I found a new food obsession when I visited Taiwan, Peking duck. This traditional Chinese dish isn’t just served in Taipei–it’s been elevated to a form of culinary art. While you can find several great purveyors of this delicacy in Taipei, my favorite is the Celestial Restaurant in Zhongshan District. The adventure starts by ordering how you want to duck presented. Your options are duck served in one, two or three ways. Option one is the classic serving of the tasty duck, option two involves mixing the meat with scallions and soy sauce and serving it over rice and the third way is making a soup from the stock. Keep in mind, it’s not one or the other, if you order it three ways, you get all three ways. The classic is of course the best and more than enough food for several people. The duck is first presented to the table in all of its roasted goodness before the skin is served to the salivating diners. The proper procedure is to wrap pieces of the skin along with scallions and hoisin sauce in a small crepe. This simple layering of flavors quickly became one of my favorite meals I’ve ever had. After a few quality moments with the skin, the duck meat is then served, diners consuming it again with the scallions and crepes. I feel cheated that this was the first time I ever had an expertly prepared Peking Duck but it is without exaggeration when I say I would fly back to Taipei just for the chance to enjoy this remarkable meal a second time.
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Not Just Peking Duck: Celestial Restaurant
It’s easy to bypass this restaurant’s discreet location on the always bustling Nanjing Road, but once you’re inside, the tables crowded with local families clue you in that Celestial is a Taipei institution. For decades, the chefs here have dished up traditional cuisine in a plush airy dining room. There’s juicy Peking Duck, of course—served with great ceremony, and big enough for a group to share—but also dozens of other delicious dishes like braised sliced pork, shredded chicken with green peas and xiaolongbao, succulent soup dumplings.
AFAR Ambassador Natalie Taylor traveled to Taiwan as a guest of the Taiwan Tourism Bureau.