Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Day 5 - Part III - Do you still call it Peking Duck if you are eating it in Beijing?

Yes, you do - because you just do.

We got a taxi and went to a well known and repeatedly recommended Peking Duck restaurant.  And we got the full experience.

The plate of condiments alone was enough to convince me this would be something special.

(clockwise starting from top right:  scallions, duck sauce  [no duck, sauce to go with duck],  sugar, garlic paste, salty condiment, spicy condiment, cucumber, radish-
this was the "watermelon radish," green outside, white stripe, red inside.)
But the way the rest of the food came, well, let me just say, I've never eaten such artistic and excellent bamboo shoots.  And yes, those are ducky chop-stick rests in the background.

The whole experience was pretty darn authentic, from the live crab sitting on the table as you entered, all the way through the chef bringing out your own personal duck before carving to show that it indeed came out right.

After presenting you your duck, they take it out into the hall carving station where they carve off delicate slivers of meat attached to the delightful crispy skin.  They bring it back artfully assembled into some sort of delicious ducky puzzle.

We assembled quite a number of tasty creations using puffy sesame buns and little rice flour pancakes - and the concert of condiments - 

and then got to the most fun part of the duck; the legs and wings.  Generally, I'm not a big fan of these parts on a duck, stringy and/or greasy.  However, in the intricately inflated and fried version, they become wonderful crispy treats.

Asian cuisine has a texture element that many Americans - and many other Westerners either ignore, are repulsed by, or just don't get.  Just watch the original, Japanese episodes of Iron Chef.  Much of the critique centers around ideas of texture, mouthfeel, and my favorite, the "thick flavor."  
I'm not going to claim any superiority here and say how my 3 week trip to the Mysterious East has given me some special insight into textures, and I can now enjoy foods on a deeper level.  Despite my best efforts and wishful thinking, some of the rubbery, squishy, yielding etc. textures still leave me baffled (or just cold).  But that night I really enjoyed the crispy, crunchy, stringy fun of those fried legs and wings.

Tavin again ventured into unknown territory, and ordered corn juice.  It had potential, but it came hot.

 Unlike our idea of juicing vegetables cold or at room temp., we were to discover in China they are enjoyed warm, hot and/or mixed with soya milk.  I have to say the cucumber drink was the most disappointing to him.  He loves cucumbers.  But he was a trooper, always willing to try one more time.

We ended up giving our server a little shock as she tried to help Tavin construct a ducky pancake.  She went to pick up his chopsticks, but then dropped them in surprise - as they were connected with a chopstick boinger.

 These useful doohickees were available alongside the straws at a Colorado restaurant called Tokyo Joe's.  I'd saved a small handful when we moved because they were so handy.  And they proved to be so all through this trip.  And not just for confusing the locals.

To top it all off we got the teeniest sweet oranges I have ever encountered.  I've seen kumquats that might outweigh them.

Despite all the lovely tea,

we were ready for bed after that meal, and once again fell into bed.

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