It may sound odd, but when I finally packed my suitcase and bought my one-way ticket to move to Beijing, the first thing I wanted to do was plop down on a tiny stool by a dirty road and eat meat on a stick.
Beijing’s number one street food is a microcosm of Beijing. It brings people together—though it might not be what it advertises itself as. It tastes good—even if it might occasionally turn your stomach.
And, of course, it’s getting more expensive. If anything deserves a sad song, it’s the demise of the one kuai chuanr.
Last year I started performing a parody of Wang Zhengliang’s hit song, “Where Has the Time Gone?” My version, “Where Has the One Kuai Chuanr Gone?” provided me with a chance to belt out some melodramatic tunes in Beijing’s comedy club scene.
The song struck a chord even if I couldn’t. As Beijing gets more expensive, regular people and the places they eat are getting replaced. People still squat on tiny stools in the hutongs, but every twenty minutes or so they need to get up and move as a Mercedes rolls through the narrow alleyway. Old Beijing is being moved out, one cheap meat-stick at a time.
At any given time, there are surely more tragic things than inflation occurring in China. But I think most people who have been through Beijing—whether they be tourists, students, or Chinese from far-flung provinces—have stopped and enjoyed Chuanr one fine evening.
One day, when eight-kuai chuanr are the norm, it will be good to be able to remember this time that is now passing—2015, the last days of the one kuai chuanr.