Friday, June 28, 2013

In praise of Youtiao 油条

A TASTE OF HEAVEN! Chinese fried breadstick Youtiao 油条 (You Char Kway in Hokkien) are crispy on the outside, fluffy on the inside. It's the Chinese equivalent of crullers. Youtiao is a childhood favorite. I would always follow Grandad on his daily early morning shop, and hang out at the nonya kueh and youtiao stalls. A couple of sticks and eaten fresh out of the fryer, there's nothing more satisfiying first thing in the morning.

In Cantonese, Youtiao is Yau Ja Gwai (oil-fried devil). It's origin is steeped in history, made as an act of protest against Song Dynasty official Qin Hui and his consort who collaborated to bring down the demise of patriot General Yu Fei, hence the 2 strips of dough joined in the middle.

Away from home, there are always Chinese stalls within Asian supermarkets making youtiao. It's a far cry from the best as there is not enough traffic to warrant them being made continuously. The youtiao is usually cold, fried earlier and if the oil for frying is hot enough and less than fresh, the youtiao will be chewy and soaked in oil. Best to avoid.

When I was in the oil town of Miri recently, Lao Pan Niang took her old mate to have breakfast at Sin Yakin Food Centre. She said the youtiao stall is the most famous in Miri and of course she was right. We watched the family make it, starting with plain flour. Baking soda and baking powder is used and salt added.They go to great lengths to stress they don't use ammonia powder or alum water, a common despicable practice that makes the outside of the youtiao crispy.

'No amonia used' the sign proudly proclaims. So how is it their youtiao is a taste of heaven? Good fresh vegetable oil (no palm oil additives), heated to a high temperature. This will result in very crispy youtiao that is not soaked in oil. Many youtiao makes nowadays add eggs in the dough before frying to n.achieve that skin crunchiness. 2 strips of dough are pressed together and pressed down with a chopstick. It's now ready to be fried.

They supply many restaurants and cafes with their youtiao. So there's contant action in this rather hot enclave. It is traditional to have youtiao with sweetened soya milk.Youtiao is also used (scissor cut) in rice congee as a topping, in Bak Kut Teh herbal soup and in Lek Tau Suan. The Chinese stuff youtiao in Shaobing (roasted sandwich0 or in rice noodle roll (zhaliang).

So we sat down and had the youtiao as is, with teh tarik. We also checked out what the other stalls offered and settled on the Mee Sua and Char Kway Tiaw, after much deliberation. Mee Sua is a Foochow noodle specialty. Touted as a noodle soup of good health, prosperity and long life and served as a birthday treat, it comes with long-life noodles (mee sua), a chicken leg, dried shitake mushroom and boiled egg, simmered until ready to serve when red wine is added to the soup.

Sin Yakin
Lot 2122-2125
Yakin Commercial Centre
Jalan Bulan Sabit

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