Chuan 串 (kao rou chuan)
13:17, April 21, 2008
Sizzling chunks of yang rou chuan meat
It's so simple: barbequed meat on a stick. So, why does everyone like it so much? This tasty snack can be found everywhere in China, and at almost any time of day. You can recognize a restaurant that makes it by the brightly–lit insignia that is unmistakably chuan.

Whether you are coming back from a late night at the bar, or just after a long day at work, chuan will be there, waiting for you at the corner, crackling and fragrant。"What's more convenient than having your meat on a stick ready to eat?"

Just recently, I went to a local indoor produce market in Beijing in the middle of the day and saw a man by the doorway cooking chuan. He had both larger red chunks of meat and the basic smaller bits of lamb meat on thin, wooden skewers. The chunks and bits of lamb meat were sautéed and seasoned with "secret" ingredients that keep him in business. The scent was unforgettably chuan.

Sizzling chunks of yang rou chuan meat

In February and May in Beijing, temple fairs attract both natives and foreigners alike en masse. The atmosphere reminds me of a carnival: stalls sandwiched together and vendors entice spectators with their colorful toys, curious creations, and amusing games. In addition to the fanfare and friendly laughter and banter is the array of snacks including cotton candy, candied fruit, and of course, chuan. You will see men and women, dressed in traditional clothing from the west, basting and grilling generous chunks of lamb meat with spices that exude potent smells.

In 2006, I also traveled to Tianjin. I found the small city of snacks and shopping to be quite charming. The chuan, like the taxi rides and restaurant prices, was much cheaper than in Beijing. I remember two small kiosks sitting side by side, selling a variety of chuan- from different meats and vegetables to varieties of seafood and dou fu. The taste was undoubtedly chuan. Later that year, I also flew down to the coastal city of Sanya in Hainan. Sanya offered many seafood delights- among them large, crispy prawn chuan, seasoned with unique island spices.

In October, I traveled to Lanzhou and watched men pushing carts of chuan down the street on a rainy evening. The going rate for a stick of chuan was about .40 yuan- significantly cheaper than what I had found so far. It seems as if everywhere I go, chuan will always be there to eat when nothing else is available or appealing.

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