Categorized | Food, Vol 27 No 48 | 11/22-28

A cucumber in a papaya for dinner?

Part 2: bites to remember in Beijing

This is a soup of sea cucumber that is stewed inside a papaya. (Photos taken by George Liu.)

By Assunta Ng
Northwest Asian Weekly

In 1981, I raved and ranted simultaneously over an authentic Beijing (Peking) duck dinner while in Beijing.

The reason was due to the fact that one bite of a delicious duck meat was accompanied by a mouth full of fat.

The grease ruined my appetite because I didn’t care for the calories. The duck I ate was forced fed with tons of food before a chef roasted it.

This was at the famous Quanjude Restaurant, a “duck house.” Later, my husband and I found out that the restaurant catered to foreigners. The locals said, “Thanks, but no thanks!”

This year, our friend in Beijing took us to Da Dung Roast Duck Restaurant. “It’s the best,” my friend said. It serves a rather ‘skinny’ duck with little fat on the body. Da Dung raises a different breed of ducks that has less fat and is healthier to eat.

“Don’t just order the duck skin and meat,” our friend said. “Ask for its liver and duck with veggie soup. It tastes even better than the French la paite.”

The chef is cutting a duck.

He went on to say, “What I love about this duck is it’s not greasy. It tastes so moist, delicious and crispy, and t

he prices are reasonable. There are three Da Dung Roast Duck Restaurants. Your taxi driver should be able to take you to one of them.”

We gulped down a lot of duck after a two-hour wait at the restaurant, which seats more than 300 people. Guests waiting in line were treated to free beverages like beers and wines. What a way to treat its customers! I would like to visit Da Dung again when we return to Beijing.

One of our most memorable meals was at the upscale Shaodung restaurant. We found it while walking around the Zhao Yang District. One entrée I had never tried before was a stewing sea cucumber inside a papaya. Its rich flavor and aroma still lingers in my mind. It made me wish was made in Seattle.

On another day, we passed by a local noodle shop while walking to a famous author’s museum. A bowl of Beijing wonton soup only cost $1 and a hand-held noodle bowl with spare ribs cost $1.50! It was where local folks eat homemade wontons crafted in a humble setting.

Several restaurants were open on the street next to the Olympics’ Bird’s Nest Stadium. We picked one named Healthy Organic Restaurant. We ordered a seaweed dish that consisted of three kinds of seaweed. It was a beautiful sight and palatable as well. Another favorite dish of ours was a mini-razor clams hot pot. I also wished we had this dish in Seattle.

Another sumptuous meal for us was at the Courtyard Marriott hosted by Anthony Ha, the general manager. A former Seattleite and a gracious host, Ha asked his chef to prepare a special meal for us. Ha’s brother Robert actually runs Asia Travel in Seattle.

The chef used an expensive Chinese ingredient, fish maw cake, as part of his East-meets-West fusion theme. There was a gorgeous presentation of pan-fried sea bass with deep-fried squash fries. It was yummier and healthier than French fries. The soup with Beijing veggies and three kinds of eggs was also lovely. I ate them all and forgot about the calories.

Beijing is a city that offers so many fine foods that you don’t need a guide to take you to great restaurants. Just venture around and you will discover wonderful restaurants at r

easonable prices. You find that each block of the city, much longer than ours, is packed with many remarkable eateries. This Imperial City, where Chinese emperors once resided and demanded the best, could be the reason why Beijing has developed a reputation and tradition for mouthwatering cuisine.? (end)

Ng’s column continues next week. The topic? Shopping!

Assunta Ng can be reached at

A duck is already cut into pieces, ready to be wrapped with onspy flatbreads in a basket.

Three kinds of seaweed are served in a healthy restaurant.

To make the sauce for the duck, one can pick combinations of sweet, sour and spicy items.

A plate of duck liver is unctuously tasty.

A plate of panfried seabass is adorned with deep-fried squash fries.

Beijing’s veggie soup is cooked with three kind of eggs: thousand-year eggs, duck eggs and chicken eggs.

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