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Memorial Day Chuanr

The best chuanr in Lanzhou, at Peili Square
The best chuanr in Lanzhou, at Peili Square
2012 Amanda Nance

It's that time of the year again: trading shoes for sandals, pulling out the grill, and filling up the swimming pool. It's Memorial Day weekend, which means it's Summer time!

As any other American, I would say to pull out some steaks and barbecue some chicken, but as your Ethnic Foods Examiner, I want to tell you how to add an ethnic twist to your holiday weekend.

All over China, especially in areas with a large Muslim population, you can get chuanr (串儿, pronounced chwan or chwarr). This is the Chinese version of the kebab, and it's some of the best food there is in China. It's very simple: skewered meat cooked over a charcoal flame with some added seasoning. You can get most kinds of meat in chuanr form, but traditionally, since it's a Muslim specialty, it's mutton or lamb. In this Examiner's opinion, mutton is the best option because it doesn't have the strong aftertaste of lamb.

One of the best places in Baltimore to get your lamb or mutton is the KoKo Market in Highlandtown. H-Mart in Catonsville is probably the best place to get your spices and oil, because they have more of a variety than the average supermarket.

What you need:

  • As much mutton meat as you liked, cubed
  • Kebab skewers
  • Cumin
  • Salt
  • Crushed red pepper
  • Crushed fennel
  • Crushed ginger (to cut the taste if you use lamb)
  • Sesame oil (optional)

What to do:

  1. Skewer meat
  2. If cooking directly in flame, hold in flame, spinning every few seconds while adding desired amount of seasoning and oil until cooked to your liking (in China it's well-done.) If cooking on a grill, add seasoning and oil, turn every 30-60 seconds until desired doneness.
  3. Eat straight off of the skewer like a real Zhongguo-ren (Chinese person). Enjoy!

Tip: These are also good in a soft tortilla or with a side of toasted bread prepared the same way.

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