x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Food obsession: Peking duck

The Peking duck at China Sea is proof that ugly ducklings can have happy endings, with caramelised, crisp skin, juicy duck meat and crunchy bones.

Peking duck. Courtesy ILiveinaFryingPan.com
Peking duck. Courtesy ILiveinaFryingPan.com

A Peking duck connoisseur I am not. I cannot claim to have tasted the original in China, nor have I patrolled every Chinese restaurant in Dubai to sample the noble dish whose origins can be traced back to seven centuries ago, in the city that we know today as Beijing. But, of all the times I have tried Peking duck in Dubai, my favourite has been the one at China Sea.

China Sea’s Peking Duck emerged suited up in a deep chocolate-brown coat that crackled like a sparkling firecracker on the verge of explosion. Its juicy flesh made it clear that the Peking ducks I’d encountered previously in the city were quacks. The dry, chewy shreds of meat that had been inflicted on me before were the signs of low-grade duck, a shoddy cooking process, or a clumsy carving. Thankfully, China Sea would have none of that.

After the first few mouthfuls of crisp-skinned, glossy duck meat sans accoutrements, I slowed down to adhere to tradition. I dabbed thick hoisin sauce over my choice cuts and cradled them in thin wheat-flour pancakes alongside slivers of fresh cucumber and spring onion. It made me feel like a Chinese empress.

But the clincher of this royal meal was not just the meat, but the bones. China Sea reserved the duck bones, and presented them as a crunchy side dish with tiny pockets of duck meat still clinging to the charred brown crevices. In such times, you had best forget civility, and lick and crunch on the bones to appreciate the flavour that seeps into every part of the bird.

I hope to sneak into the kitchens of the restaurant someday and watch the cooking process. But until then, I’ll always look back at the dish that waddled to my table at China Sea as the first Peking duck that made me quack with glee.

China Sea, Al Maktoum Street, Deira, 04 295 9816

Arva Ahmed blogs about hidden food gems in Old Dubai at www.ILiveinaFryingPan.com