Monday, January 03, 2011

Old duck Vs Popular Duck, Beijing

When one is in Beijing, the first meal that comes to mind would be Peking Duck.
But Peking duck is served everywhere in Beijing, almost every other tourist friendly street has a 'kao ya' (roasted duck) restaurant.
So where to go?
Googled a little and led me to 2 places,
Bian Yi Fang
This is the oldest Peking duck brand in Beijing, with over 100 years of history.
I didn't find my way to their first branch, but there's a branch fairly near my hotel, hence this was my first dinner in Beijing.
Almost packed to the the brim, we were still rather lucky to get a seat. It was 730pm and we had just missed the peak hour for dinner (yes, Beijingers have their dinner early). We ordered their special Peking Duck, which cost about RM140 per duck. We were warned that we had to wait for almost an hour for the duck, I guess to keep us anticipating and maybe the duck would taste way better than it should :p
Other dishes stave us from hunger, there were some hits and some misses..
Started off with a cold and warm appetizer..
I once had an excellent version of cold beancurd and ear wood fungus in Shanghai, so I ordered it. Alas, it was just mediocre as the five spice powder flavour was just too strong in this.
The warm, sweet lotus stuff with glutinous rice was also rather disappointing as the rice and the lotus root was a tad hard. A rather unrefined version of this dish.
Luckily for us, we hit jackpot with the stir fried fresh bamboo shoots with mushrooms. The wok hei was perfect, making this dish a delicious one.
Before I was in Beijing, one friend reminded me to try Beijing's version of sweet and sour meatball..
I obviously heeded his recommendation, I just wanted to know what's so special about a meatball? And gosh, these balls were absolutely lip smacking! Smaller than the average meatballs, it was moist, slight crisp on the exterior and coated with sticky, tangy sauce. Very addictive and wonderful with white rice.
The prawns were delicious too, but a tad miserly on the serving (they halved the prawns to make it looked like a whole prawn!*shakes head*). Deep fried and coated with sour plumish- spicy sauce, this was another hit amongst my friends.
The mutton was to me, very delicious as it was extremely gamey :p. Juicy, tender meat that went well with their chili powder. Tofu on the other hand, was forgettable...
And the piece the resistance after almost an hour's wait..
Hmmm, they actually serve the skin with duck meat. With different methods of cut. The meat was well marinated and tender- very succulent indeed. The skin, crisp- had a thin layer of fat which melts when you bite into it. Was it good? Yes. Did it blew me away with it's flavours and texture? No.
And to differentiate themselves with the rest of the kao ya dian, they do not serve the duck with sauces. They proudly told us that the duck is tasty on its own. So we had it plain with the pancake and bunsn (which did not score any brownie points from some of my friends)
Now, this is a restaurant that you can find at most of the famous tourist spot. Only 9 years younger than Bianyifang, Quanjude also shared over a 100 years of history in Peking duck making.
But their selling point was their open oven roasting (compared to the rest which are closed oven) using fire from lychee tree branches.
We went to the branch at Houhai Lake, which was an excellent location for dinner (be early though if you don't have reservations).
While we had to wait a long time for the duck in Bianyifang, Peking duck (RM100) in Quanjude was readily available and soon enough, the master carver was already serving us parts of the cuts.
Wangfujing was different, we were served with a piece (each) of the fattest part of the skin (sans the meat). Just dip a bit of salt to savour the fragrance of the skin.
I was, admittedly, taken aback by the texture. The skin was so fatty, it almost felt like I was biting into a sachet of crunchy oil! Lard lovers, you will fall deeply in love with this piece of baby :p.
The duck itself however, was rather bland, though still juicy. I guess that's why we were given plates of thick sauce to eat with the duck and pancake wrap.
The rest of the dishes came trailing in right after we devoured the duck..
The beef rack grilled with black pepper was a supremely top notch dish. Marinated until tender, it had hints of japanese teriyaki, smokiness and black pepper all rolled into one. Each piece was so moist and melting- we had to fight for these few pieces :p. The chicken with cashew nut was also a delicious one, tangy chicken bites coated with a generous amount of crunchy cashews. The pork with knotted beancurd was rather popular among my friends. I thought it was nice (as I've tried a very good version in Shanghai), nothing to shout about though.

The remaining non meat dishes were very tasty...
The fried lily bulbs with ginko and mix vegetables were light, filled with sweet flavours and fresh, crisp texture. The fresh bamboo shoots were also good, though some of my friends do not enjoy the flavour (or smell) emitted from the bamboo shoots. And as some of my friends have never been to China before, I ordered the ever popular apple toffee- something that needs to e devoured immediately as once it's cooled, it will be stuck rock hard on the plate.
If I do have to choose between these 2 restaurants, I would have chose Quanjude for an overall enjoyable meal. Most of the dishes were well executed. But please take note, each Wangfujing branches serves different variety of dishes- I've tried another branch which was not as good. Go for the one at Houhai or the main branch.
As for the duck? If you want to enjoy a more flavourful meat, Bianyifang is the place.
If you want to savour the duck skin, do Quanjude for the lardy, fatty but scrumptious skin.
There's a 3rd place popular for ducks, it's called Dadong, which most unfortunately, I did not have the time to try :(.
Oh, and do note, the Peking duck in Beijing is served as 1 dish, unlike in Malaysia, where after carving, they will cook another dish from the remains of the carved duck.
Bianyifang and Quanjude has quite a number of branches around Beijing city, just google for the one nearest to your hotel/ tourists attraction you plan to visit. Overall meal is not cheap, but hey, its Peking duck in Peking!

Labels: , , , ,


Blogger J said...

OMG. The Quanjude duck skin sound heart stoppingly delicious....
(.. but at the same time, sounds kinda scary...)

04 January, 2011  
Blogger "Joe" who is constantly craving said...

had quan ju de in melbourne, even the plate they use is the same!

04 January, 2011  
Blogger sc said...

J:hahaha it's artery clogging stuff alright..but if you're a fan of zhu yau zhar, you'll love this skin..

joe: oh, they opened a branch in melbourne already? wonder if the quality's the same? hehe. the duck shaped serving plate is the same at most of the larger peking duck establishment in Beijing. think its a standard peking duck plate..

04 January, 2011  
Anonymous jason said...

But that's... ngap yau zhar? Hehehe. I think I would choose Bian Yi Fang for the duck.

05 January, 2011  
Blogger choi yen said...

They way they cut the duck meat roundly very cute :)

06 January, 2011  
Blogger sc said...

jason: spot on! ngap yua zhar! haha

choi yen: yes, the carver's skill was exceptional. we were equally impressed :)

09 January, 2011  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home