Sunday, January 16, 2011

Yeah, it’s kind of a big deal (28/12/10)

The mistress put out a spread this morning.

Status: outside air temperature is -4°C and 20°C indoors. I feel full just looking at the food on the table.
I don’t usually eat breakfast but, at her insistence, I hurriedly down my congee, fried egg and homemade soy milk. She also brought out steamed custard buns and steamed meat buns. We are already running late! After a quick call from Jase, we were out the door!

My parents and I being pulled around by way of a cart attached to a bicycle through Beijing’s hutongs while learning its history.

I am told that, on weekdays, the only way to get to subway in Beijing is via “jigsaw car” which is basically carpooling –one of the city’s steps towards a greener China. For $10 per person we could hitch a ride into the city centre without being crammed into a bus like sardines or pay a fortune to hail a taxi. This, in turn, helps the driver pay the various tolls that littler our journey. My main concern was for our safety, but the mistress says she’s done this millions of times and it’s quite amusing to watch her run around asking drivers if they’re heading our way. Luckily, we find one straight away.

The underground is a nightmare! Everybody is in a hurry and seems to loathe my aimless wandering –I’m pushed around as angry people are hurrying to work. I find myself missing my car. We switch from line 1 to line 2 and realize we’re going the wrong way but, luckily, our tickets only cost $2 to go wherever we like and on however many lines we want.

Also, girls should not spit. It is disgusting. I don’t care where you are -don’t spit where I can see you. For that matter –guys, don’t you spit either! It’s still gross!

We have a wander through the sights of Beijing and absorb some of the history that is spread all over the city. If you ever get the chance to come to China, you should definitely leave at least a week to experience the ancient buildings and the rich history that can be found among the high rise buildings and busy streets. I will put up some photos of the places we visit when I get home (to Auckland).

Deep fried foods from “Snack Street” (from left to right, top): starfish, scorpions, sea horses (bottom) lamb, chicken, chicken hearts, chicken kidneys and the pupae bug. Mmm.. This is fear factor stuff..

One of my favourite places in Beijing is Wangfujing(王府井) which is one of the most famous shopping streets in Beijing. However, it is not the shopping which attracts me here –it is the “Snack Street” where a large selection of exotic street food can be found. Deep fried insects (yay protein!), scorpions, and sea creatures can be found as well as more common (and what you may think as more edible) foods such as kebabs and desserts like the “Tang hu lu” (candied fruit on a stick). After a lunch of hot beef noodles on Snack Street (not worth writing about), we wander through the little stalls having fun bargaining with the vendors before having a look at the more expensive departments stores on the main street.

Mother and I outside Quanjude

For dinner, the engineer and mistress take us to Quanjude(全聚德) which is world famous its trademark Quanjude Peking Roast Duck ever since it opened in 1864. Wikipedia tells me that Quanjude sells over 2 million roast ducks served in 400 different styles to over 5 million customers annually. This has been on my “to eat” list for quite some time now so I was very excited. We’ve had our fair share of Peking Duck in Auckland before but nothing compared to this!

We have heard horrible stories, from our friends who have previously visited, of the horrendous prices associated with dining at Quanjude –some spending up to 6000RMB for one meal! We opt to eat in the public dining area where one Peking duck cost us 218RMB and we later learn that private booths go for up to 400RMB per seat (before ordering dishes)–no wonder their bill was so expensive! 

Letting the pro do his thang

 Back: Crispy crispy skin sitting on a tea light. Front: Condiments for the second course –spring onions, sweet bean sauce, MSG, minced garlic and cucumber.

The chef brings out a duck and starts slicing the crispy skin before us while we enjoy a nice, warm glass of soy milk. The first plate brought before us is a plate of crispy duck skin. You can tell that it isn’t, at all, like the duck we get at home –these are bred especially for Quanjude restaurants and are full of fat. It is really crunchy and full of flavour.

My wrapped pancake

The next duck course is more slices of duck –with the meat this time. The plates are placed above tea lights and served with steamed pancakes and various condiments. The waitress shows us how to wrap the duck meat and condiments in the pancake and makes one for each of us before leaving. The meat is very tender and melts in your mouth –we have at least 5 wraps each! There is also a basic soup made from the bones of all the roast ducks which has a lovely, clear taste to it.

Back: Salted duck liver. Front: Marinated duck kidney
We also order a few other dishes to accompany the duck. The first to arrive was a plate of salted duck liver and a plate of marinated duck kidney. The duck liver is much like pâté and is really soft and refreshing. The duck kidney was sliced very finely and had a chewy texture but was a little too salty for my taste. 

Chilli squid with amarallia. Yummy!
The last was a dish that had deep fried squid with armarallia (honey fungus –a type of mushroom) which was one of my favourites. It was full of dried chilli peppers, cloves and peppercorns as in Szechuan fashion. The addition of all these spices made the chewy squid spicy and very fragrant.

My duck certificate!
At this point the waitress brings out a certificate commemorating our Peking duck. It has the date of our meal and the number of the duck we had (we had the 130458th duck from the Olympic village branch since it’s opening on 08/08/09). Yeah, it’s a big deal.

Note: Upon further inspection -there appears to be some kind of prize draw set in 2014 where I can collect my prize using my duck certificate. Looks like I might be back in a few years..

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