Saturday, April 30, 2005

Peking Duck? or Lamb Kebabs?

One cannot visit Beijing without at least savoring its KaoYa (Peking Roasted Duck), so sayeth many tourist guidebooks and previous travellers to this city. And so we made our way to the most famous of the Peking Duck restaurants - Quanjude KaoYaDian (there are at least 2 branches, one at Qianmen and the other at Wangfuqing, we caught the latter). The duck was tender with a fairly crisp skin, but at Rmb 250 (S$50 or so for 2 persons) with pancakes, condiments, a plate of vegetables and soup, it was a pretty expensive duck dinner... and felt like we had just been ripped off, considering that u can get pretty decent roast duck in Singapore for much less than that.

We found out later that one can eat pretty well (and if not careful, reach a 'bloated' stage quite easily) in this city for about Rmb50 (S$10) per person. Our first meal in this city was at a little 'baozi' shop in a side-street to the right of the entrance to TianTan - shop was no bigger that a mid-size bedroom, accomodating no more than 15 people at any one time sitting elbow to elbow. Didn't look great but it was quite filled with locals (a good bet usually of edible food). A steamer of about 8 'baozi' (meat dumpling) cost us Rmb3 (I calculated and calculated in my head, and yes, it was unbelievably S$0.70 or so). It tasted quite good (fresh out of the steamer) and just like the locals at the shop, we doused (not dipped) the entire baozi in the light black vinegar sauce that accompanied it - yum! It set a good precedent for the rest of the trip.

A taxi-driver told us to take a walk down 'GuiJie' (Ghost street?) if we wanted to try the local cuisine. So we took the city subway to Dongzhimen station, and walked down Dongzhimenwai Dajie.. about 100m down, we found that the entire road is filled with restaurants and pubs on both sides of the road and it stretched for quite a distance. Alamak, how to pick which restaurant to go in, by number of diners? by decor? (some were really hip & happenin') - in the end, we just followed our noses to the most aromatic lamb kebab that we've ever inhaled, and ended up in a Xinjiang-style restaurant (the only one on that stretch). It looked warm, unassuming, and the locals looked boisterous, happy and full. The two of us had sticks of lamb and chicken wings, wonderfully spiced and grilled, a huge dish of spicy mutton stew served on 'pita-like' bread (thicker to soak up the delicious stew), a whole fish - filleted and deep-fried with sesame seeds coating, a plate of vegetables, sweet lemon-melon strips for dessert downed with 2 bottles of the local Chinese beer (all for Rmb100) (approx S$20). This place definitely passed the 'bloated stage' test!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Like most tourist, you have been suckered into paying top dollar for a mid-level quality duck. Quanjude is famous but there are surely better tasting ducks which are genuinely charcoal roasted...which are the real McCoy

5/03/2005 09:34:00 PM  
Blogger eatzycath said...

U are right, and finding that genuine charcoal roasted duck at a more palatable price will be our holy grail the next time we land in Beijing!

5/04/2005 09:03:00 AM  
Blogger Barbara Fisher said...

The lamb kebab sound delicious.

And your tales of the Forbidden City and the Temple of Heaven are making me want to go to China even more than I want to, now.

Thanks for sharing!

7/08/2005 11:12:00 PM  
Blogger eatzycath said...

Hi Barbara - yes, yes, I recommend China highly for the food and culture-shock experience!

7/11/2005 06:13:00 PM  

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