Discover authentic Beijing flavors: Liqun Roast Duck
One quintessential dish to try when visiting Beijing is the renowned Peking roast duck.
A dizzying number of fancy chain restaurants offer their own take on the roast duck, but a humble family-run eatery has preserved an ancient way of cooking the waterbird.
Tucked away in one of the old hutongs in Beijing, Liqun Roast Duck Restaurant is a hidden gem worth your visit.
The founder, Zhang Liqun, has kept the traditional hung oven roasting method developed by the Imperial Kitchen during China's Qing Dynasty (1644-1912), which features pleasant smells of burned wood and crispy smoky duck skin.
Liqun Roast Duck Restaurant in Beijing. /CGTN Photo

Liqun Roast Duck Restaurant in Beijing. /CGTN Photo

"The authentic roast duck in a hanging furnace is quite exquisite and meticulous," said Zhang who used to work as a chef in another Peking duck restaurant.
In 1991, he got laid off and started his business. Years on, and there are still just 12 tables in his restaurant, but what the place lacks in size, it makes up for in character and taste.
The ducks are roasting in a wood-fired oven. /CGTN Photo

The ducks are roasting in a wood-fired oven. /CGTN Photo

Zhang is picky about the origin and quality of every ingredient that goes into the dish, from the ducks to the scallions.
The roasted duck is carefully sliced by the chef and beautifully placed on a plate before serving. All you need to do is take a slice of the duck, put it on a paper-thin pancake with some soybean sauce and scallion, roll it and enjoy the explosion of flavors and textures in your mouth.
"It is a mixed flavor, something that roasted chicken, fish or beef cannot replace," said Zhang.
A chef slices the roasted duck. /CGTN Photo

A chef slices the roasted duck. /CGTN Photo

The limited number of tables have served numerous domestic and foreign foodies, building a strong reputation through word of mouth.
Zhang still remembers his first foreign customer – a German in his seventies.
At the time, former Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping would send young Chinese students to study abroad and one of them had stayed at the old man's home in Munich. When the old man visited China a few years later, the student brought him to Zhang's restaurant.
"He was very satisfied with the duck dish. I think he wrote a journal about his trip or something, because after that I served many visitors from Germany," said Zhang.
Despite Beijing witnessing an evolving and experimental culinary scene, Zhang believes there will always be a place for Peking duck.
For those who feel like a bite of Peking roast duck, take subway Line 2 to Qianmen Station and get out from Exit B. Signs of ducks drawn on the walls will guide you there.