on July 14, 2000
Peking Duck, one of the most Epicurean dishes in China, goes way back in time, and while in Beijing we gorged on it. Sometimes the duck comes whole, while other times it arrives already cut up on a plate. You then take the shaves of duck meat, along with a few green onions or leeks, and wrap it up in the Chinese equivalent of a small pancake with some Hoisin plum sauce. One duck serves about four people.Two particular restaurants were faves on our trip: the world famous Quan Ju De, and another spectacular joint called Tian Wai Tian. Both specialize in Peking/Beijing Duck.Quan Ju De, which translates as 'all virtues assemble' is one of the most famous eateries in all of China and it's been around for 150 years. Famous for the giant duck outside the restaurant, Quan Ju De has three locations in Beijing: one in the Xicheng district, one in Hepingmen district and the other in the Wangfujing district.Tian Wai Tian, which means 'Heaven beside Heaven,' is located in the Haidan district, the Northwestern area of Beijing, right down the street from Tsinghua University. It's populated by all walks of life.The Chinese Yuan is about eight to the US Dollar, making it very cheap to eat at these restaurants which are somewhat expensive for the Chinese. We were devouring gourmet meals for next to nothing.At both restaurants we rolled in with a party of at least nine people and the hosts were gracious enough to supply a private room just for us. Being in our own room, completely away from the clamor of the main restaurant, was a treat. We could sit and talk at normal levels, or if we wanted to drink and get loud, no one else could hear us. We literally indulged, wiping out two Peking Ducks, three exotic fish plates, a variety of vegetable dishes, and a couple of beers each, and we only wound up spending about ten dollars a person, which is nothing. In typical Peking Duck fashion, the finale consists of a large bowl of soup containing cabbage and all the bones from the ducks you just gorged on.We were lucky enough to be escorted by an unforgettable Chinese woman, Shen Lei, who spoke impeccable English and ordered everything for us. Both these places don't have English menus, so you might want to do the same. (Well, if worst comes to worst, just find out the Mandarin words for duck, broccoli, fish, beer, or whatever, and you'll be able to communicate well enough to get what you want). These two eateries are highly recommended and famous all over Beijing. We walked by some other eateries that featured mouth-watering delights like, 'Yak Penis With Caterpillar Fungus.' We didn't try that one. Also, my unforgettable companion on this trip, Shen Lei, happens to enjoy a snack of fried scorpions. (See photo below).
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