SPICE OF LIFE

Chi­nese Ke­babs draw foreigners to lo­cal restau­rants

Global Times US Edition - - LIFE - By Liu Zhongyin Page Ed­i­tor: xuli­[email protected] glob­al­times.com.cn

Af­ter a hideous day at the of­fice, one of the most en­joy­able things to do is to head out to a Chi­nese ke­bab restau­rant with friends to en­joy sev­eral skewers of the roasted meat known as chuan in Chi­nese. Throw in the bonus of a cold beer on a hot day and it’s easy to un­der­stand why th­ese dishes are par­tic­u­larly pop­u­lar in the sum­mer.

This spicy roasted meat com­bined with a freshly brewed bev­er­age cre­ates a pleas­ant chill that con­trasts with the out­side high tem­per­a­ture. Foreigners who live in China for a while of­ten fre­quent Chi­nese ke­bab restau­rants. So what do they think about Chi­nese ke­babs and what brought them there?

Au­then­tic fla­vor

“Hon­estly, I didn’t like it when I first tasted it be­cause our tastes are different from Chi­nese. But now I am used to it. Now it’s okay. I like it very much,” Ali, a 26-year-old stu­dent from In­dia, told the Global Times.

Hav­ing fallen in love with the spe­cial fla­vor, Ali goes to the Mus­lim Canteen on the cam­pus of the Bei­jing Lan­guage and Cul­ture Univer­sity three to five times a week with his friends to en­joy some au­then­tic Xin­jiang ke­babs. The restau­rant has been run for the past 18 years by a fam­ily from the Xin­jiang Uyghur Au­tonomous Re­gion. Ac­cord­ing to its new­est man­ager, 23-year-old Ar­pat, who was born and raised in Bei­jing, half of the din­ers who come to the canteen are foreigners.

It seems that Xin­jiang ke­babs are par­tic­u­larly pop­u­lar among foreigners.

“Most of the time, when I re­ally want to eat some good meat, some good ke­babs, I go to a Xin­jiang restau­rant,” Adam-djobo Djalilou, a 26-year-old stu­dent from Togo, told the Global Times.

Zhang Da­gang, a vet­eran Chi­nese ke­bab in­dus­try in­sider, told the Global Times that Xin­jiang ke­babs are es­pe­cially fresh, au­then­tic and wild. Ac­cord­ing to Ar­pat, a spe­cial tech­nique is used to sea­son the meat be­fore skew­er­ing. Eggs, onions, cumin pow­der and pep­per pow­der are the se­cret in­gre­di­ents that en­sure the ke­babs are ten­der and fresh and are not over­pow­ered by the nat­u­ral strong fla­vors of mut­ton or beef.

Although most Chi­nese ke­babs are spicy, that is too sim­ple of a de­scrip­tion to cap­ture the var­i­ous fla­vors that ex­ist across different re­gions of the coun­try. Zhang pointed out that ke­babs in North­east China are less spicy than those found in the south­ern parts of China, while Bei­jing ke­babs tend to be salty.

In­ter­na­tional clien­tele

Ali said that he likes the Mus­lim Canteen be­cause it is clean and eat­ing there is con­ve­nient. He also noted that the wait­ers and wait­resses are very po­lite and friendly.

The Ju­dian ke­bab bar is a chain that has many restau­rants in Bei­jing and sev­eral in other cities in China and even over­seas in Canada as well. Ac­cord­ing to Guo Yaqin, a Ju­dian restau­rant man­ager, three restau­rants in Bei­jing are par­tic­u­larly pop­u­lar among foreigners. The main rea­son be­ing that their lo­ca­tions are near to where foreigners live or work.

To bet­ter meet the ser­vice needs of for­eign cus­tomers, Guo learned some English to bet­ter com­mu­ni­cate with din­ers.

“We put ‘BBQ’ in our restau­rant sign so that foreigners will be re­minded of the out­door bar­be­cue they had back home. We also have some bal­cony space so peo­ple can eat in the open air.”

Ruben Gon­za­lez, a 28-year-old Mex­i­can work­ing at Bytedance (the par­ent com­pany of video app com­pany Tik­tok), said that he was in­tro­duced to the Mus­lim Canteen by his friend who used to study at the univer­sity. He noted that a lot of his friends, some from Latin Amer­ica, go there.

“It’s the food and the peo­ple around here,” Gon­za­lez said, ex­plain­ing why he likes the canteen.

Over­whelm­ing va­ri­ety

There are some in­gre­di­ents in Chi­nese cui­sine that rarely ap­pears in dishes in other coun­tries. When it comes to Chi­nese ke­babs, the range of in­gre­di­ents is only lim­ited by one’s imag­i­na­tion.

Akriti Nayal, a 24-year-old In­dian woman, told the Global Times that she has be­come a fan of Chi­nese ke­babs since mov­ing to the coun­try more than four years ago. Over the years, she has tasted many different va­ri­eties of ke­bab, her fa­vorite now be­ing bar­be­cued fish tofu, which is usu­ally served as cubes on a stick.

Djalilou said he en­joys bar­be­cued chicken wing ke­babs, a com­mon dish at Chi­nese bar­be­cue restau­rants, be­cause they come in many different fla­vors. Chicken hearts, feet and giz­zards also of­ten ap­pear on the menu. Although Djalilou hasn’t worked up the courage to give chicken feet a try, he en­joys chicken hearts and giz­zards for their chewy tex­ture.

Meat is not the only in­gre­di­ent on Chi­nese ke­bab menus. A lot of veg­eta­bles are de­li­cious roasted and coated with thick sauces. Ac­cord­ing to Guo, for­eign guests like tofu rolls, green pep­pers and enoki mush­rooms very much. Like other ke­bab chains, Ju­dian also changes up a part of their menu ev­ery quar­ter and makes use of different in­gre­di­ents.

Photo: IC

A chef pre­pares some Chi­nese ke­babs.

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