A comforting breakfast staple loved by many, Chinese doughnut sticks (Youtiao) are 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 the year. 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 sticks (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.
One of most popular breakfast items in China
“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 sticks (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 croissants from their favourite bakery.
Making doughnut sticks is not a popular home cooking practice in China because:
- It’s time-consuming. You need to allow the dough to rest during several different stages.
- It requires lots of attention to detail, otherwise, it can easily go wrong.
- It’s available everywhere so there is no need to make it yourself!
Home-made doughnut sticks can be very easy
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 sticks. It’s fascinating to see thin strips of dough magically expand to chunky sticks in just a few seconds.
Tips to help you achieve the best result
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:
- After initially combining all the ingredients for the dough. Leave it to rest for 10 minutes before you knead it the second time. This helps you achieve a very smooth texture if kneading by hand.
- Then leave the dough to rest for at least 2 hours. If you plan to cook them in the morning, you can make the dough the night before and keep it refrigerated overnight.
- 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).
Other Chinese breakfast you may also like
Interested in other Chinese breakfast choices? Have a look at my “introduction to Chinese bread” where you can find links to my recipes for many flour-based breakfast items, such as:
- Mantou (Chinese steamed bunsm, 馒头
- Baozi (Steamed bao buns with pork filling, 包子)
- Cong You Bing (Spring onion pancakes, 葱油饼)
- Sheng Jian Bao (Pan-fried pork buns, 生煎包)
Chinese doughnut stick (Youtiao, 油条)
For the dough
- 360 g all-purpose flour, 2.5 cups, see note 1
- 240 ml milk, 1 cup
- 1 tbsp cooking oil
- 1 tbsp baking powder
- ½ tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp salt
You also need:
- 1 teaspoon cooking oil, for coating the dough
- 500 ml cooking oil, for deep frying, see note 2
Make the dough
- IF KNEADING BY HAND: In a mixing bowl, add all the ingredients for the dough. Knead with until combined. Leave to rest for 10 minutes. Then knead again to form a soft and smooth dough.
- IF KNEADING WITH A STAND MIXER: Put all the ingredients for the dough into the mixing bowl. Knead on low speed until a very smooth dough forms (about 8 minutes).
Rest the dough
- Divide the dough into two equal portions. Flatten each portion into a rectangle shape (about 10×20 cm / 4×8 inch).
- Coat all around with a thin layer of oil, then wrap with cling film. Keep in the fridge overnight (or at least 2 hours at room temperature).
- Next morning, transfer the dough pieces (still wrapped) to a warm place for about 1 hour until they come back to room temperature (very soft to the touch).
Shape the sticks
- Place the two pieces of dough on a chopping board then cut each piece into 10 equal strips.
- Lay one strip on top of another. Press the centre with a chopstick lengthways to stick the two strips together. Repeat the procedure with the rest of the dough.
Fry the sticks
- Meanwhile, heat up the oil for deep frying over medium heat. The oil is ready when it reaches 180°C / 356°F (see note 3).
- Pinch both ends of the dough with thumb and index finger. Then gently stretch it to double the length. Carefully lower it into the oil.
- After the doughnut stick comes up to the surface, roll it frequently with a pair of chopsticks.
- When evenly golden brown, transfer into a heatproof colander (with a plate underneath to collect excessive oil). Repeat the procedure to cook the rest (see note 4).
Thank you for taking the 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. Remember to tag me @red.house.spice on Instagram if you share pictures of the dish.