It Takes a Village to Make Good Peking Duck
If you haven’t spent a couple summers in Phoenix an approaching cloud of dust might cause concern. The humid smell of rain in the air, the word “haboob” all over the local news and a helicopter tracking shot of a brown dusty ooze ready to consume the city-this is all insignificant though at the thought of a delicious Peking Duck dinner that only happens once a week.
Driving down Indian School road with the perpendicular street numbers going down, you have seen the place. A standalone restaurant with a parking lot to itself. On the front of the building is a large display of Christmas lights lit year round.
Yeah, that’s the one.
As myself, my brother and sister in law enter the restaurant there is lightning in the distance and the rain just starting to fall, it’ll start to pour any second now.
Tuesday night is the only night of the week that you can order Peking Duck at China Village. We order the meal and sip on tea. For the moment the place is pretty empty, maybe some aren’t as adventures as us on this stormy night.
Our first course is egg drop soup. We quickly slurp down broth, egg whites an assortment of vegetables and chunks of tofu. Admittedly egg drop soup is not my favorite, I’m personally a hot and sour kind of guy, but this soup is nothing to turn down. This is proof by me pushing the bowl away completely empty.
Our bowls are taken away and the restaurant starts to fill up with patrons even with occasional sounds of rain pouring outside. Then, a tray is placed next to our table and on it a whole delicious and shimmering bronzed roasted duck. But we aren’t about to eat just yet.
Peking Duck is the Thanksgiving turkey dinner of restaurant meals. It takes all day to prepare and there’s someone carving the bird in front of you and making, well, bad dad jokes. It is carved into manageable strips about 4-5 inches long. After this is done the chef spreads a reasonable amount of hoisin sauce on a tortilla (traditionally a pancake of sorts), adds some green onion, a few strips of duck and then folds it over into a small wrap of duck.
I’m hungry. During the whole presentation I have already started to eat some of the fried rice and the House Chicken, delicious bits of fried chicken in a light garlic sauce-this is ordered at request though as the normal side dish with the meal is Sweet and Sour Chicken.
Once most of the duck has been carved and wrapped it is placed in front of us and we indulge. The dish is good, like, really good. It’s a rush of flavors: the tortilla with the sweet hoisin and then bitter onions all coming up a close second to the rich, crispy, fatty duck.
I’m not saying that this place does it the best but Peking Duck as a dish was ranked in The Huffington Post as a top 10 dish in the world you must try before you die. So, if you are going to eat it might as well eat it at a place that does it right.
I eat as much as I can before I am sick. In the end I am able to have two helpings of House Chicken and three helpings of duck. Even with three people, there is plenty of leftovers to take home. Then to my surprise, it is not on the menu but small plates of tiramisu are brought out for us. It is rare to be able to say no to a good desert.
Our bellies are full and we exit the restaurant. The rain has stopped and the sun now setting behind a dramatic display of storm clouds partially filling a western sky. Perfect timing.
China Village has been a long time go-to Chinese food spot in Phoenix and while most often I order dumplings or fried rice there-a fine Peking Duck dinner is is now what really is on my mind when I think of the place.