You don’t have to walk very far in Beijing’s hutongs to come across someone barbecuing Yang Rou Chuan and Ji Chi Chuan. These spicy lamb and chicken skewers are ubiquitous in the capital’s ancient neighbourhoods, and can usually be found sizzling on a grill in a blackened hole in the wall on any given street. And while it may be hard to miss them, it’s harder still not to sit down and order a dozen of each immediately.
Food like this is the stuff of my dreams. The skewers come seasoned heavily with salt, cumin and chili powder, creating bite-sized portions of hot, tasty meat that leave the corners of your mouth tingling, and have you reaching repeatedly for your Tsing Tao. A final shake of seasoning is often added immediately prior to serving, creating a layer of dry spice mix that increases the flavor tenfold.
We stumbled across plenty of good places in the area around the drum and bell towers to the north of the Forbidden City. My favourite however was the little place we found right by our hotel in Dajingchang Hutong whilst out wandering on a hot Beijing night.
The lamb kebabs were tender and featured little cubes of fat that alternated with the meat to ensure everything was kept well oiled. The real star however was the Ji Chi. These little morsels combined crispy chicken skin, addictive spiciness and fall off the bone tenderness. It didn’t matter that each wing yielded only a couple of bites – the skewers were in plentiful supply and when it was time to pay the bill was shamefully low.
I just hope the Beijing Government satisfies it’s thirst for redevelopment before places like this are lost forever.