Home > Beijing, Eating In China > Duck, Duck, Veg

Duck, Duck, Veg

Carl: “Listen here woman. I refuse to leave Beijing until I have sampled the infamous Peking Duck. I outright refuse. Yes I know you’re vegetarian, but it’ll be fine. There will be stuff for you there and you probably won’t even see any duck.”

2 hours later and Caroline, who we are staying with, has booked us a table at a Duck restaurant called Li Qun in the back streets of south Beijing. The reservation is made for two, under the name of the British Embassy. Carl is getting more excited by the minute. “Duck for the British Embassy” he giggles, over and over again. “A whole duck for the British Embassy, hehehe”.

We arrive at Qianmen metro station and Carl pulls out the directions. There is an easy way to get there, but Carl being Carl takes us through the run down hutongs. Locals are shocked to see Westerners adorn their streets and they shouted hello at us followed by shy giggles! We peer through a group of young boys playing football with an empty coke bottle and see a sign to Li Qun. Obviously there have been customers lost down these streets before as the restaurant owners have painted big arrows on the sides of buildings leading to this tucked away restaurant.

We walk in and the first thing we see is a wood fire stove where three browned duck bodies hang. The restaurant is in an old Chinese style courtyard. We were forwarned by Caroline that the cleanliness and hygiene standards here were not the best and she was right. They still have some random New Year decorations up amongst paintings of duckies swimming joyfully down streams and rivers.We inform the waitress, who speaks good English, that we are from the British Embassy. She looks us up and down, and speaks in Chinese to the other waitresses in disbelief. I’m offended. I even did my hair for the occasion. And Carl and I both washed our feet. We’re finally seated in a dirty yellow room and a grand English menu is placed in front of us. Amongst the conversational Chinese we hear loud and clear an American accent informing friends that this restaurant would be closed down in Atlanta, as there is no disabled toilet. Would that be the main reason I wondered.

We looked down at the menu as the waitress stood over us. Now, I’ve never been patronised by a menu before so this was a new experience for me. There were set meal choices. All with a whole duck as the centre piece. On the second page the tag line read ‘Vegetarians love this one’. Really, I thought looking at that picture of a whole duck and a few vegetable side dishes. I looked up at Carl’s face. His eyes were bright and guilty, little beads of sweat were forming on his upper lip. He looked so innocent; all he wanted was some duck. So I took a breath and said, let’s get this one. “Are you sure there’s enough for you there?” he asked. Yes I replied, this will be fine. So we ordered the Duck meal for vegetarians.

The duck came out whole and the cook paraded it in front of us. Carl’s expressionwas of a child opening a big Christmas present he’d been dreaming about. Meanwhile I tucked in to some cucumber and peanuts. Other veg came but it was all swimming in an oily gunk that covered the natural flavours of the veg. No one really cared about the veg. They were all here for the duck. Carl tucked in. I’ll let him describe his experience…

Peking Duck in Beijing is nothing like the nonsense you get in Britain. The whole cooked duck is presented to you like a fine wine, before the skilled chef carves the meat onto two plates with a large butchers knife. There is no scraping of dried, shredded meat with a fork. The dish is presented in thinly cut slices, with the skin and fat intact. The diner then prepares their own wafer thin pancakes, with sliced onion, cucumber and thick plum sauce.

The meat is succulent and the skin is crisp, having been cooked to perfection in a fiery stone oven. In tandem with a light Tsingtao beer, there is no better way to recharge after a long day exploring Beijing’s Hutongs.

However, for my palette the fat to meat ratio was perhaps a little high, but Beijinger’s don’t seem to be afraid of a little grease. I also left the restaurant with enough duck to make two fabulous sandwiches for our 24 hour train journey to Guilin.

On reflection, at around £30, the meal was perhaps a little dear by traveller’s standards, and certainly not much fun for a vegetarian! My interest in Buddhism always leaves me with a moral dilemma when consuming meat; I’d rather not eat anything that has been killed, but I love the taste of a good meat dish!

On the way out of the restaurant the cook walked past me carrying two white dead ducks, heads and beaks intact. They almost brushed past my legs. This moment will scar me I thought. Outside the restaurant there were smiling ducks painted on the wall and I think these made Carl feel a little guilty. Especially when I began to quack. Overall, the experience wasn’t too bad that awful, and I think I’m one step closer to a vegetarian boyfriend.

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  1. Uncle G.
    June 4, 2010 at 4:08 am

    First!

    Enjoying your observations, great stuff. Not much news on good veggie food, well, there was the yak milk, but what about some greens and rice dishes?

    Are the Mongolians really orange? Got any photos?

    Looking forward to reading more over the coming months.
    Uncle G.

  2. Uncle G.
    June 13, 2010 at 2:17 am

    Carl, you will have heard by now that Rafa is gone. I think you’re well rid, to be honest, but Rafa did have his qualities. However, and I say this as an outsider, he failed over a period of 5 years (after the European Cup triumph) to really build a team capable of winning things and he had his chance. Too many times he failed to get the best out of his purchases. Hodgson or Dalgleish? Who’d you want? I can do that. Gissa job.

  3. cockmans
    June 29, 2010 at 2:53 pm

    Well to be honest Gavin, it’s a back to the drawing board situation, so perhaps you’re the man for the job. If not I reckon the England job will be up for grabs soon. Maybe you could have a crack at that?

  1. January 7, 2011 at 8:25 am

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