Traditional Peking Duck is uniquely prepared. Air is pumped into the duck in order to separate the skin from the fat. The duck is hung to dry and then cooked until the skin is crispy. The skin is carved separately from the meat and both are placed into a thin pancake, along with cucumbers, scallions and hoisin sauce. The melding of these flavors is unparalleled in its magnificence.
Another Beijing must-eat is Zhajiangmian or Zhajiang noodles. The most authentic noodles are hand-pulled, boiled and then topped with minced pork in a salty soybean paste. The salty sauce is offset by thinly sliced cucumbers, scallions and radish, as well as edamame or soybeans. There is a vegetarian version with tofu instead of pork. This Chinese version of spaghetti with meat sauce is, in my opinion, highly superior to its Italian counterpart.
Hot pot might seem like a cold weather meal, but Beijingers enjoy it year-round. A bubbling pot of soup is brought to the table. Depending on the restaurant, you may be served with one large pot for the entire party or with individual pots for each diner. Diners choose ingredients to cook in their broth, starting with the protein: lamb, beef, chicken, fish, shrimp and/or tofu. The meat is thinly sliced, formed into rolls and then frozen in the roll shape. When the meat comes to the table, it will stay fresh longer since it is frozen. It is so thin, however, that it just takes a minute to cook in the boiling soup.
In addition to meat, you can choose from a variety of dumplings and noodles, as well as just about any vegetable you can imagine. Diners use a slotted spoon to remove the delicacies from the soup. There are myriad choices for dipping sauces. Hot pot is an evening of delicious food and entertainment, rolled into one.
Other Beijing favorites include chicken with peanuts, cabbage with sesame sauce, vinegar and honey, barbecued meat skewers and dumplings. For those "in the know", Beijing is filled with some culinary delights. I invite you to try some on the next Chow Fun Tour!