This past Saturday, on KCRW’s Good Food, our foodie hero Jonathan Gold gently beheaded WP24’s Beijing Duck for being served improperly. WP24’s carver was chided for slicing “slabs of duck” consisting of sections of skin attached to the duck flesh & thus producing ruinous results. Apparently, eating the skin only, with the meat served in other courses, is the “way it should be served”, and the “way to enjoy [the duck] the best” is just to eat nothing but Beijng skin wrapped in crepes?

Herewith are photos of 2 of the supposedly better Beijing duck houses in both Hong Kong & Beijing from our recent Asia trip which graphically refute the above Beijing duck criticism.

First up,
Spring Deer
on Open Rice
1st fl., 42 Mody Rd., Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon, Hong Kong
Phone: 2366-401; 2366-5839

Spring Deer, TST, Hong Kong, Beijing Duck, Thanksgiving Spring Deer, TST, Hong Kong, Beijing Duck, Thanksgiving

Reviews on Frommers, and Fodors.

This Beijing duck house is at least 40 years old. They serve the duck traditionally; a few pieces of pure un-adulterated duck skin is carved tableside, but the remaining duck is sliced with fractions of the skin attached to juicy duck meat. At US$35++ per duck, if I was only served the skin, I’d demand an aromatic food massage with duck fat and a happy ending involving my meat wrapped in some fluffy bao’s.

=========

Quan Ju De 全聚德

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quanjude

This place needs no explanation. It’s a Commie-recognized national treasure. At over 100+ years old (founded 1864), this is 1 of the 2 de facto Beijing duck for foreigner & locals alike. Some folks also prefer the dinky hole of Li Qun, some Da Tong for the crispier skin. Me? Let’s stick to the state-run venture. Think: if the chefs don’t perform, they get sent to the Gulags. Li Qun might be a cute entrepreneurial story, but Quan Ju De is run with an iron fist. This is Beijing duck QC at its best. Guess what? Most of the duck is served with plentiful flesh attached to skin. A small plate of skin-only is served first, but no one, not even the Beijingers, ate the skin straight.

Quan Ju De Beijing Duck Carver Quan Ju De Beijing Duck Skin
Quan Ju De Beijing Duck "slabs"

Having written all that, it’s time for the caveat emptor: I have never tried WP24’s Peking Duck, nor will I ever simply due to price/convenience; but it seems the dismissal of WP24’s Beijing duck efforts simply because one doesn’t enjoy BJ duck beyond its covers is doing the chef a major disservice.

And in similar stubborn fashion, I must confess I much prefer the steamed bao’s instead of the flat pancakes wraps, no matter what the hell is served at all the Beijing duck houses in China.

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  • http://beefnoguy.blogspot.com/ BeefNoGuy

    As touristy to the Taiwanese and Japanese (and Euros) as Spring Deer is, it is a seriously ass kicking place. Even the senior waitstaff are shareholders (well part owners) of the restaurant that contributed to the pool of money to save it from bankruptcy at one point. They even import ducks from a specific region in China to make their Peking Ducks, and wind dry it (with fans) under carefully controlled conditions. The crepe/tortilla thing is pretty much universal in TW, China, HK. I would agree a steam bun is fun once in a while, as it is like a duck gua bao. Also I prefer a little meat over my skin too, although sometimes I find myself having to scrape off excess fat off the underside of the skin before I remix my duck sammy or wrap.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for that detailed explanation BNG. It was thanksgiving and we’d just arrived in HKG. Spring Deer was literally 1 street away from our hotel in Tsim Sha Tsui. We were very “thankful” that a Hong Kong institution were mere steps away. It was

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for that insight BNG. It was Thanksgiving & we’d just arrived in HKG. I was randomly Googling for BJ duck and Spring Deer was literally 1 street away from our hotel in Tsim Sha Tsui. We were very “thankful” that an undisputed Hong Kong institution was so serendipitously close. It’s worth mentioning the duck is only available “whole” & the meal consisting of only 1 duck ran deep into USD40s, making it more expensive than Quan Ju De.

  • http://beefnoguy.blogspot.com/ BeefNoGuy

    Other things to try at Spring Deer next time: 砂鍋雞煲翅 (mature chicken, chinese Jing Hua ham, napa cabbage, shark’s fin claypot soup) and the off menu 窩燒肘子 which is a classic pork dish, unhealthy (very high calories) but delicious as hell as they deep fry and steam the pork and it doesn’t taste fattening. I’m sure they even import the needed cuts of pork from China as needed….Even though Spring Deer is not in a fancy location, the rent is still high (it’s TST after all), so $40 for a duck is not too bad given the amount of work they put in and the quality to match…but I agree it’s not cheap.

    Another tidbit I remember about Spring Deer is that the waitstaff and employees spend their off business day hours preparing the snacks (cooked/marinated peanuts, pickled veg etc). They are not “free” and in fact they probably charged for them somehow, which is how they earn their tips. But you gotta love the floor manager who is fluent (enough) in English, Cantonese, Mandarin, Japanese, and maybe another foreign language or two to make out of towners feel at ease and order with confidence.

    But you bring up a great point…to truly understand and to fairly judge a food item (like BJ duck), one should at least have had it in the country of origin or a place that executes it flawlessly for a proper grounded data point.

  • http://gourmetpigs.blogspot.com/ Gourmet Pigs

    This was the way I remember eating Peking Duck, although recently went to Duck King in Indonesia and they only served the skin to be wrapped, then stir fried the rest with XO sauce. Frankly, I like having the meat to wrap better!

  • Anonymous

    Very interesting. If I had 2 more days in Beijing, I would’ve visited Bian4 Yi2 Fang2 as well. From the looks of it, that house of BJ duck serves flesh with skin as well. Never was a fan of the XO sauce duck…

  • http://foodmakesmehappy.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    Now I’m craving for some roasted ducks! I’ve been wanting to try 全聚德 for a long time. I heard they were planning to open one in Taiwan, not sure if that really came through or not. Either way, I wish one day I’ll have the real thing from China!

  • http://infinitefress.blogspot.com/ zingerman

    Keep exposing Gold. The emperor has no clothes.

    SG

  • Anonymous

    I want some duck, now.

  • http://twitter.com/MyMansBelly Pamela

    Having eaten at Quan Ju De earlier this year I have to agree that leaving the crispy skin on is the way to go. I thought I had died and gone to heaven when I was eating that duck.

  • http://pinkfoodie.blogspot.com/ Pink Foodie

    Nice rebuttal. I prefer the pancake to wrap around my duck. From my experiences, the meat is always attached to the skin and the carcass is used to make a soup, which comes towards the of your meal.

  • http://theroamingbelly.blogspot.com/ bagnatic

    all this controversy is making me quacky! um, and i enjoy the skin of said dead duck attached to some meat and in a bao.

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