What is Chuan’r (串儿) and where to find it in Shanghai

Chuan’r (串儿) – A Simple Introduction to a fine Chinese Food

What’s this Chuan’r we speak of?

It is so good, so stick with us…

Chuan'r in Shanghai
Chuan’r in Shanghai

It all started with the Xinjiang lamb skewer (新疆羊肉串) vendors on the streets.

They are among one of the fifty-six minority ethnic groups in China.

Lamb skewer, or lamb kebab, is part of the cuisine of the Uyghur people and other Chinese Muslims.

These vendors left their hometown in the Xinjiang (新疆) to sell lamb skewers on small push carts all across China.

The spices they use on the skewers are a combination of cumin seeds, dried red pepper flakes, salt, black pepper, and sesame or sesame oil.

Together, they produce a taste quite different from the cuisines of the rest of the country.

Over the last decade or so, Chinese people’s love for Chuan’r (串儿), which translates into skewer or kebab in English, has really gained momentum and you can find it in almost every part of China.

TV PROGRAMME ALERT – In 2016, a documentary series on the barbecue culture in China named Life’s Skewer (人生一串) aired.

Each episode of the show is thirty minutes long.

The producers of the show had handpicked thirty some Chuan’r spots in China to visit and discuss on the show.

The highlight of the show is reportedly the authentic representation of the type of Chuan’r Chinese people enjoy in their everyday lives.

Chuan’r in Shanghai – A Visit to Hong Lv Deng (红绿灯)

An Interesting-looking Place

Chuan'r - One of Chinas favourites that originates from Xinjiang Province
Chuan’r – One of Chinas favourites that originates from Xinjiang Province

A popular spot to get your Chuan’r fix is a funky looking shop at the bottom floor of a row of stores and shops on Changle Road (长乐路).

The simple design of the logo, consisting of three red, yellow, and green circles stacked on top of each other on a white background, makes it hard to miss.

The inside of the store is decorated with colourful neon lights, and thick red, yellow, and green stripes on the walls.

The sections of the restaurant are separated by glass walls.

The style of the seating is those of cushioned booths, which is reminiscent of local diner seating in the West.

Chuan’r – What to Order?

OK now it gets interesting:

The spot serves not only normal meat skewers such as lamb, beef, and chicken, but also their internal organs, as well as the usual tofu and vegetable skewers such us chives and a variety of mushrooms.

It also serves anything you can imagine that’s “skewer-able”. Take bread skewers for example, an item not normally associated with your typical street food skewers. The bread skewer tastes a bit like toasted bread, and it’s surprisingly a very popular item to order.

It’s common to enjoy Chua’nr with beer.

The cold, refreshing taste of beer balances well with the salty and pungent spices of the skewers.

Kao Dai Zi(烤带子) is a must-try item from the menu when you're enjoying Chuan'r at Hong Lv Deng in Shanghai
Kao Dai Zi(烤带子) is a must-try item from the menu when you’re enjoying Chuan’r at Hong Lv Deng in Shanghai

Another must-order item from the menu is Kao Dai Zi (烤袋子), a savoury and garlicky vermicelli dish cooked with the meat of a shellfish.

The dish is served in the shells, which makes for an interesting photo to share with friends on WeChat moments.

What the place is really known for, is the skewered silkworm cocoon (烤蚕蛹).

It’s apparently a delicacy in the Northeastern region of China. When it’s done right, the cocoons are supposed to be very juicy on the inside.

If you are someone who likes to try exotic foods, you may just love this dish.

A few other notable mentions include:

Last but not least, this place also serves crayfish (小龙虾) when they are in season during the summer months.

If you don’t mind a little bit of work and getting your hands dirty in exchange for delicious seafood, then you should definitely give this a try.

Our Shanghai students regularly meet for food every week. All corners of China have very different style food, and we like to try to sample them all in Shanghai.

For example Yunnan food, from the South West of China all the way to Xi’an all offer very different style of cuisine. Our Social calendar takes our students to a new restaurant every Wednesday so if you are in luck, we may well be taking you for some delicious Chaun’r sometime soon!

Chuan’r FAQ’s

What is the Chinese character for Chuan?

The character for Chuan is really easy to remember because it effectively resembles a kebab skewer – .

For the ‘r sound on the end it becomes – 串儿. This is just dialect, the meaning remains the same.

What is the flavour of Chuan?

The spices they use on the skewers are a combination of cumin seeds, dried red pepper flakes, salt, black pepper, and sesame or sesame oil.

Where does Chuan come from in China?

Chuan all began in the far western province of Xinjiang. The Xinjiang lamb skewer (新疆羊肉串) grew popular and can now be found throughout China,

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