Monday, July 02, 2012

Peking Duck, Made in China - Beijing

Carving Peking duck. Argh, gloves.
Not long ago, I wrote that the best Peking duck I've ever had was at Kowloon Tang, in Hong Kong. With that memory fresh in my mind, I set off to Beijing to try the "real" thing. It's my 4th or 5th time in Beijing now, and we've had our favourites (see: my dad's Beijing tips), one of which has been Da Dong. I revisited DD this time as well - more in a future post - but we also went to Made in China, which has always been highly regarded for its pan-Chinese cuisine cooked before your eyes in their glassed-in kitchens, but also for its Peking duck.

Wood-fried ovens at Made in China
We were seated on a perfect table, right beside the duck ovens (with the glass to protect us from the scorching heat, of course). When I booked, I'd pre-ordered the duck (the booking staff were smart enough to ask), and when we got there, we only ordered two more dishes - a starter of beancurd strips and Tan Cuisine-style Chinese long cabbage - as we were only 3 girls, and one whole duck was sure to fill us up. W was already feeling ill from our marathon eating  so were were careful not to overdo it (but somehow she was eyeing the dessert platter at the end of the menu... they should call us the Incorrigibles).

The first slices of duck
First comes just duck skin. Yes, just skin, no meat attached at all. The skin at Made in China was really similar to the style of skin at Kowloon Tang - there is a clear layer of rendered fat underneath the skin that is left intact. It is heated in such a way that it forms its own skin of sorts, an ever so delicate layer that breaks on any impact. Hopefully it's against your teeth, not the chopsticks, in which case micro-pockets of warm fat proceed to ooze out onto your tongue. If it sounds disgusting, you might like Da Dong's duck, or actually, Peking duck might just not be your thing. (Or, my description just wasn't very good.)

Skin and wrappers
I would have the skins without wrappers, dips or any sort of condiment, so as to fully enjoy this intense elixir of duck cholesterol (ok, I have successfully made it sound bad). The meat + skin combo, as well as the leaner meat go well with wrappers and sauce etc. While they were fine, it was really the skin that stole the show. I find the thigh cut at Kowloon Tang pretty unbeatable, so, if anyone's keeping count, it's Made in China: 1, Kowloon Tang: 2.

Dried tofu strips tossed in soy etc.
The other two dishes we had were fine, perhaps the julienned tofu was a wee salty, especially towards the bottom where the strips had been sitting in the dressing/marinade for a while, but otherwise it was good.

Cabbage, Tan Cuisine style
So, Tan Cuisine is pretty well known in Beijing, since the style was developed by a high-ranking official who loved to cook for guests in his residence in the capital (for more about Tan Cuisine see here). The cuisine specialises in this sort of super-rich, super-reduced chicken & duck stock that is cooked for hours on end so that it thickens into a gravy without the need for the addition of thickeners like corn starch. This was a pretty tasty dish, too bad the chestnuts weren't tender enough. What seems more likely is that they were the kind that seize up and toughen, ie. not the best kind.

Duck boss
With the duck's remaining carcass, usually you can choose to have it made into a soup, or deboned and have just the meat stir-fried to eat in lettuce cups. At Made in China, the soup option is offered as well as a novel (to us) deep-fried version.

Duck remains, deep-fried
We didn't quite know what to expect, as we were just told it'd be battered and deep-fried. What came was a Sichuan-esque dish of deep-fried pieces of duck, with dried chillies and peppercorns, which went beautifully with my Yanjing beer (I am a new convert to this Beijingese beer and have been preaching its wheaty virtues ever since). The pieces also included offal - liver, kidney, gizzards and so on, and because it was all fried, you wouldn't really know what you were getting until you started eating it - fantastic. It was a shame we were way too full.

Dessert platter for two
Well, full, but not so full we couldn't fit in dessert. By default, I don't expect anything of Western desserts in the mainland. I've had things fit for Frankenstein in supposedly top hotels. But this being Beijing, it seems they have a proper pastry chef. While these desserts weren't amazing, there were a couple that I liked, like the ginger ice-cream and the mini berry cheesecake (and I don't even particularly like cheesecake).

Peking duck lights my fire (so lame)
Another surprise was the service. Our server was superb. I have never said that about a single server in Greater China. Probably not even Asia, or ever. The last time I had service like this was in Ma Peche in New York. I told myself to remember her name, but sadly my brain is sometimes only as good as a colander. She was always there when I raised my head wanting something, and seemingly not whenever she was not needed. She swooped in and out, filling our glasses, changing our plates, refilling our Peking duck pancakes without us really noticing. She was smiling whenever I looked, like she was genuinely interested in serving us. So refreshing. Like my Yanjing, haha.

Made in China
Grand Hyatt Beijing 北京君悅酒店
1 East Chang'an Street
+86 10 85181234

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  1. That looks amazing! And the option of having the remaining duck meat deep-fried - genius! It would be hard not to over-indulge there. Beautiful pictures, thanks!

  2. Wow, thanks for sharing! I adore good Peking duck.