WARNING: The following contains graphic descriptions that may be unsuitable for vegetarians or duck lovers. Reader discretion advised.
As an omnivore, I pride myself on being an equal-opportunity eater. But sometimes I’m forced to choose between what is right and what is tasty.
I tend to follow my gut.
A fortnight and a week after I earned the title of Little Rock Peabody Honorary Duckmaster, our D.C. hosts took us out for lunch at the Peking Gourmet Inn, a restaurant popular with movie stars, presidents and princesses. Its house specialty? Peking roast duck.
Please don’t misunderstand. I like ducks. I really do. They’re cute. They’re fluffy. But they’re tasty, too.
At the PGI, we had authentic Peking duck wraps served by first-class staff. Each table had its own waiter and duck carver. When the ducks arrived, our carver carefully separated the crispy skin from the meat, arranging it in neatly cut sections on a plate. She then scraped off the excess fat before slicing the duck and arranging the best cuts. The leftovers joined the legs and wings on a separate plate.
Then, our waiter placed a thin steamed pancake before me. Next, he used a spoon to add some sweet bean sauce and a few strips of fresh spring onions. Last came the main ingredients: a single slice of golden-brown skin and duck meat, before the waiter skillfully wrapped up the contents using a spoon and chopsticks. After all the fuss, it still looked like a soggy spring roll, but I wasn’t one to judge by appearances.
I picked up the masterpiece and took a bite. The crispy, salty duck skin and tender meat formed a heavenly duet with the tart, crunchy onion. The rich, sweet bean sauce crooned in dulcet tones, and the warm, chewy wrap brought everything together in a smash hit of texture and flavor and YUM.
No quackery here—these wraps were the real deal. Any murmurs of guilt over my Duckmaster loyalties were drowned out by the Peking opera pièce de résistance in my belly.
Still, I was relieved to know that no Peabody ducks were harmed in the making of our meal.
China has roasted ducks since the Southern and Northern Dynasties (420-589 C.E.). By the time Beijing opened its first Peking duck restaurant in 1416, people from all walks of life (including the emperor) were dining on ducks.
In the U.S., Peking Duck is also called Long Island Duck. Our emcee Kelly Wen says Peking Gourmet Inn brings in 300 ducks every day from Long Island. Our other emcee, Leeshai Lemish, prefers tofu duck.
March 31, 2012