Chuanr (pronounced “chwar”) is a style of meat skewer that originates with the ethnic minority Uyghur (pronounced “weeger”) people of Western China, who mainly reside in the Xinjiang province. These Turkish speaking Muslims have a rich history and unique culture that has developed with influences from Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and western Asia. Although a cumin-heavy chuanr is frequently cooked with mutton, chicken and camel is also prepared. The popularity of this dish has spread eastward to the big cities of China where chuanr can be bought from street vendors after night falls.
The combination of 5-spice, dark-roasted sesame oil, and soy sauce flavors meld beautifully with caramelized meat roasted on an open fire while the cayenne and crushed pepper gets your attention. You don’t like spicy hot? This recipe is fine for you because the amount of cayenne produces a mild heat and you can choose if/how much crushed pepper to serve (I like it doubled). Traditionally, chuanr is rolled in crushed pepper before roasting for spiciness (soooo good that way) but this is an adapted recipe for you.
2 pounds boneless chicken tenders
Marinade & Sauce
1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
1/4 cup water
6 Tbls. dark roasted sesame oil
4 Tbls. Chinese 5-spice
1 tsp. cayenne
Divide in half: reserve half for sauce at serving, marinade chicken in remaining half for 6 hours.
Prepare the Meat
Soak bamboo skewers in water.
Remove chicken tenders from the marinade and discard marinade.
Cut each tenderloin in half lengthwise to produce two narrow strips of meat. Large tenderloins may be divided into thirds.
Thread the tenderloins onto a previously soaked skewer through the center of the of the meat. Small or thin pieces can be threaded as if the skewer was a sewing needle piercing through the entire thickness of the meat, then back through to the other side.
Prepare Your Cooker
Prepare your cooker (charcoal preferred) for direct cooking and reserve a safe zone where there are no coals (or where a burner is not turned on). Place a strip of aluminum foil about 3″ wide along the front edge of your cooking grate to shield the handle of the skewers. Use tongs to oil your grates with a paper towel pad soaked in cooking oil.
Cook directly over medium-high heat. The cook time with these thin, lean pieces of meat is a few minutes each side so monitor closely. Move skewers between hotter/cooler cooking locations on your grate to even cooking. Turn the skewers to cook all sides of the meat to a caramelized yummy brown. Cook to a minimum temp of 165°F and move individual skewers to the safe zone when done.
Sometimes the best way to eat these is right off the stick! Come-on now, your ancestors have been eating meat roasted on a stick for millennia! If desired, sprinkle with crushed red peppers (oh yeah!) For a sit-down dinner experience, serve on a bed of jasmine rice, drizzle with warmed reserved sauce & sprinkled heavily with crushed red pepper flakes (I like mine hot, baby! Of course, you can skip this if you are from the Midwest 🙂 ) A side of stir-fried vegetables, such as sliced peppers, goes beautifully with these. Of course, you cannot forget the cold Asian beer!
Enjoy and let me know what you think!