January 18 – Peking Duck Day
(Disclaimer: it may take me quite a few times to correctly type the word “Duck”. However, the word that my fingers tend to type instead would make a lovely title for an Asian-inspired porno film. If so, I claim all rights to that name, although my bet is the film probably already exists.)
Peking Duck has been a Chinese recipe for roasted whole duck for centuries, and as Wikipedia explains, it is considered one of China’s national foods. To put it lightly, when you’re looking for an authentic Chinese mail, Peking Duck ain’t no pork fried rice. The traditional ducks used for this dish have been specially bred over the centuries specifically to make Peking Duck, and even apart from the strict regimen to raise the duck, the meal takes over two days to complete. This meal is not for the casual Chinese food connoiseur, who runs down to his local P.F. Chang’s and sips some green tea with his plate of Americanized Orange Chicken. You look for Peking Duck, you are asking for a culinary commitment.
Peking Duck is also carved by the server or even the chef right at the dining table, so there is no opportunity for take-out (or, in addition, trying to order just portions of a duck). This also means you’ll be seeing the whole duck right at your table, so if you’re squeamish about knowing what your dead animal looked like before it hit your plate (or seeing animal heads, which freaks out some people) then stick to your lo mein. It’s an expensive endeavor, but the presentation is superb and the taste–the crispy skin, the rendered fat underneath, and the juicy, flavorful meat–is definitely worth it.
While there are many upscale Chinese restaurants in New York City that prepare the Peking Duck splendidly–and a few restaurants that don’t specialize in Chinese cuisine as well–my favorite is the Peking Duck House on Mott Street in the heart of Chinatown. The name says it all: as one Yelp reviewer says, you don’t come here to get the General Tsao. They make the duck crispy yet moist, and, most of all, authentically. And, since you paid for the whole duck, you can take the rest of the meal home with you to make broth from the bones, or just lick them clean 🙂
Peking Duck House
28 Mott St (between Mosco St & Pell St)
Some reviews from the web:
“The gorgeous, tawny brown Peking duck is a spectacle: Masterfully carved into thin slivers of tender meat and crispy, maltose-basted skin, it’s fun to roll it up into the accompanying pancakes, along with scallions, cucumber strips, and hoisin sauce.”–NY Magazine
Some reviews from Yelp.com:
“Sliced into medallions, table side, served with a light hoisin sauce, julienned cucumbers and scallions and the ultra thin mu shu pancakes. Build your own Chinese burrito. Crisp duck skin, the fat, I’m telling you this may be where I gained at least three pounds. And worth every one of ’em!”–Thomas S.
“One of the few peking duck places in the US where you can actually ask the chef to serve the peking duck with “less meet”. With Peking duck you are meant to enjoy the crispy skin, and not so much the meet (typically you have the meet separately). And this place allows you to do so.”–Kevin S.