Tag Archives: Fast Food

For the Love of Spare Ribs

Simple foods can be simple comforts. This is especially true when you are a foreigner living in China. I have been here four years now, and I still haven’t begun to try all the different dishes and snacks to be had in the Middle Kingdom. Recently, I found a new-to-me lunch item that is now in my standard rotation of cheap eats in Changzhou.

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Grill stands seem to be very common. Two of the more prominent characters in the above picture are 排骨páigǔ — ribs. However, these places offer a variety of meat-on-bone options.

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So, the selections usually include pig’s feet, shanks, and other things. I can honestly say, I am not a fan of pig’s feet. Or eating feet in general. Thankfully, one of those aforementioned options includes a type of chicken wing I have never tried before.

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This is 鸡翅包饭 jīchì bāofàn, or basically a stuffed chicken wing. I think it might have originated in Hunan, but I see this everywhere. It’s a boneless chicken wing that’s been stuffed with glutinous rice. At this particular shop, it ran about 10 RMB for one. I enjoyed it, but keep in mind anytime I encounter street food, I always say 不辣 (bù là — not spicy)  when they offer to season my food. Originally, I thought the idea of stuffing a chicken wing was slightly weird, but I remembered chicken corden bleu is a thing in western culture. That’s essentially putting cheese and ham into a breaded chicken breast. Oh, and I love me some chicken corden bleu! So, I should be game for trying something tangentially like it. While I found this snack interesting, it just doesn’t compare to what these grill stands really have to offer.

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Pork ribs. Pure and simple. Now, these are not the same as ribs you would find in the American south — especially a place like North Carolina. That would be smoky, sweet, and tangy. These are also not the famed ribs you would find in Wuxi, either. Those would just be sweet in taste without any attempt at smoky or tangy flavors. Both American BBQ ribs and Wuxi ones are sauced, and these are not. It’s just simple spare ribs on a grill going for 25 RMB for four bones. So, where can you find simple and yummy pork ribs?

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Everywhere. The above screenshot is a Baidu Maps search for 桥头排骨 qiáotóu páigǔ,and that is just one chain that does a flaming grill with various meats. There are others. The one I have been going regularly to isn’t even part of that chain, and it’s at the Xinbei Wanda. I seen these rib stands in other cities, too. And that’s a relief, really, I have always been looking for excuses to not to give McDonald’s or Burger King my money when I need to eat and am on the go. These places are also great one you don’t know Chinese all that well. The meat is on display. You don’t have to say anything. Just point at what you want grilled, and it will be grilled.

Changzhou Down To One Subway

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Changzhou used to have three Subway fast food restaurants. One was on Bar Street near Nandajie. I never saw people in there, and it has now been converted to something else. Dinosaur Park also had one, but the last time I went to it, it was closed. I often go to Dinosaur Park to take pictures of the weirdness there. So, this closure is more recent. That leaves Changzhou now with only one, which is between Xinbei Central Park and a BRT station on Tongjiang Road.

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Fast Chinese Food: Xiao Chi Barbeque

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Skewers!

As noted elsewhere, eating out in China and Changzhou can be challenge your Chinese skills are limited. As also noted earlier, there is the dilemma of being faced with a non-picture menu and trying to intelligently order without resorting to grunting and randomly pointing. One “no menu” option would be 麻辣烫 mala tang — a hot and numbing soup. You just throw ingredients into a bowl and it’s turned into soup. Another option in xiao chi barbecue / 小吃BBQ.

The concept is a lot like mala tang. You walk in and grab a tray. From there, you go to a fridge and select what you want grilled for you. All of it is on skewers — whole fish, vegetables, vegetables wrapped in bacon, and much more. Then, you pay and hand your tray to the cook. Five to ten minutes later, your meal is brought to you. No waiters or waitresses or ordering at all!

While this sounds great, both me and a number of friends have had food poisoning issues with some of these places. There are a few things to be careful off. Unless you say otherwise, the grill cook will dump a lot of hot spices on your food. This will not only make it hard to eat, but it may lead to dedicated toilet time later if you have a weak stomach. Also, look at how clean the grill is before you enter one of these places. If it looks like it has never been scrubbed, skip it — dedicated toilet time will soon follow, trust me. I’ve been there.

The other warning is this: be very careful ordering meat. Many of these places do serve dog meat. Many times, a lot of the different meat options are not labelled (even in Chinese), and you have to trust your eyesight. It’s not just dog you have to worry about. Chinese people eat a variety of other things like donkey, snake, and just about everything uncommon to Western diets. One rule should be iron clad in China: if you do not know what it is, don’t eat it. Period.

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Refrigerated raw fish, meat, and vegetables.