerate.
4. Chris and I struggled to mimic the waitresses’ graceful finesse but ultimately had to resort to using our hands to get a pancake rolled up and from plate to mouth.
5. And don’t forget to try a piece of duck skin dipped in sugar! It’s a flavor combination that pushes the savory/sweet envelope.
That’s Peking duck in five steps. Oh, and lastly step six: find a bed and give into your duck fat induced coma.