Chuan are small pieces of meat on skewers roasted over charcoal or, sometimes, electric heat. It is sometimes also cooked by deep frying in oil (popular in Beijing). It can be classified as a type of kebab. Chuan was traditionally made from lamb (yáng ròu chuàn, 羊肉串, lamb meat chuan), which is still the most common, but now, chicken, pork, beef, and various types of seafood can also be used. Especially in touristy areas, chuan can be found made with various insects and bugs, birds, and other exotic animals. In general, chuan may be spiced according to preference, but generally cumin seed, dried pepper flakes, salt, and sesame or sesame oil are sprinkled or brushed onto it. Another popular incarnation is mantou or steamed bun chuan; it is commonly brushed with a sweet bean sauce (甜面酱, not to be confused with sweet red bean paste), and its taste serves as a foil to the often spicy meat chuan. It is commonly eaten with beer.
In Tianjin, chuan is often served with small round breads (馅饼, xiàn bǐng), also grilled with the same spices. Xiàn bǐng technically means "pie" or "filled bread" -- after cooking bread and meat, the bread is split open and chuan meat is put inside, then eaten together.