Taipei Air Station - 1966 - - - " What you have in the end are memories"......... Photo Courtesy of Richard Reesh.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Peiping Roast Duck

It's been a long time since we went out together to dine.  May I invite you once again?

This time we are going to a dining palace of the better sort.  In Peiping, which we may use as the classifier of all things hauteur in Chinese cooking, there were three types of restaurants, classed in order of importance as the Tang, which provided food for the banquets, weddings, birthdays and funerals; the Lou, which caters to the pretentious parties and Kuan tze, which served the “run of the mill” dinners.

Unfortunately, this system of name classification has fallen into disrepute, so you cannot use the name of the restaurant as a guide, but must rely upon experience.  However, tonight we will dine in an eating house of the Lou class.

Entering, we find ourselves led to a table in an alcove with a certain amount of privacy.  Seating ourselves in accepted fashion we ask for the menu, after sipping the hot tea and nibbling the cakes or seeds which are laid before us.

Tonight we are going first class, so we shall ask for a menu which speaks for itself.  In the order of being placed upon the table, we call for:

Pigeon-egg soup; small globules of delight poached hard in a broth of exquisite flavoring.  Bird’s nest soup – the classic delicacy which needs no introduction, nor encouragement after the first taste.  Shark’s fins, sauté – gristly bits of flesh and fabric nestled in a gravy, exotically flavored and spiced.

Next comes fish-rolls fried in soft batter – mealy and tasteful, then shrimps (fresh-water style, if obtainable) in a soft fry – the large shrimp (Louisiana) are also good.

This is succeeded by a special soup dessert, which many Chinese of the Peiping school delight in having served in the middle of the meal, compounded of pecan and almond meats ground to a flour consistence and cooked with sugar into a tangy, surprisingly welcome mid-meal fantasy.

Roast duck comes next; crisp skin shaved from the carcass with just enough fat clinging to give it a flavor of luxurious richness when wrapped in the paper-thin “man tou,” - together with its bed-fellows, tender shoots of white-onion and soy bean sauce, Ummmm.

Now the end is in sight with bamboo-shoots, crisply fresh and fragrant to the taste buds boiled in a special cream-sauce to which enough ginger and mace have been added to tickle the gourmet’ humor.

Finally, more tea – hot and fragrant – and blessings of all blessings – toothpicks which may be applied industriously yet fastidiously. 

If you are interested in where such food may be obtained – I will give you the following hints:  On Chengtu Road you will find the Lu Ming Tsun, or there is the Huei Ping Lu which can be found on South Hsining Road or for a smaller restaurant of the Lou class –there is the Ku Pu Li on Chunghua Road.  Another place which I personally have not tried, so cannot guarantee, is the Chung-hsiung Lu on Shin Shi Chieh – which many friends have recommended.

This kind of food cannot be eaten too often, because, like mead and honey – it is fit for the gods and without a godlike appetite you will soon fail to appreciate the culinary splendor of the cook’s art.  Try it some time and you will understand why the chefs of Paris used to go to Peiping to improve their touch and artistry.

P.S.   Best try this on Saturday night – when Sunday morning, the best breakfast will pall, but you will be able to rest anyway.  

Reprinted with permission


Joe Brooks writes of Taipei as it was in the mid 1950s when this article was published.   

Find more information about Joe Brooks and this series of articles HERE

1 comment:

Audrey Deng said...

It sounds you had experienced may nice food in Taiwan.