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Middlesex County, New Jersey
August 13, 2010
April 17, 2009
New York, New York
March 28, 2009
December 27, 2008
July 30, 2007
From journal Beijing’s Chongwen District: Scratching Beneath the Surface of the City
February 18, 2005
From journal China in January
August 29, 2002
The Liqun Roast Duck is a small restaurant of big renown. It exists in a charming hutong in the Dongcheng district. Part of the pleasure of eating here was the journey to the restaurant. One of the friendliest octogenarians I have met came up to me as I was walking and we had one of those fantastic conversations where all he knew in English was "how do you do" and I all knew in Mandarin was "nihao". Nonetheless, I will never forget his huge toothless smile, old school Mao jacket and strong handshake. I would have invited him to eat with me if I didn’t think his toothless-ness might be a problem.
Had I known how perfectly cooked, how succulent this meal would be, I would have brought him along. Teeth were almost unnecessary as the meat itself almost melted in my mouth.
The trick to a great duck, while it may be ancient, is no family secret at Liqun. To enter the restaurant it is necessary to walk through the kitchen and it’s hard to miss the sight of a chef blowing up a duck, literally. It looked like he was giving it mouth to mouth (or beak, rather). I learned from the hostess (the owner’s daughter) that this tactic of preparation served to separate the skin from the fat and allowed for the duck to be moist, juicy and perfect to the palate. They have been honing this technique for over 600 years so it is understandable that they have it down to a science.
The duck was carved at my table and I ate it with pancakes, cucumbers and hoi sin sauce. However, while this may be the most western friendly part of the meal, the Chinese enjoy the entire duck (and I do mean entire). Every part of the duck will be used. For appetizers there are the fried liver & heart, boiled tongues, and the soft webbed skin of the feet. Eventually, when the choicest morsels of the duck are devoured, the rest is made into duck soup. I admit that some of this, at first glance, wasn’t that appetizing. However, I have a philosophy when dining in foreign lands that has helped me enjoy some very conceptually off-putting, dishes. DON’T LOOK AT IT; JUST EAT IT.
At Liqun you have the chance to eat like an emperor. Enjoy and, occasionally, keep your eyes closed!
From journal Beijing, yeah baby, yeah!