Good Asian Grub: Mr. Wok’s Peking Duck

Duck meat, crispy skin, green onions, hoi sun sauce, and pancake
Owner Jack Kang carves the duck tableside (left); Carved duck pieces (right)

While other children my age were perfectly satisfied with eating buttered noodles (a bland phenomenon I will never understand), I spent my summers and winters in Taipei demanding to eat Peking duck. Give me some fat, crispy-skinned duck caramelized in its own juices, and I will be the most well-behaved kid on this planet. It worked every time.

Let it be known that I hardly eat Peking duck in the States. It is always a sure disappointment that will make me start itching to buy a plane ticket to Taiwan the very second I finish my meal – money be damned. When I heard that Mr. Wok serves up a mighty duck, I decided that it was time to break my golden rule and see what all the fuss was about.

Jump or quack for more.

Cantonese crispy, fried egg noodles

Preparing a Peking duck is a long and lengthy process that requires chefs to blow air under the duck’s skin to separate it from the fat, then brush the duck with syrup and spices that’ll soak into the duck’s skin while it’s hanging up to dry. It’s a complicated process that once made me skeptical about finding a suitable Peking duck chef in the likes of Dallas, Texas. Eating Peking duck is similar to eating a fajita… except (how do I say this nicely?) it’s better. Hands down. Nobody can deny the lure of juicy duck meat combined with crunchy skin, chopped green onions, and sweet hoisin sauce wrapped inside a thin, crepe-like covering. (And if that person does exist, we need to have a little chat.)

Jack Kang, 33, and owner of Mr. Wok, calls the crepe-like wrapping a “pancake,” but it’s actually supposed to be much thinner than a pancake. Before he took over his family’s restaurant, Kang roamed the kitchen of Mr. Wok as a ten-year-old boy while his parents worked long, tiring shifts. “I realized in my senior year of high school that this was the route I wanted to take, but my dad tried to talk me out of it,” says Kang. After graduating from UT’s business school, Kang took over the restaurant in 2000, opting to keep the same booths and chairs that graced the store’s opening day in 1989.  Now the furniture looks like it should belong to a garage sale, but Kang claims that customers tell him his restaurant looks cozy.

What’s certain is that it’s easy to forget Mr. Wok’s shabby interior as soon as Kang brings a roasted whole duck tableside promptly after you sit down. (That’s if you called early to make a reservation.) He lifts the duck by its feet and starts carving the living juice out of it – an exciting show to watch if you’re into the art of duck slicing like nerdy, nerdy me. The duck is skinny with minimal fat (around 6-7 lbs), so Kang packs up his knives after five minutes of comfortable small talk and finishes arranging the duck slices onto a plate.

Banana and chocolate springs rolls dipped in caramel sauce

My parents, both expert Peking duck eaters, agree with me that Kang’s duck was prepared well, but the pancakes (which were thick as tortillas and clearly not made in-house) and hoisin sauce (which tasted like it came straight out of a can) were certainly not rave-worthy. Still, it makes me as proud as a puffed-up dead duck that my city can serve this dish to a welcoming crowd. According to Jack Kang, Mr. Wok sells around 70 ducks per week mostly to weekend customers who enjoy the freedom of bringing their own wine and beer to pair with popular dishes like mango shrimp and beggar’s chicken. “We don’t have a corkage fee,” says Kang. “I don’t believe in that.”

While Mr. Wok’s duck ($32.95 for 12 pancakes, feeds 4-5 people) didn’t meet my high expectations, it is certainly worth a taste for those who’ve never ventured into the Peking duck world.

Other dishes to try: Cantonese crispy egg noodles are a recent menu addition ($7.95), and I must admit that I ate all four banana-chocolate spring rolls ($4.95) without pausing to breathe.

Tips on having the best Peking duck experience: It takes a good 12 hours to roast an entire duck from start to finish, so do Jack Kang a favor and call one day ahead to tell him you’re coming. You can choose to order the duck with buns (gua bao) or the pancakes.  After Jack finishes slicing the duck,  you decide whether he makes the duck bones into a soup or stir fries them. Go with the soup. It comes with rice noodles, napa cabbage, and sour mustard leaves. The stir fry makes your duck bones look like carnage. BYOB. Pay the bill. Give Jack a hug. You know the drill.

Mr. Wok Asian Bistro
972.881.1888
Mon-Sat from 11am – 10pm
2600 14th St., Plano, TX 75074

17 comments on “Good Asian Grub: Mr. Wok’s Peking Duck

  1. Mr. Wok is awful. It’s 1960s-style “Chinese-American Cantonese” food, and would not have stayed in business if it were located anywhere but Plano (or maybe someplace like Minot, ND).

  2. The steamed buns are much better than the pancakes (tortillas) and the sitr-fry is much better than the soup. “The stir fry makes your duck bones look like carnage”…what is that supposed to mean? Who cares what the bones look like, the way they taste is what counts!

  3. First Chinese BBQ always has Peking Duck. It’s served with the soft little rice flour pancakes and a delicious light soup made from the duck bones.

    It’s not on the regular menu but it is listed on the Chinese language menu on the wall.
    Just ask. It’s delicious! We go there regulery for their Peking Duck. It’s reasonably priced, too.

  4. I’ve had Mr Wok’s duck before and think it’s great as it’s very lean and flavorful. I agree that the stir-fry is better than the soup, and when you know you’re gonna be eating meat off of the bone you kinda expect it to look like meat on the bone, so not sure where the ‘carnage’ came from.

  5. The caption is incorrect under the picture. It should read “Owner Jack Kang carves the duck tableside (left); Carved duck pieces (right)”.

  6. Hands down best Peking duck around!!! We also love the mango shrimp, cheese shrimp, and garlic eggplant dish. Yummmmy

  7. Mr. Wok has the best Peking duck in town, and the crowds that show up every weekend prove it. Reservations highly recommended! First Chinese BBQ is good too, but I have to wonder how good can their duck be if I’ve never once seen anyone order it, and it’s not even on the regular menu?? Agreed the stir-fry is the way to go. The reviewer really missed out – it’s some finger-lickin’ good carnage!

  8. I’m so glad to see another piece for “Good Asian Grub”! Been waiting to read one! The way you described the peking duck is making me jealous, even though I may very well have some good peking duck over here in my area.

  9. @ Jeff – I didn’t miss out. I tried the stir fry, took it home, and turned it into some finger-lickin’ soup.
    @ Theresa – thanks for the catch

  10. My family has dined at Mr. Wok for about a year now and have always been satisfied. We normally order their famous Noodle Soups but recently we tried the Peking Duck based on our friend’s suggestion. We were more than surprised at how flavorful yet lean it was. I definitely recommend reserving ahead of time especially on the weekends. We happened to be in luck as they had an extra duck on hand. The decor was quite humble and homey and my husband and I care more about restaurants that focus on quality of food than being pretentious with fancy decor.

  11. I’ve tried Mr. Wok but I have to say, the Peking duck at Abc Seafood in Arlington is hands down more delicious, succulent and satisfying than Mr. Wok. If anyone has the time to go visit Abc Seafood in Arlington, you MUST get the Peking duck which is insanely yummy and the special Abc crab fried rice! Just my two cents :)