Jing Zun Kao Ya

15 Mar

Is it considered a little indulgent to have a whole Peking roast duck (Beijing kaoya) for just two diners? We don’t think so either. Living in Beijing means we need to know the ins and outs of a good roast duck. We’re not going to get that kind of knowledge simply by just looking at ducks hanging in the windows of restaurants, so we almost feel like it’s our duty to try as much as we can of this delicious dish, while we’re here, in the spiritual home of the dish.

But, Peking duck can come with a high price tag. Da Dong, Duck de Chine, Quanjude…they all have pretty pricey ducks, particularly for a volunteer to be dining out on. So luckily we heard of Jing Zun Kao Ya, off Gongti, one of three restaurants of the same name, selling good quality duck at amazing prices (around 80rmb for a duck, with all the trimmings). Sure, perhaps it’s not the Beijing King of Beijing Duck, but for the price, we are definitely not complaining.
You can call ahead to book, which means you can tell them in advance to cook the duck and when you’d like it ready for. But we have just gone there and waited a short while. I think the longest we’ve waited was around 40 minutes, and the wait was not unbearable, and the duck was worth it. Red lanterns swing in the breeze and fairy lights make the front deck a nice-looking place to eat for the summer. Entering the restaurant you walk past the raw ducks hanging in the window and the wood-fired oven where other ducks are already being cooked, which adds to the experience.
The first thing most waiters and waitresses say to you as you walk into a restaurant in China is “ji wei?” (how many people?), and at Jing Zun, the second thing they ask you is if you’re there for the duck. Of course we are! They leave you to peruse the rest of the menu while they tell the chefs to put another duck into the woodfire oven. Last time we went, taking my Australian friend Sarah, the waitress tried to tell us there was no duck, much to our horror. But with a little more explanation we managed to get out of her that there were none cooked so we’d have to wait 40 minutes. Your waitress will normally announce to you when your duck is on the carving table and being carved up. Perhaps it’s not so theatrical as Quanjude, but it’s the no frills that we also like about this place.

The duck comes served with thin pancakes, sliced cucumber, thinly sliced scallions and dark sweet plum sauce. We’re left to our own devices to wrap the pancakes, which I’m happy to do, smearing some black sauce with a piece of cucumber, layering the slices of duck meat and fat on top and then lastly thin scallion slices. Roll it up (with fingers or chopsticks, to me it doesn’t matter) and then eat. The mix of fresh cucumber, sweet sauce, with the slight fattiness of the duck and wheaty pancake are glorious flavour combinations, and sadly the pancake is over too quickly – in only a few small bites. But that’s when it’s lucky if there are only two or three of you eating the duck!

Although you can request to take the duck carcass home to make into a soup, we’ve so far only taken the lazy option and ordered the soup made in the restaurant. It comes with a strong flavour and taste of white pepper, plenty of duck meat on the carcass, tofu and cabbage, in a milky broth. It’s the perfect way to finish the duck meal.
We’ve tried other dishes from here, which have been mostly good, but what we really come for is the duck, and we haven’t been disappointed yet.


2 Responses to “Jing Zun Kao Ya”

  1. AG March 17, 2011 at 3:19 pm #

    That looks like more meat than at the duck place I went to. And, while I too would love to make soup, I would be happy to try theirs next quarterly meat day!


  1. Da Dong « thehungrytravellers - July 9, 2011

    […] much – it was light on flavour and had a funny taste. Not on par with the soup we love to get at Jing Zun, which has chunks of duck meat, cabbage, tofu and a heady flavour of white pepper. To clear the […]

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