My first lesson in finding it was to seek out the glowing red character 串 that illuminates some of the city's narrow, dark alleys. It's the symbol for chuan, a pictorial translation for threaded things, and a sure sign for the presence of smoky skewers. Beijingers go gaga for chuan, and many of the best chuan dian, or grilled food restaurants, are manned by Uighurs, a Muslim minority group from Xinjiang province in western China with a fondness for lamb. At these establishments, you're apt to find blue-eyed Caucasian Chinese aiming hair dryers at the coals inside a long, rectangular blackened grill to amplify their heat, while nimble fingers turn a line of yangrou chuan, skewered bits of lamb, like a game of fiery foosball. Served hot, these tender morsels require little more than a light dusting of cumin, chile, and salt. Chuan dian offer grilled vegetables, too, often flavored to the hilt. Garlic chives, scallions, or green beans on ladder-like double skewers are basted with peppery soy-vinegar sauce and sprinkled with sugar, salt, and sometimes even powdered chicken bouillon cubes for oomph.