Peking duck is one of China’s most famous dishes for good reason. Specially-bred and fattened ducks are glazed and hung in a wood fire to roast until the browned skin is crisp and the meat succulent. A specialty of Beijing, roast duck was first mentioned in a cookbook for the royal kitchen in the 14th century. The delicacy was soon being enjoyed by the landed aristocracy and was introduced to the rest of society in the 19th century with the opening of Quanjude restaurant. Today, Peking duck has become as synonymous with China as the panda bear.
We had a mind-blowing experience with roast duck in Beijing and wanted to see if we could replicate it in Shanghai. Some quick online research led me to Lao Beijing, a Bund-area restaurant said to have some of the best quackers in town.
The extensive menu was explained to us in English by a friendly server. In addition to a range of a la carte Chinese dishes, there were several set meals from which to choose. Since we were a party of four, we ultimately decided on the “Emperor” roast duck set, which would include the whole duck from beak to tail.
Soon after our order was placed, a chef wheeled a cart next to our table and began to expertly carve our roast duck. He began by carefully removing the skin, which was cut into pieces and added to our appetizer plate. Slices of kiwi fruit sat on what looked like Pringles potato chips and dollops of raspberry jam. We were highly skeptical, but the combination was strangely delicious.
While we were busy gobbling down the crispy skin appetizer, the chef finished carving the rest of the bird. The choicest meat and skin were arranged on a plate along with the legs and head which had been cleaved in half. We left the head but devoured the rest, making Chinese-style tacos with paper-thin pancakes and cucumber strips. We had individual cups of plum sauce for dipping, which is a good thing as we got a wee bit competitive for those last succulent pieces.
We had plenty of food, though, as the duck’s innards were next served chop suey-style with yet more pancakes and vegetable strips. I’m not usually one for offal, but even this dish left us licking our fingers.
Letting nothing go to waste, a soup was made from the duck’s bones. This was served in a porcelain vat at the end of the meal. We supplemented our meat extravaganza with a few cold vegetable dishes from the a la cart menu and left more than satisfied.