July 09, 2011


Chuanr is Chinese for kebab or skewer. Originating from the Muslim region of Xinjiang, it soon spread to street side vendors throughout the nation. You know that you are pronouncing it correctly if it sounds the same as the noise your stomach makes immediately after your eyes have spotted a chuanr vendor. A variety of delicious meat is normally attached to the sticks, but potatoes, lotus roots, bread, or anything else imaginable can also be skewered in a positive manner. Priced at only a few RMB each, the sticks can make for an affordable snack or a full course meal depending on the quantity consumed.

Some of my best memories of China involve chuanrs - from my first independently purchased meal in the country, to the times spent eating and drinking at local joints, to insect tasting at Wangfujing. Once a friend and I consumed 120 meat sticks at a single sitting, leaving behind only a few chunks of fat, onions, and astonished looks. On another occasion I was strolling the streets with an American-born Chinese, chuanrs in hand. After finishing each stick, he casually tossed it on to the pavement. I arched an ARNABrow at him, intrigued by his penchant for littering. "Just keeping the peeps employed" he wisecracked.