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Food Feature: Epic Chuan’r

It is meat-on-a-stick.  There are few street foods more straightforward than this.

Don’t you see the beauty in the simplicity?

Chuan’r, as it is referred to here in Beijing, is one of the most widely available street foods in the capital city, cooked on make-shift grills set up on nearly every street corner.  It is also, in my humble opinion, a revolutionary drunk food, worthy of the highest possible praise for its straightforward deliciousness.  I mean, there really is nothing like it.

On countless occasions I’ve found myself stumbling around the back alleys of Beijing, Yanjing in hand, searching for that glowing symbol of satisfaction – the chuan’r sign.  You know when you are close, fragrances of tender lamb meat and cumin fill the night sky, twirling and swirling and teasing your nostrils.

Night after night, beer after beer, craving after craving, I always find myself going back to chuan’r.  It is, in a sense, my “Chinese Chipotle.”  I constantly want it and it never fails to hit the spot.

Pictured above is the man.  I like to call him “The Godfather.”  This man, located in a back corner of the Sanlitun bar street (across from Red Club), may just serve the best chuan’r in all of Beijing.  He and his army of sons chef up skewer after skewer, night in and night out.  Hailing from the autonomous region of Xinjiang in Northwest China, this family of grill commanders knows exactly how to mingle the natural flavors of their offerings with the right amount of spice and seasoning.  You’ll see plenty of Han Chinese or different ethnic minorities cooking BBQ on street corners all over the city.  Skip them and go with the Xinjiang guys, I’m telling you!  They have an innate ability to cook amazing BBQ.

15 yang rou chuan’r (lamb), 10 ji rou chuan’r (chicken), 1 yu me (corn), and 1 signature Xinjiang naan bread.

Boom.  That’s it right there.  The perfect combination.

Most sticks of chuan’r sell for around 1-2 kuai a piece although certain items like chicken wings and some seafood options can get up to 5 kuai per…still, less than one U.S. dollar.

And despite me being partial towards the cubes of lamb, there are many other offerings including:

  • Pork
  • Green peppers
  • Eggplant
  • Shrimp
  • Kidneys (Don’t ask me from what animal, because I couldn’t tell you)
  • Chicken skin
  • Tofu
  • And many more adventurous, often unidentifiable, items.

Proper more meatier kebab style chuan’r can be had at a number of Xinjiang restaurants around the city.  Some of the better ones in Beijing include Red Rose Xinjiang in Gonti and Cresent Moon in Dong Si Shi Tiao.

For more information on Xinjiang, China and trips to Urumqi click here.

And if you happen to be in Beijing, be sure to visit “The Godfather” on the infamous Sanlitun Bar Street.

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