Beijing Bites: DaDong Roast Duck

As a child, I was notoriously picky. My main sources of nutrition were bread, pasta, peanut butter, and duck. While everything else I ate in moderation, I could inhale duck. Duck confit, duck rillette, roasted duck, duck ragu, any kind of duck. Naturally, I am pleased to be in Beijing, where the Peking duck is plentiful.

My roommates and I had all planned to go to DaDong Roast Duck as one of our (and perhaps only) large, luxurious dining out experiences in Beijing. DaDong is known for their lean Peking duck and they have many branches in Beijing. We went to the brand new location next to the Workers’ Stadium. The duck was delicious, the décor extravagantly modern, the dining experience enjoyable, and the price surprisingly not that steep (PianYi!).

I should note, however, that I recently had Peking Duck at another less-established, more inexpensive restaurant in Beijing where I found the dishes to be slightly superior to DaDong’s. Stay posted.

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Braised Eggplant. In China, instead of saying “cheese” when you take photos, people say “QieZi,” meaning eggplant.

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Sautéed Duck Liver. This was our attempt to be adventurous, exotic, and authentic. The duck liver was actually good. The musty flavor was at a minimum. My one complaint is that I am pretty sure that the eggplant and duck liver were cooked in the same sauce, which made this part of the meal less exciting and enjoyable.

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Complimentary duck soup. A flavorful, simple broth.

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It is said that a DaDong Duck Carver can cut a single duck into 100 pieces.

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Peking Duck accoutrements – scallions, plum sauce, cucumber, pickles, ginger, sugar, and melon.

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Our pancakes.

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DUCK!

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everything.

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One of the many assembled pancakes I consumed. The potential combinations are plentiful. Some experimenting was necessary to find my favorite.

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Complimentary lychees. They pour water into the dry ice below right before they serve it. I am still debating as to whether this has any real effect on the lychees or if it is just for show.

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And a complimentary persimmon ice dessert. The wood-like candies on top were delicious ginger candies, and the dessert was topped with burnt sugar.

The check came out to be about $35 each for two people (and we ordered for three). I had expected to pay much more. We had a good amount of leftovers that they nicely wrapped up for us to take home. I left pleased.

 

DaDong Roast Duck (Gongti/Worker’s Stadium location)

Workers’ Stadium East Gate, Gongti Bei Lu, Chaoyang district

朝阳区工人 体育场东门

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Seoul Food: Noryangjin Fish Market

IMG_0017IMG_0043The Noryangjin Fish Market is one of Seoul’s top sites. A huge warehouse filled with seafood, the wholesale market attracts locals and tourists alike. We walked around the market, noting the exotic species available (such as the giant octopi above) and then headed upstairs to one of the restaurants on the second floor.

We chose our restaurant based on how many Koreans we saw inside. The easy way to check is to see how many shoes are outside (Koreans take off their shoes before entering a traditional restaurant, where you sit on the ground).We ordered the set menu for two people although we were three. It was definitely the right choice. We were served so many courses of seafood we couldn’t finish. IMG_0057

BanChan

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A platter of assorted seafood, including shrimp, sea snails, and something that we think was some kind of bloom clam or oyster. It was interesting.IMG_0084

A platter of fresh sashimi. The platter was divided by different parts of the fish, which had vastly different textures.IMG_0086

 

Some Sushi.IMG_0074

Grilled Mackerel.IMG_0079

Corn.

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Egg-battered oysters.

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Clams.IMG_0087

Shrimp Tempura.IMG_0099

Fish Bone Soup.

 

Noryangjin Fisheries Wholesale Market

South Korea, 서울특별시 동작구 노량진동 13-8

13-8 Noryangjin-dong, Dongjak-gu, Seoul, South Korea

Seoul Food: Highlights

 

Let the food photos speak for themselves.

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Some BanChan – the smorgasbord of complimentary appetizers that appear before or along with a Korean meal.

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Kimchi Dumplings at Sinpo Woori Mandoo House.

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Sikhye – sweet Korean rice drink.

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Hottoek – fried rice cake with brown sugar in the middle.

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Dok – an assorted variety of rice cakes. The best were the fried ones, like an asian version of the donut hole.

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Seafood Pancake (Haemul Pajeon)

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Milk Bread at Tous Les Jours. There are Tous Les Jours bakeries all over Asia, and I decided to finally try one in Korea, where the chain originally started. The baked goods are surprisingly terrific. The textures and flavors are on-spot. This bread was delightfully light and fluffy, with just a hint of sweetness. IMG_0142

Iced Mango Dessert per my sister’s request.

 

Seoul Food: Naengmyeon

The idea of cold soup seems oxymoronic to me. Gazpachos aren’t my preferred dish. But sometimes, a cold soup can be the perfect remedy to a hot day.

My sister has no problem with cold soup. One of her favorite Korean dishes is Naengmyeon, a cold noodle soup originally from North Korea, but with a large presence in the South. On our recent trip to Seoul, she was insistent that we get some.

I found this place off of Daniel Gray’s Discovering Korea and it was a huge hit. We went after a long tour at Gyeongbukgong Palace. The restaurant was across from the palace wall, but a bit hard to find considering how long the palace wall is. I asked three different policemen to point us in the right direction. Each time, they knew exactly where I was talking about. I took this to be a good sign. My sister and her friend Cleaves were both impressed by my find. The restaurant was extremely authentic and the Naengmyeon was the best I’ve ever had. This Naengmyeon has made me a cold soup convert.

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To give you a sense for the authenticity, we walked in to find a small room filled with six tables of Koreans. A pile of shoes greets you at the front door. When we walked in the door, every person in the room stared at us.

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This Naengmyeon was exactly the right temperature. Cold, but not cold enough to give you a brain freeze. To provide the right temperature, the soup has large chunks of ice in it. The buckwheat Naengmyeon noodles are not apparent in this photo (they are underneath the broth), but were deliciously light. The broth was extremely flavorful.

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Maemil Ggotpilmuryeop (메밀꽃필무렵) – say it ten times fast

Seoul Jongno-gu Tongui-dong 7-23

Gyeongbokgung Station (#327) on Line 3, Exit 4

 

Hong Kong: Dim Sum, Dessert, & Family

In Hong Kong, I met my very young Great Uncle Wilson at Tsui Hang Village for a meal. We dined at the Causeway Bay Branch, which had a clean, elegant ambiance and good service. Our meal was a perfect does of family, fine dining, and dim sum before I left Hong Kong.

My uncle did all of the ordering. I just sat back and enjoyed the meal.

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Dumplings with Black Truffles

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Purple Potato Piggy Bun. Fluffy, soft, and a little sweet.

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Deep-Fried Squid.

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Peppers with Filling.

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Honey-Glazed Barbecued Pork

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Almond Paste Bun. My sweet tooth and I both loved these.

After dim sum, my uncle wanted to take me to try some local Hong Kong desserts. We went to the popular Cong Sao Dessert Restaurant nearby. I was a fan. We ordered one hot dessert and one cold dessert. Both were delicious.

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Ginger Milk with Egg White

IMG_1885Sweet Tofu with Mango

I was very, very full.

 

Tsui Hang Village

22/F, Lee Theatre Plaza, 99 Percival Street, Causeway Bay

Cong Sao Dessert

G/F, 11 Yiu Wa Street, Causeway Bay

 

Hong Kong: Tim Ho Wan

Tim Ho Wan is known as the cheapest Michelin starred restaurant in the world. The Hong Kong chain (now with locations in Singapore and Manila) is famous for their barbecued pork buns, stellar dim sum, stellar prices, and long lines.IMG_1642

This is the line at 8:50AM, waiting for the restaurant to open at 9AM.

We went to the extremely convenient Tim Ho Wan location in Central Station. We were fresh off the plane and hungry with anticipation.

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The barbecued pork buns were the best I’ve ever had. They were served at the absolute perfect temperature. Sweet and crispy on top, the physical bun portion was delightfully fluffy and thin. The barbecued pork lay inside in thin chunks – none of that mysterious goo that pork buns in the US often have.

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Steamed Fresh Shrimp Dumplings. My friend Anna doesn’t eat pork, so we had a lot of shrimp dishes. I am not usually a huge fan of shrimp dumplings but these were great. Nicely bite-size, simple, and fresh.

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Rice Roll stuffed with Shrimp and topped with sweet soy sauce.

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This was our attempt to experience authentic dim sum dishes. It would be wise to keep in mind that exotic and authentic don’t always go hand-in-hand. The chicken feet were okay. The flavoring was good, but that’s about all they had going for them.

IMG_1677 Steamed Egg Cake. A traditional dim sum dish of steamed brown sugar sponge cake. Not too sweet, not too bland. The texture is so soft and light it essentially melts in your mouth. A divine way to end our meal.

Tim Ho Wan, 2332 3078

Shop 12A, Hong Kong Station (Podium Level 1, IFC Mall) , Central

The Mecca for all Egg Tart Lovers

The French have their croissaints. The Greeks have their baklava. The Jews have their babka. Americans have their donuts. The Chinese? Well, they have egg custards.

Among many things, my dad and I have always shared a love for Chinese egg tarts – small tartlets with flaky, pie-like crust on the outside and a sweet custard filling on the inside. This meant making pit stops on the way back from soccer games at Lung Fung Bakery on Clement St., where the lady behind the counter always packs me the most freshly-baked tarts and adds a few extra in for free. This also meant squeezing our hands between the sides of the pink boxes to sneak a fresh egg tart before Thanksgiving dinner, when my great-aunt brings egg tarts from Golden Gate Bakery in San Francisco’s Chinatown.

I suddenly realized before my trip to Hong Kong that I had to have an egg tart while I was there. A quick Google search produced many articles, including a trending BuzzFeed article of the day, pointing me to Tai Cheong Bakery as the mecca for all egg tart lovers.

It was a spiritual experience.

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The crust was less flaky than I am used to, but was instead more thin and dense like pie crust. It was deliciously buttery and had a slight hint of coconut. The custard had the smoothest, silkiest consistency.

The egg custards are served in small metal tins and are kept hot in a glass case. Be warned, I burned my entire mouth on my first tart and it was a less enjoyable experience. When I went back the next day, I had learned my lesson.

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Egg Tart & Wintermelon CakeIMG_1810

A quick shoutout to my friend and fellow egg tart lover Mr. Medoff. For his birthday one year I got him an entire box filled with egg tarts (probably more than 20), thinking he would share them like a birthday cake. He ate the entire box by himself.

Tai Cheong Bakery

35 Lydhurst Terrace, CentralHong KongChina (Central)

Beijing Bites: ShaanXi Cuisine at QinTangFu

ShaanXi (not to be confused with ShanXi as I did) is a Chinese province best known for its capital Xi’an, home of the Terracotta Warriors. What many may not know is that they also have great food.

My friend Anna, who lived in Xi’an for a semester, has been raving about the food and planning a food outing accordingly. There was a lot of talk about her favorite ShaanXi dish, YangRou PaoMo, which is sometimes translated to “Crumbled Flatbread Soaked in Lamb Soup.”

This was the best meal I have had yet in Beijing. We did our research on where to go and what to order and it was worth it.

We went to QinTangFu (秦唐府) in the ChaoYang District. A short walk west from the Chaoyangmen Subway Station. We entered the restaurant to find a large room filled with Chinese. (Crowd Theory: Crowded? Yes. Natives? Yes.) The chairs and tables are wooden and sit extremely low to the ground. The service is fast and the waitresses are nice if you speak Chinese.

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ShaanXi Pork Sandwich (LaZhi RouJiaMo or 腊汁肉夹馍) – juicy, soft pork surrounded by dense, flat bread. What’s not to love? Eat it while it’s hot though, it doesn’t sit very well.

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Garlic Greens – garlicky, oily, good, but nothing special.

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YouPo CheMian (油泼扯面) – this was another dish we had been looking forward to. Xi’an is known for their Biang Biang Noodles, a special kind of noodle that is thicker and wider than most Chinese noodles. (Sidenote: ‘Biang’ also happens to be one of the most complicated characters used in the Chinses language, as seen below.) These noodles were served with some greens and bean sprouts in a perfectly spicy sauce. The balance of flavors was spot-on. The noodles were bomb.

Biang

And now, for the YangRou PaoMo:IMG_1489

Step 1: Cut a whole in the box.

Sorry.

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The actual Step 1: shred the dense flatbread into tiny nail-size pieces. According to Anna, in Xi’an your dining mates will judge you based on how well and how finely you crumble your bread.IMG_1503

Step 2: The waitress will take your bowl of crumbled bread and fill it with broth, Chinese mushrooms, vermicelli-like rice noodles, and of course, lamb.IMG_1514

Step 3: Garnish with a little cilantro and hot sauce if you wish. Pickled garlic is provided on the side.

Step 4: Dig in to a fantastically home-y Chinese lamb stew.

Beijing Bites: The Streets, Part I

Contrary to what I believed before arriving in Beijing, the Chinese city is not overflowing with gloriously rich Chinese food to gorge on. Instead, in my efforts to be “one of the people” (à la Dad Lowe) and immerse myself, I have found much of the daily food enjoyed by natives to be good – not great. Granted, I have also found many everyday dishes in Beijing that I would kill for on any day in America.

One of my goals for my time in Beijing is to differentiate the latter from the former.

And here we go:IMG_1306

Beef noodle soup (or NiuRou Mian) with knife-cut noodles from Planed Noodles (刀削面), a small shop on a side road off of the North 3rd Ring Road near Liangmaqiao Subway Station.

Despite the small amount of beef in the soup, the broth was abound with flavor – one of the most flavorful broths I have ever tasted thanks to the nuts, meat, cilantro, and other vegetables used.

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Little carts selling Chinese pancakes can be found on most streets in Beijing.

The top photo features a delectable rolled pancaked with scallions. Our local produce market has a stall where I will also occasionally pick up a piece of large, flat pancake (like a large Chinese crepe) with egg and scallions within the pancake. The flavor is subtle, perhaps a bit bland for some, but the texture is great and I love them.

Every morning, commuting Beijingers will pick up plastic bags with rolled pancakes of assorted meats and vegetables for breakfast along with some DouJiang (soybean milk). I was quite excited to try one of these pancakes, but found it to be disappointing. The flavors and textures were sub-par – the combination of pancake and potato created an overall mushy texture, and the meat did not taste great either. It also may have just been a case of a bad Beijing pancake.

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This small marketplace lies off of Nanluoguxiang – honestly one of my favorite areas of Beijing. Nanluoguxiang is a quaint, but touristy Hutong, but the majority are Chinese domestic tourists. This marketplace has small stalls with vendors each selling a different dish. The setting is clean and features a nice seating area.IMG_1033IMG_1032

Egg filled with rice and meat.

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Battered crab.

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The size and shape of these buns were similar to XiaoLongBao (or Shanghai Soup Dumplings), but the outsides were bread (like mantou or baozi). They were fluffy and thin on the outside, and exhibited a great bun to meat ratio. They were especially tasty after hours spent on our feet walking and exploring.

 

Beijing Bites: Baihe Vegetarian Restaurant

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Beijing’s Hutongs serve as a respite from the hustle and bustle of the big city, a reminder of its traditional cultural beginnings, and a great place to walk, explore, and experience Beijing. Last Thursday, my friend Anna and I decided to set out to Dongcheng – we both love Nanluoguxiang and the surrounding area’s Hutongs and wanted to explore some more. We ended up at Caoyuan Hutong where we entered Baihe Vegetarian Restaurant, or 百合素食 (BaiHe SuShi), for a meal.IMG_1130

The restaurant is located around the courtyard through this little foyer/book store.IMG_1105

The restaurant is clean and serves a mix of locals and tourists. We knew that we weren’t heading into a local dive given that we saw BaiHe in the Lonely Planet Beijing Guidebook. Nonetheless, the food was quite good.

Given the ancient Buddhist tradition, vegetarian food is an art that has an established history in China. Mostly, vegetarian dishes will mirror a dish that usually involves meat – using soy to replicate the texture and taste of the specific meat.

If you haven’t already tried vegetarian Chinese cuisine as such, I would recommend it. It’s an experience – most people find it surprisingly good. Buddhist vegetarian food is a healthy twist on Chinese food, while remaining traditional.IMG_1102IMG_1100

We sat outside in the courtyard on a gorgeous night. The menu is huge and features large pictures and graphics. The waitresses don’t speak much English. Chinese service is generally sub-standard, but you get used to it and learn to yell a little louder to get anyone’s attention.

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We started off with a cold dish, or a LiangCai, in hot oil.

I was not the hugest fan. The main flavor was pure spiciness, setting my mouth on fire. Anna liked it more.

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Beef and Bok Choy. The flavors here weren’t original, but recreated extremely well without actually using meat.IMG_1125

Fish in Hot Oil.

This dish was fabulous. It came in a startling large bowl, but we soon discovered it was more shallow than it appeared. The dish used Mala with Sichuanese peppercorn that creates a slow, mild burn in your mouth.Together, with the imitation fish and vegetables, the dish displayed a complex combination of flavors and textures.

 

BaiHe Vegetarian Restaurant

23 Caoyuan Hutong, Dongzhimennei Beixiaojie, Dongcheng DistrictBeijing 11000550China

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