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A Laowai’s Guide to Chuanr

Wanna know what that summer mystery meat actually is?

04·12·2016

A Laowai’s Guide to Chuanr

Wanna know what that summer mystery meat actually is?

04·12·2016

As summer rolls around and all the bingtanghulu stands disappear, the ever-popular Chuanr (串儿) stands becomes an omnipresent institution throughout Beijing. A year-round snack food, Chuanr (with a Beijing accent pronounced chwuar) becomes even more popular as people stay up later with their friends, grab a beer, and hit the town trying to have a good time as temperatures soar. But what exactly is on the stick that you purchased for three kuai and is being grilled or cooked in the ever mysterious bubbling broth of the Chuanr stand (麻辣烫 or 关东煮)? As you may be inebriated at the moment you are purchasing your meat on the stick, use this guide to figure out ahead of time what you want to (or feel most comfortable eating ) during your late night case of munchies.

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The mysterious stick of Chuanr stands usually include:

  • Potatoes-sweet and regular (easy to identify)
  • Radish
  • Seaweed/kelp (also easy to spot because they are giant pieces of green or brown kelp)
  • Noodles-usually instant
  • Quail eggs-multiple stuck on one stick to compensate for the fact that they aren’t much larger than jelly beans
  • Tofu-multiple varieties include Chiba tofu (a Japanese style tofu), fried tofu, frozen tofu/frozen bean-curd, tofu skins
  • Mushrooms-multiple varieties and sizes
  • Lettuces-cabbages, baicai (bokchoy), and romaine
  • Blood-(coagulated) either duck or pig, it is important to remember that to the untrained eye that coagulated blood can really resemble some sorts of tofu, if you are in an alert enough state to want to avoid it look out how both the color dark brown to grey and the smell metallic/blood like
  • Mutton-(though which parts is always hard to say)

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  • Meatballs/Balls-this category  are always the ingredients in chuanr that are the hardest to identify often because  all the meat options have been shaped into little balls (add often have flour or other extenders added) so they can be put on sticks, popular ones include:
  • Fish tofu-a fish ball shaped like tofu
  • Black fish ball
  • Beef tendon ball
  • Mushroom pork ball
  • “The three delicacies” (though which 3 delicacies have yet to be determined)
  • Cuttlefish ball
  • Lobster ball
  • Water chestnut seafood ball
  • Gristle stick-apparently just chicken gristle on a stick
  • Intestine ball-though directly translated as blooming intestines (though we don’t know how or why they’re blooming)

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Photos courtesy of author

Cover photo from addythefoodie.com