Not that I needed to go to China to get great Chinese food – I can certainly satisfy my dumpling and duck cravings in Chicago – but spending 10 days there last week really did change my life. On assignment for a couple of newspapers, a radio program and ABC, my priorities were duck in Beijing and dim sum in Hong Kong. I kid you not, when I say that I tasted seven ducks in the first four days of the trip.
Whittling down my top 5 is extremely tough this week, but I think all of these are great choices, and I wouldn’t hesitate to order (and eat) them again. I’m guessing you’re going to be looking for those take out and delivery menus in your kitchen after reading through these, if not heading directly to Chinatown yourself.
1. Peking Duck in Beijing
(seven locations visited, including Da Dong, Made in China and 1949)
If a picture is worth 1,000 words, how about my greatest hits in less than two minutes? I’ve never seen duck prepped, cooked and served like this, and I know I’ll have to go back to Beijing if I ever want to see it again:
2. So Pei or Po Lo Char Siu Bao (sweet & savory baked/fried BBQ pork bun) in Hong Kong
Like pizza in Chicago or barbecue in Kansas City, every dim sum house in Hong Kong has their own take on dumplings. But one item that kept popping up was this amazing baked bun (sometimes flash fried) that contains barbecued pork inside, and is either topped or surrounded in a sweetened butter paste. After it’s fried/baked, it offers the most delicious sweet-savory contrast:
3. Brisket with E Fu Noodles at Kau Kee in Hong Kong
A tip of the hat to Andrew Zimmern and Kevin Pang for insisting I visit this legendary dive in HK. Had I not seen their effusive tweets, I would have never dragged my family here, and believe me, we devoured the heady broth with soft, tender hunks of brisket swimming in a soft tangle of flexible, soft noodles flecked with bits of scallion:
4. Hainanese Chicken Rice at Tsui Wah in Hong Kong
Once again, colleague Pang – whom I credit with introducing me to Sweet Station’s sweet iced tea and poached chicken in Chicago – got on Twitter and insisted I visit Tsui Wah, which has a couple of locations in Hong Kong. The soft, tender, saffron-colored skin is rich and meaty, along with the juicy, impossibly moist chicken meat; sides of schmaltz-laced rice and pickled vegetables offer wonderful contrasts with the salty/spicy dipping sauces:
5. Dan Dan Mian (noodles with ground pork) in Beijing
In the North, noodles are a big deal, since they don’t consume as much white rice. One night, at a restaurant near the Olympic Village, we had duck (of course) followed by several typical Beijing snacks. One of the later courses that arrived was this dan dan mian, or noodles with ground pork and chili sauce. What a fantastic way to end the day:
Sea Cucumber soup with corn, barley and peas from Lucky House in Beijing:
Steamed shrimp dumplings (“ha jiao” as printed on menu at Tim Ho Wan in Hong Kong, but should be har gau in Cantonese; xia jiao in Mandarin):
Braised pork with fresh bamboo at Yiyin in Beijing: