BEIJING — Peking duck, also known as Beijing roast duck, has been a mainstay in Chinese cuisine ever since its creation during the Yuan dynasty of 1279-1368.
We’ve long been fans. I enjoy making the dish as well. I order the fresh duck from Grimaud Farms in the San Joaquin Valley.
Grimaud’s trademark Muscovy ducks are delicious and have been served at restaurants ranging from the Zuni Café in San Francisco to Jean-Georges in New York. We have enjoyed them on special occasions.
I sampled Chinese roast duck when I visited Shanghai last fall, noticing that the server used a sharp blade to shave thin slices of the golden-brown duck for plating. I was dining alone, but I could see tables of other diners enjoying the festive experience.
I was eager to eat Chinese duck again — this time in Beijing. I ordered 1/2 of a duck in advance and was seated at a table that faced an open kitchen. It was a front-row seat, like at a chef’s table.
I could see the chefs chopping vegetables and preparing other dishes. One the dishes was malatang, referring to “street food” that is popular in Beijing. (It consisted of skewers of beef, fish and veggies seasoned in spicy fermented bean paste, chili oil and Sichuan pepper broth that was grilled on an open fire).
The roasted Huairou Farms duck was cooked in a wood-fired brick oven (apple, peach and date wood). It was served with leek, cucumbers, sugar, sweet bean sauce and pancakes.
It’s fun to assemble the dish: You place one of the paper-thin pancakes on a plate, and top it with a piece of crispy-skinned, tender duck, cucumber, scallion, and sweet bean sauce, and fold it together. Then grab it with chopsticks. It was delicious.
I ordered a side of wok-fried Chinese kale and minced garlic. I paired it with a glass of French wine (M. Chapoutier, Belleruche Côtes du Rhône Blanc, Rhone Valley). Dessert was a scoop each of homemade green tea and mango ice cream.
It was a wonderful meal and a memorable dining experience, and I also enjoyed the people watching. Good times in Beijing.