Shaokao (Chinese: 燒烤, shāo kǎo), also romanized as shao kao, is the Chinese translation of "barbecue". Chinese variants of the practice constitute a significant aspect of Chinese cuisine. In China, it is predominantly found on busy Chinese streets and night markets as a street food sold in food stalls and is a type of xiaochi. In China and elsewhere, such as in the United States, diners sometimes also order beer as an accompaniment.
Shaokao typically consists of heavily spiced, barbecued foods on skewers. It is available in almost all of the cities in China, and is a prominent dish in Beijing, China, where some restaurants set up food stalls outdoors to purvey the product. Concerns about food safety associated with shaokao and air pollution generated from outdoor shaokao vendors associated with increased smog levels in Beijing have prompted complaints about the vendors.
Shaokao is prepared with meats, fish and seafood, and vegetables on bamboo skewers that are flame grilled on a barbecue after being heavily seasoned with various spices, including both cumin and Chinese five-spice powder. The skewers can be cooked to order. Barbecue chicken legs and spare ribs are also some of the dishes in shaokao cuisine.
Shaokao can be found in almost all of the cities in China. They are often located along streets that have a strip of bars. In China, some shaokao food stalls also purvey other goods such as produce that are displayed hanging on sticks. In China and the United States, some restaurants specialize in shaokao dishes.
In Beijing, shaokao is a very common and popular food, and some restaurants in Beijing set-up shaokao barbecues outside of the restaurants to purvey them to people walking on the streets. Shaokao stands are sometimes operated by migrant workers in Beijing. Shaokao stand operators are sometimes reported to the police in Beijing by neighbors who complain about the smoke and aroma that gets into homes, as well as about concerns about food poisoning that can occur from improper meat handling and cooking. In 2013, outdoor barbecue stands were banned due to heavy smog conditions. Chinese authorities have stated that shaokao operations and Chunjie fireworks are a significant cause of smog in Beijing.