If you’re a tourist passing through Beijing, or an expat living in Beijing, odds are you’ve had Peking Duck. There’s a reason I don’t like tour groups, and it’s mostly because I don’t think you get the same culinary experience as you would following a local to a hole-in-the-wall restaurant that’s out of this world. I love that, living in this city, I have access to this local delicacy any time I want. The other day, my friends and I were trying to figure out where to eat for dinner. I felt a sudden craving for duck, and half an hour later, we were seated at a restaurant within walking distance of my apartment, where we ordered a whole duck for only 98RMB, or about $15.
There are many different types of Peking Duck in Beijing. Duck prices range from 200+ RMB for a whole duck to a mere 68RMB ($10!!) for a whole duck. I personally don’t believe that the more expensive a duck is, the better it tastes. There are some restaurants (such as Quanjude) which I think are overpriced. However, no matter what type of duck you’re eating, I’ll let you in on a little secret.
The secret to life-changing Peking Duck is…..sugar. Sugar makes everything taste better, right? Or was that bacon? Either way, I’m completely serious. The first time I added sugar to my delicate duck wrap was over a year ago, and I have not gone back since. My friend introduced me to this style of Peking Duck, and I thought it was really strange at first. In some restaurants, they offer a small plate of sugar (not rock sugar, but the small granulated type) for you to dip the crispy duck skin into. A lot of people eat the skin by itself after dipping it into the sugar. But I’m telling you…..after you coat the crispy, fatty duck skin with sugar crystals, put it in your little pancake duck wrap and tell me it doesn’t change your world.
I don’t even have the words to describe how much better my duck-eating experiences have been since I started adding that little bit of sugar, though I am definitely not lacking in drool as I write this. Now, even when I eat Peking Duck at restaurants that don’t offer sugar, I always ask them for a small plate of it, and I cannot consume my first wrap until I get some of that delicious sweet crunch in the middle. Remember this the next time you go out for some Peking Duck. I’ll keep it simple. Sugar in duck wrap = life-changing.