A few weeks before I arrived in Hong Kong, I had already told my friends I wanted to eat Peking duck. It was not an option. The place we’ve always gone for Peking duck is American Peking, a restaurant which has been around for as long as I can remember. When I was in high school, this was the place we’d go to for Pekingese food and I remember gorging myself on the tastiest food around with both my family and also, friends from school.
I was the first to arrive at the restaurant and found the “complimentary” appetizers already on the table. Peanuts, pickled cucumbers and a spicy kimchi-like cabbage was already on the Lazy Susan.
When my friends Bernard, Juliana, Nouhad, Vivian, Felix, Bernice and Raymond finally arrived, Raymond and I went through the menu and ordered for the table. It was like old times again with this gang and the din in the restaurant was as loud as I remembered. I had to shout at the top of my lungs and I could barely hear what Juliana was saying from across the table.
Just a quick note that the prices are for the large plates — they have sizes ranging from small, medium to large depending on the item. Naturally, some things are not available in varying sizes such as the Preserved Smoked Chicken or, more commonly known as Shantung Chicken (HK$119/US$15.25) as a whole chicken is served head and all. The chicken has been shredded by hand and laid atop a bed of crushed cucumbers and a sauce heavily infused with garlic is poured all over the chicken after it is brought to the table. This is a cold dish and generally served as the first course of a meal.
Sizzling King Prawns in Szechuan Style (HK$428/US$55) is not a dish I always order, but it was requested so here it comes. When the hot plate arrives, the bowl of shrimp is also brought to the table and they pour the contents onto the scalding hot plate. Everyone lifted their napkins or the end of their tablecloth to avoid being splattered upon. Plump prawns with a really great snap is smothered in a slightly spicy sauce with a hint or sweetness.
Fried Sliced Fish in Sweet and Sour Sauce (HK$188/US$24) is a popular dish and usually served whole, but for the purpose of easier eating, we opted for the sliced fish instead. The sweet and sour sauce is nothing like sweet and sour you’re accustomed to in the US. The sauce is not as glucky and lightly coats the exterior. The batter is not overly thick and the fish remains very moist and tender inside.
One of my favorite things to eat here is the Minced Pork with Preserved Vegetables stuffed in a Sesame Roll (HK$18/US$2.30 for two pockets).
These sesame pockets are cut in half and are hollow inside, perfect to shove the mixture inside.
Unfortunately, the pockets weren’t as flaky as I remembered and I had to pull out some of the doughy bits inside to make room for the minced pork mix.
My friends ordered the Fried Shredded Beef with Chili Sauce (HK$144/US$18.50) to eat with the sesame pockets and this was a huge hit with the kid. Julienned beef and carrots are fried on extremely high heat so that the end result is somewhat jerky like. It is then coated with a spicy sweet sauce which adds an element of caramelization to the dish. This is a not-to-be-missed item!
The piece de resistance finally arrives and the server comes over and asks if I wanted to take a photo. The man had donned white gloves to carve up the Roasted Peking Duck (HK$325/US$41.60) and he held it for me so I could snap some photos. A plate of sweet bean sauce is served alongside with some cucumber and green onions to wrap together in a flour pancake with the duck.
I noticed that the duck wasn’t as fat as it used to be — which is great — and the skin was absolutely crispy and delish. My son didn’t want to eat it at first but after taking a first bite, he was sold and asked for a few more little duck parcels to munch on.
Beancurd with minced pork and chili (HK$108/US$13.80) or better known as mapo tofu is okay. Since this is a Sichuan dish and the restaurant serves Peking cuisine, this was a filler item and can be easily omitted from the night’s selection. At the end of the day, it is the duck we all come here for.
Trying to balance the meal out we ordered some Tienjin cabbage (Tienjin napa cabbage) with Chinese ham. I tried to find it on the menu, but only saw the cabbage without ham. As usual, when you ask them for a vegetable, they will try to hard-sell you and suggest something not on the menu, so I don’t have a price for it. The cabbage was melt-in-your-mouth delicious. The ham unfortunately was so overly salty that even I wasn’t able to eat any of it.
I was pleasantly surprised that throughout the evening, the staff were really on the ball and polite. These are the same guys (yeah they’ve probably been working here since the restaurant opened) who, a little over a decade ago would yell loudly when you got in their way and grunt when you were being troublesome. Even so, American Peking always brings an element of nostalgia whenever I visit and I know that 10 years from now, I will still come back here for my Peking duck.
20 Lockhart Road