Beijing Roast Duck, also known as Peking Duck, is more than a culinary delight. It is the capital´s most famous delicacy and also a unique gourmet experience which dates back over 300 years.
Although there are countless of restaurants that specialize in duck, Bianyifang and Quanjude are the most notable ones serving this succulent specialty. Founded in 1416 during the Ming dinasty, Bianyifang is the oldest restaurant preparing the iconic dish in Beijing.
Quanjude, on the contrary, was established in 1864 and has been granted numerous distinctions such as “China Renowned Trademark” and “International Gold Award for Quality Management”. Heads of states, politicians, foreign dignitaries and celebrities have visited the famed restaurant.
The main difference between the two distinguished restaurants lies in the way they roast their ducks. Bianyifang has a closed-oven roasting technique while Quanjude is the representative of the hung-oven roasting. Yang Quanren, the founder of Quanjude, was in fact the inventor of the kiln like oven.
Memorable First Night in Beijing
Our gastronomy journey began hours after landing in Beijing. We had been on a plane for more than 10 hours including an endless stopover in Moscow, but despite feeling tired, nothing could dissuade us from tasting the legendary Peking Duck.
That was our first time in China and also in Asia. We got to the Emperor Hotel which was conveniently located right in the heart of the city, took a quick bath, organized our clothes and had a cocktail at the hotel´s rooftop bar to perk ourselves up.
Overlooking the tiled rooftops of Chinese emperor’s former residence, the views from Yin Bar at dusk were simply amazing. Intrigued by the unknown, we left The Emperor Hotel willing to explore the vibrant capital.
As we leisurely strolled around, Chinese´s culture mysteries began to unfold before our eyes. Families playing badmington with their children, elder peacefully enjoying a game of chess or mahjong, a large group of people practicing tai chi, others dancing and singing opera…
We had been told lots of things about China but all my fears disappeared when I saw that magnificent scene of families and friends enjoying themselves. I realized then, how much I loved that atmosphere. More than ever I wanted to immerse myself in that fascinating new culture.
After being tempted with exotic street food like grasshoppers, deep-fried starfish, snake, and all kind of bugs on a stick, we headed to the largest roast duck restaurant in Beijing.
Above the gate, the three Chinese characters of Quanjude inscribed on a tablet welcome its visitors. Apparently, QUAN means perfection without a flaw, JU gathering without departing and DE means virtues to be supreme. Altogether, it conveys the idea of “the complete gathering of virtues”.
Savouring The Imperial Dish at Quanjude
Considered as the most delicious Chinese specialty and regarded as one of China’s national dishes, Peking Duck is more than a dinning experience, it´s like a ritual where every detail is of paramount importance.
Our duck awaited to be masterly carved. The tantalizing aroma wafted toward us as the Quanjude´s skilled chef started slicing. Hypnotized by the process which is an art in itself, we couldn´t help but salivate at the wonderful appearance of the duck. It´s worth mentioning chefs are able to slice between 100 and 120 thin flakes.
The golden-brown color of the duck, the brightness of its crispy skin and the tenderness of the meat make the dish unique in the world of gastronomy. The lacquered skin was magnificent, totally beyond our expectations.
The meat was served with pancakes, scallions, cucumbers and sweet sauce. Kindly, the waitress tried to explain us how we should eat the brilliantly executed dish.
Firstly, the sweet sauce and sugar (this is optional) must be spread over the thin, steamed pancake. Then, the scallions, the cucumbers and the duck slices should be placed on it. Finally, it is wrapped and eaten. We will always remember our first bite. It could be described as a sublime explosion of flavors.
Serving up to 5000 meals a day when filled to capacity, Quanjude restaurant has a floor space of 15,000 square meters divided into 41 dining rooms including one that can serve 600 customers simultaneously. We visited the restaurant on a warm summer night in August and didn´t wait to be seated. Nevertheless, it can get very crowded and it´s probable you´ll have to wait until you are directed to your table.
We also recommend…
As I have mentioned before, there are infinite options to have the famous Peking Duck in Beijing. Bianyifang and Quanjude restaurants are the most notorious ones but we would also like to recommend you Da Dong and Jing Zun restaurants.
Da Dong ´s roast duck is served with a plethora of accompaniments like pickles, cucumbers, radish, mashed garlic and dark savory brown sauce.
Jing Zun could be considered one of the cheapest places to eat the Chinese precious delicacy. Address: 6 Taipingzhuang Nanli, Chunxiu Road, Chaoyang District. 春秀路太平庄南里6号楼北侧