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… read part two here.

Qianmen Street is well known as Beijing’s oldest downtown commercial district having originated during the Qing Dynasty. It has a history as a haven for food lovers and is purportedly littered with small stalls selling traditional foods cooked in traditional ways.
When we finally find the street the kids are revived, totally captivated by the entrance arch, the Zhengyanggiao.
“It’s so pretty.” my daughter enthused.
Even in the fading light I notice that the arch is freshly painted in that most authentic of eastern colour combinations. Red, gold and green with little blue accents. It’s shiny and new.
Very new.

I lift my umbrella a little higher so I can take in every aspect of this famous street. But there are no street carts or vendors in sight; all have been removed prior to the 2008 Olympics in the government’s efforts at beautification.
The street has been sterilized … for western consumption.

Most of the shops seem closed or have men working on refurbishments, clambering up cane scaffolding or banging mallets on wooden planks. What businesses remain open waft of tourist … they sell cello wrapped candies or biscuits by weight and have vacuum-sealed roast ducks lying in rows on window shelves.
Each of these shops has a hostess in the doorway. Beautiful young Chinese women dressed in embroidered silk cheongsams with traditional head pieces. They smile at us with bored eyes, as we pass by. Some wave beckoning us to enter. The young locals on the street walk by in their Donna Karan jeans and studded Gucci sandals barely hiding their smirking condescension behind purple lacquered nails.

Not too far ahead we see a queue of people and guess with reasonable certainty that this must be Qanjude, the restaurant. My son runs ahead to secure our position in line. A suited man with a micro ear piece and an official looking clipboard walks over and takes our name and number of seats required.

“How long is the wait?” I ask, but he suddenly no longer possesses the ability to speak English.

I stand patiently, thinking of the splendid meal ahead.

Peking Duck, or rather Beijing Roast Duck, was a meal documented as being served to the Emperors of the Yuan Dynasty. Its origination is most commonly assigned to Beijing, yet it was listed as an Imperial dish when the capital of China was still Nanjing in the early fifteenth century.

“I don’t know where you get this name from—Peking.” Our guide Ma Ling had earlier said good naturedly. “Only foreigners call it Peking duck. We never call Beijing—Peking.”
I didn’t want to point out the obvious … that I was a foreigner, so I had just looked at the map as she pointed out the directions to the restaurant, all the while salivating at the thought of tender steamed flour pancakes layered with strips of fire roasted duck, delicate, crispy red skin, a thin crescent of fat still intact and scallions, all smothered with sweet, thick, rich-red bean sauce.

Read part four here.

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