A comforting breakfast staple loved by many, Chinese doughnut stick (Youtiao) is light, airy and pleasantly chewy. Follow my recipe to make it at home without fail.
Last summer I took two young food critics from our Red House to China and this trip turned out to be the most memorable event of their life in 2017. During the one-month-stay with my family, they were spoiled with all sorts of wonderful food that they never tasted before. After the holiday, Chinese doughnut stick (Youtiao, 油条) became one of the specialities that they miss and crave most. After several “trial and error” testing sessions, I’ve finally found the perfect version. Light, airy, chewy, “Just like what we had in Beijing.” My young critics approved.
“What do Chinese families have for breakfast?” This is a question that I’ve been asked many times and I often find it difficult to answer. There are just too many varieties! However, if I had to choose one particular dish, Chinese doughnut stick (Youtiao, 油条) would be the one synonymous with breakfast across the country. Queuing up at a street stand to buy warm doughnut sticks is an early morning routine for many Chinese, just like how French people love fresh croissant from their favourite bakery.
Making doughnut stick is not a popular home cooking practice in China because: 1. It’s time consuming. You need to allow the dough to rest during several different stages. 2. It requires lots of attention to detail, otherwise it can easily go wrong. 3. It’s available everywhere so there is no need to make it yourself!
But for me, it’s truly a labour of love. When I had the first bite of my home-made doughnut stick, I knew that it was worth all the effort! Last Sunday, I served it with red bean rice congee, cucumber salad, fried eggs, fermented bean curd (aka Chinese cheese) and some preserved Chinese mustard. The sight and smell of this morning treat immediately evoked nostalgic memories of my childhood.
As a child, I always loved watching the street vendor frying up Chinese doughnut stick. It’s fascinating to see thin strips of dough magically expand to chunky sticks in just a few seconds. The well cooked doughnut stick is light, airy and slightly chewy. To achieve the desired texture, I suggest you follow every step of the recipe without alternation. Here are some helpful tips:
- Make sure the dough is soft and smooth. But do not over knead it.
- Allow enough time to rest the dough during the different stages: 1. Rest for 20 minutes before you knead it the second time. 2. Then keep refrigerated overnight. 3. After taking it out of the fridge, let it come back to room temperature (when soft enough to stretch).
- Control the oil temperature when deep frying. It’s best to use a kitchen thermometer (it’s an inexpensive, handy tool worthing having). Otherwise, use a small piece of dough to test first. When the temperature is high enough, the dough should come up to the surface very quickly (in 3 seconds or so).
Thank you for taking time to read my post. If Chinese doughnut sticks are part of your food nostalgia too, I hope my recipe is exactly what you are looking for. For those who are new to this delectable dish, I hope my recipe has inspired you.