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June 2012

Stuff to Eat: Peking Duck

I'm happy to call myself a foodie any day of the week, but I'm a huge wimp about some weird things. And a lot of them happen to find their way into Asian dishes. I feared a lot of foods before my Chinatown Adventure Neighborhood Food Experience, and duck was near the top of the list. (Dim sum was a close second.)

The front of Lao Beijing Chinese restaurant. Dozens of flower baskets cover the windows all the way to the large red and gold store front signs.

But when you're wandering Cermak, Archer and Wentworth avenues with a seasoned Asian-cuisine pro, you trust her and go with it.

Besides, it's the ducks that should really be scared; they go through quite the process getting Pekingized! Check out this article from Serious Eats — and the video walkthrough with the chef from New York's Buddakan — to see how the ducks are prepared.

Once the duck is cooked, there are three courses to a traditional Peking duck dinner: the skin, duck meat wrapped in pancakes, and duck soup. This full meal can take hours, however let's skip right to the stage I'll call "Chinese Chipotle."

When eating Peking Duck, a huge platter will arrive at the table, piled with steamy shredded duck meat and bits of brown, crispy skin, followed by plates of steamed pancakes and freshly sliced scallions, and a dish full of rich, sweet hoisin sauce.

From there, it's all about assembly: a spoonful of hoisin as a base, a sprinkling of scallions and a heap of meat. Wrap tightly in a pancake, eat and repeat. (In my case, three times.) See! Not as intimidating as it seems.

Suffice it to say, I no longer fear the duck. And neither should you. There are plenty of places in Chinatown to taste Peking Duck in Chicago. Check out our pal, Steve Dolinsky's, guide to the Top 5 Peking Duck restaurants.

Photo: chicagounzipped5

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