Dueling Ducks at Min Jiang and Real Beijing - London
This post details two nearly back to back Peking duck meals. While we were originally going to eat at only Real Beijing, the idea of hitting up both Min Jiang and the more "hole in the wall" newcomer was proposed.
The actual presentation of the duck at Min Jiang is a world apart from what you'll see at Real Beijing. Your platter of meat is cut at table side before it is served with a somewhat wider range of Peking duck accompaniments. Carrots and daikon accompanied the more commonly seen sticks of cucumber and spring onion. The sauce was still hoisin sauce rather than a more "authentic" sweet wheat based sauce native to northern China.
The duck itself had exceptionally crispy skin though Limster noted that he has had far crispier. Nice layers of felt with tender meat which melted as you chewed through it. A particularly nice touch was a small separate plate of slices of skin and fat which were meant to be dredged in sugar before eating. All in all excellent meat, good skin and nice accompaniments. The pancakes were notably thin and resisted drying out or sticking together before the end of the meal.
We chose a second course of duck noodles which had a notable smokey wok breath and flavorful bits of duck, but which was otherwise somewhat unremarkable. Orders of excellent xiao long bao with generous amounts of crab meat and a well prepared plate of greens fried with garlic rounded out the meal.
Real Beijing is a very different restaurant when compared to Min Jiang. Located on the bottom floor of a small mall in Chinatown, the restaurant appears to largely serve Beijing style hot pot. The duck here had far less crispy skin, though the duck itself was arguably more "Chinese." A larger bird with far more fat which still resulted in delicious meat, flavorful fat and a very good Peking duck meal altogether. The sauce was still hoisin, the accompaniments were more standard and the pancakes dried out considerably over time, but the flavor was there.
The Real Beijing meal also had the benefit of coming with two accompanying duck dishes both of which were far larger than the portion of duck noodles at Min Jiang. We chose a dish of duck stir fried with copious amounts of cumin and chili as well as a duck soup. Though many of the pieces of duck in the cumin dish were extremely boney or tough, the dish itself was delicious. Tiny morsels of strongly flavored duck meat lathered in cumin with a slight aura of spice.
The duck soup was also excellent. Given the fact our duck finished cooking only shortly before the meal began, the meat in the soup was somewhat tough. It definitely didn't have long enough to stew and become really tender, but the stock was still delicious. They clearly had enough time to make a delicious duck stock. This dish was an excellent finish to the meal and it would be worth of being a main dish in itself if the duck meat was given more time to stew.
Without getting into exact numbers, the meal at Real Beijing was cheaper for a smaller price, but the experience is very different. Limster suggested that Min Jiang's approach is strongly influenced by a Cantonese conception of Peking duck and this seems apparent. Though the duck skin at Real Beijing wasn't amazing, the accompanying dishes were both really special. Each meal shined in its own right.
BTW, in case folks want coordinates, Real Beijing is located on Charing Cross road, a couple doors north of Malaysian Kopi Tiam.
There are 3 sections to the menu there: Peking Duck, grilled dishes and hotpot. The Peking duck section also lists the noodles and duck stir fry separately, although we got a 3 course combo that incorporates them. I wonder if the duck soup with noodles could be ordered separately, because that's one of the best soup noodles I've had in London in terms of broth and noodles; nice black fungus too. Will report back if it is possible to get it by itself.