Texans know barbecue. One need only see the monster barbecue pits in every Texan's backyard or maybe even on a trailer in the driveway. I could argue that Texas barbecue is the best in the world, but I am sure I would be preaching to the choir here on the Advocate. Texans might be the best, but they are not the only ones putting meat to the fire. The BBQ seems to be a universal chapter in the global cookbook. Everywhere I have traveled over the years I have enjoyed BBQ. Late one night I actually ate mystery meat off of a barbecue pit made from a metal tire rim in San José, Costa Rica. When it comes to street barbecue my creed is pretty much "if it's hot I'll eat it."

I was happy to learn that the Chinese love their barbecue, too, although they seem to be of the "skewer it" school of barbecue. Here, the kebab rules. All sorts of meats get impaled here, but the most common kebab is made of lamb. Barbecue is informal in China and the best BBQ spots are often set up on the sidewalk in the early evening. The "pit" consists of a narrow metal trough filled with coals. Customers stand by waiting for the finished kebabs to eat on the go or they have a seat on tiny little stools at little tables, discarding the kebab skewers on the ground beside them. These kebabs sell for 1-2RMB each (15-30 cents).

Cheap BBQ

The cheap street style BBQ

The best kebabs in China are made by Uygur people. Uygurs come from the far western province of Xinjiang and are ethnically Turkic. Their kebabs are usually made from higher quality lamb. They cost between 2 and 3 RMB each (30-45 cents).

Xinjiang BBQ

The best kebabs in China

Xinjiang BBQ Pit

Xinjiang Style BBQ Pit


Uygur selling kebabs at the Qingdao Intl. Beer Festival

For big appetites (and bigger pocketbooks) full on lamb barbecue is in order. We eat this about once a month. That's a whole lamb, turned by hand over a fire for several hours. A meal for nine, including lamb, a few appetizers, and two cases of beers costs 700RMB ($102).

Lamb dinner

Chinese lamb dinner

Lamb cooking

Lamb being cooked

Finally, there's the Chinese barbecue that isn't Chinese at all - traditional Korean barbecue is hugely popular across China. Here you will find better cuts of beef. Barbecued right at your table, the meat is wrapped in lettuce leaf with garlic and peppers and eaten like a taco.

Korean BBQ

Tabletop BBQ - Korean style

In Asia they have a saying: Eat everything that flies but airplanes and everything with legs but tables. In China they could add: and barbecue it.

Got a question about life in China? Please leave a comment!