One of the most famous restaurants for Peking duck is named Li Qun and is extremely difficult to find. It is hidden about 20 minutes walk from our hostel in the back of some hutongs (traditional living quarters of the common folk). You know you've arrived by sighting red lanterns and painted ducks on the walls. Li Qun’s name appears on Discovery, National Geography and Time Asia which is why numerous overseas visitors are attracted. Actually Li Qun never advertises, their promotion is by word of mouth.
Though Li Qun is difficult to find, people do seem to make the effort to find it. You see tourists walking back and forth enquiring along the way. It is always full and with a long waiting line. We were lucky frequenting earlier evening, seated starigth away even without a booking. Li Qun is definately not five-star or even one star, but it has a typical traditional old Beijing feel. It is in a siheyuan (traditional Beijing house structure).
One of oldest restaurants that served the popular Peking Duck in Beijing to the Emperor. The place reminded me of an old Chinese house. Made of bricks, the house- turned-restaurant was our trip through Chinese history. Upon entering, there were a lot of pictures of the owner with celebrities from all around the globe. Li Qun has been selling roast duck since 1855. They use oven heat instead of roasting on actual fire.
Mr. Yang Li Qun found Li Qun in 1864. He was a hands-on duck worker. He worked on ducks from sloughing, cleaning to marinating. He knew ducks inside out. At some stage, he had some savings and planned to run a duck house. At that time he came to know Chef Sun from the imperial kitchen of Qing Dynasty. The wonderful cuisine of Beijing duck was actually a combination of the imperial cooking skills of Chef Sun and the unique duck treating method of Mr. Yang.
Using old-school roasting style, you can see the duck being roasted right before your eyes. Beijing duck is an art. Specialized chefs have developed the idea that the skin of the duck should be so soft and crispy that it melts in the mouth.
The well-done Beijing duck was presented whole before serving. The chef then sliced it in front of us. Some professional chefs are able to slice a duck into 100 thin small sheets with equal portion of skin and meat!
The eating of Beijing duck is actually very scientific. The duck was served with garlic, spring onion and cucumber. They are said to provide a good balance of ph, vitamin C and high fiber, also reducing cholesterol and being good for digestion. You roll the garnishes together with sweet sauce (made of fermented flour) in a freshly steamed pancake to make up an extremely yummy mouthful.
Chinese do not waste things, especially food. Beijing duck houses usually serve various dishes made of duck kidneys, hearts, livers, webs and wings. Even duck tongues can be made into a tasteful dish. Skeleton of the sliced duck normally goes into a soup. EWWW...
We ate and ate and drank and drank. I was surprised how good it was and now understand why people rave about it. Definately an experience! I found a new food called tree ears (black fungus) which I loved and tried a little duck however could see from my seat them uncooked hanging up by there necks and just couldn't enjoy it. After such a long flight and bellies full, we fell into a deep sleep that night!