It is hard not to know what Chuan’r is to those who live or have lived in China. However, most people would be surprised to know that chuan’r did not become popular–China wide– as a street food item until recently. In fact, the history of Chuan’r is even more complicated than that. We will try to untangle the history of chuan’r; understand what it has become and put the theories of its origins into perspective. Our goal for the readers is to have a clearer understanding of the how chuan’r represents how societies interact .
The quintessential Chinese street food, chuan’r, are small pieces of food on a skewer placed on a grill heated by burning coal–Note that I say food, not meat, because of the myriad types of skewered edibles we can find nowadays in China. The apparent father of all chuan’r is lamb chuan’r (Or Yang Rou 羊肉 for the more experienced). It has a spicy, crispy, fatty flavor–It’s making my mouth water as I write about it. The recipe for the lamb chuan’r is rather simple (which reinforces its popularity): grind cumin, chili flakes, and mix with salt and pepper. Heat coal and place it under the grill, cut squares of lamb and mix with the spices. Tangle the meat cubes on a stick and place them over the grill.
This supposedly traditional chuan’r is still the most popular and well know. However, today, vendors have become creative in their offerings of skewered spiced meat. The varieties range from the traditional–The lady outside of the JinQiaoLu subway stop selling lamb chuan’r on a pita bread–all the way to the new and innovative –Qibao Old Street where you can find sparrow skewers, or Yunnan South Road, where you find all types of vegetables ready to be grilled.
This new idea that anything can be chuan’r and chuan’r is a way of cooking more than a dish is epitomized by Long Long Ago… A restaurant based around the idea of street food. When I was first introduced to LLA, I was weary–thinking it was nothing more that people overcharging for street food with no extra add ons. But let me tell you, I was wrong.