Commonly known as Yu Char Kway in Southern China, Youtiao, fried dough sticks, or Chinese fried dough, is a wheat-based delicacy that has been enjoyed in China and other Asian countries since the Southern Song Dynasty (1127 – 1279). Youtiao is commonly enjoyed over breakfast, and it makes great accompaniments for soy milk, rice congee, sugared milk, or plain milk.
The fried dough is usually long, and the donuts are made so that they easily come apart into two long parts. Youtiao has acquired many names over the years, and in many regions of the world, it goes by several other names like Chinese oil stick, fried breadstick, Chinese cruller, Chinese doughnut, Chinese fried churro, and others.
Youtiao is made from wheat dough which is made by combining wheat flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda, egg whites, and salt. The recipe can be tweaked to include other ingredients like milk depending on your preference.
How long is Youtiao?
On average, a youtiao is about 8 inches (20 cm) long. It is also about ¼ inch wide, and 4 inches thick. It is, by no means, a small snack, and just a couple are enough to keep you satiated. Seeing as they are made from dough, they have a chewy but soft consistency on the inside, but the top is almost always crunchy, especially when the oil is at the right temperature (375°F or 190°C).
Grab a large bowl and strainer and set them on a flat surface. Take your flour and sift it into the bowl through the large strainer.
In a separate bowl, mix the water, baking soda, and baking powder. Mix them until they are well incorporated.
Add the water, baking soda, and baking powder mixture into the flour. Mix them thoroughly using a fork or mixer until they form a coarse dough.
Knead the dough with your hands for 5 to 6 minutes, then cover it with plastic wrap. Leave it to rest for about 30 minutes.
When the 30 minutes have elapsed, place your dough on a flat surface and knead once again for two minutes. Place it back into the bowl and cover it up. You can let it rest for two hours. For best results, however, you can leave it overnight in the fridge (about 12 hours).
Make the youtiao
When you are ready to make the youtiao from the dough, have your oil over the fire and leave it to heat to a temperature of 375°F or 190°C. Cut the dough into two equal halves.
On a flat surface, pour a few drops of vegetable oil and spread with your hand. Pick one of the dough halves and place it on the oiled surface. Roll it into a long strip using your hands. To make it longer, you can stretch the dough using your hands into a long strip, but you have to be gentle about it. When it is stretched and has a width of 4 inches and a thickness of ¼ inch, place it on the oiled surface and cut the ends so that it makes a long triangle.
Proceed to cut across the rectangular sheet to make 1-inch by 4-inch rectangles.
Grab a skewer or knife and deep the end into cold water. Press the knife or skewer into the center of half of the dough rectangles. Pick the remaining dough rectangles and place them on top of the pressed ones, then proceed to press the centers again. This way, the strips become attached to one another.
Let the donuts rest for another 10 minutes.
Fry the youtiao
By now, your oil should be hot enough. Spread a baking sheet on top of a wide tray and place a cooling rack above it.
Working with one piece of donut at a time, pick each by pitching each end with your fingers, then gently stretch them to a length of 8 inches. Lower it into the hot oil. Depending on the size of your pot, you can cook 3 or 4 at the same time.
If you want them to have a soft surface, cook each side for 2 minutes, or until the donuts attain a golden color. For more crispiness, allow them to become golden brown.
Once they are properly cooked, place them on the cooling rack using a pair of tongs.
You can enjoy the youtiao hot or warm.
If you want to store them, wait until they are completely cooled and toss them into a Ziploc bag. You can store them in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 days, or up to 1 month in the freezer.
How to eat Youtiao
Seeing as these donuts are savory, they work very well with savory foods and drinks, and sometimes sweet ones too. As earlier mentioned, they are most often eaten over breakfast, and they can be had with sweet milk, nut milk, regular milk, coffee, and tea. You can have it with both hot and cold drinks.
Apart from having youtiao with drinks, you can also have it with stews such as steamed yellow beans, mohinga, or rice porridge.
Who invented Youtiao?
Even though early forms of fried dough were first introduced as far back as 8,000 to 5,000BC in China and Egypt, the youtiao was invented by a group of Chinese people in the Southern Song Dynasty. They made it to ‘curse’ Qin Hui, a Chinese chancellor, and his wife, Lady Wang, after the wrongful imprisonment, torture, and killing of Yue Fei, a Chinese military general.
The two dough strips were shaped like people, and each half represented Qin and his wife. The donuts were fried and eaten as an expression of anger and displeasure against the chancellor and his wife.
Even though they were born from anger and desire for vengeance, these buns have become so popular that they are enjoyed in many regions of the world. They are a delectable snack and are easy to make, and would make a great accompaniment for your meals at home.
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