Roujiamou – Chinese Hamburger

There are many reasons why I think I’ll keep going back to China. One of those is the sheer vastness of the place – you could spend years traveling the length and breadth of the county and still feel like you’d only scratched the surface. Another reason is big bottles of Tsing Tao – this sino-german lager is one of my favorite beers and the perfect thing to slake your thirst on a hot Beijing night. Yet another reason I want China to remain part my life is Roujiamou.

Roujiamou is sometimes referred to as “Chinese Hamburger,” but in truth bears more resemblence to a kebab or a pulled pork sandwich. Versions of Roujiamou exist all over China, but to date I’ve only had the fortune of trying it in Xian and Beijing. In Xian the sandwich is sold by street vendors in the city’s Muslim Quarter, who substitute beef for pork and shave mighty quanties of it into sliced flatbread. In Beijing, Roujiamou is a little harder to find. In my five days of searching I only had two – one on Wangfujing Snack Street and one outside a subway station on the way back from the summer palace.

The one at Wangfujing was a bit of a write off. It wasn’t that it tasted bad, it was just a bit on the small side and the vendor tried to rip us off by 5 yuan despite the price being clearly marked on his booth. Wangfujing in general is also a bit of a dive. The snack street – along with Donghuamen Night Market – caters almost exclusively to the tourist market, meaning that finding decent street food among all the scorpions on sticks can be a little tricky. There is also a sense of cynicism and opportunism about both places that doesn’t chime well with my new-wave food sentimentality.

At the subway station, however, things were different. This was street food at it’s cheapest and most functional. The filling this time seemed to be pork that had been cooked and slathered (or slathered then cooked) with generous amounts of cumin, chili sauce and hoisin sauce. The result was a killer sandwich that was meaty, spicy and salty.