If you’ve had Peking duck in Beijing, then you should probably stick with the authentic version or be sorely disappointed. There are places that offer Peking duck outside of Beijing, but I have yet to find a place that meets the Beijing standards.
In Chicago, everyone raves about the Peking duck at Sun Wah so we had to go check it out for ourselves. We wanted to try a couple other items so we first ordered the pork and thousand year old egg congee to warm up (it was raining out, melting all the snow and then turning it into black ice) – awesome idea, btw. And then our duck cutter came with a glistening bird and began carving.
I stuffed slices of the duck into the Pacman buns (that’s what I call them…) along with a spoonful of non-traditional hoisin sauce and some sliced vegetables. Biting into this bun was miraculously juicy, but unfortunately, the skin was nowhere near crispy. They probably don’t blow up the duck properly so the skin doesn’t get separated from the flesh, thus leaving a soft, oily skin instead of the traditionally dryer, crispier skin.
After carving the duck, the server takes the carcass back into the kitchen in order to use it to make a soup, which needs a bit more flavor (and salt). Normally, all parts of the duck are served in some way or other so nothing is wasted. My favorite, aside from the crispy skin, is the actually the heart so if you ever see that being served, just go for it!
We also ordered the eggplant stir-fried with shrimp to get SOME vegetables in. Well, avoid it like the plague because the shrimp was overcooked while the eggplant had no flavor even though the dish was doused in a soy sauce based glaze.
Overall, I wasn’t very impressed with Sun Wah but keep in mind that I’m rating the restaurant as someone who’s had Peking duck multiple times in Beijing. Sun Wah’s Peking duck will only blow you away if you haven’t had it in Beijing. And I’d try to stay away from the other dishes at Sun Wah…
- Call ahead (24 hours) if you are going in for the Peking duck dinner. However, I think they make enough ducks each day that if you call the morning of, it’s ok too.
- Get some buns from the nearby bakeries on Argyle – they are great for breakfast!
- There is street parking available nearby, but it’s probably better to take public transportation on busy evenings.