you tiao chinese doughnuts

You Tiao, Fried Chinese Doughnuts 油条

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You tiao (油条) or Fried Chinese doughnuts or Cakwe (as it’s called in Malaysia) is a delicious savoury fried doughnut that’s crispy, light and fluffy, mildly seasoned with salt, and typically eaten as breakfast with soy milk, congee or sweet dessert soups such as ‘tau suan 豆爽’. In some dim sum restaurants in Asia, you may find youtiao wrapped in rice wrappers ‘fun cheong 粉肠’. In Southeast Asia, we dip you tiao in ‘Bak ku teh 肉骨茶’, a herbal pork ribs soup as well as into sweet coffee in local coffee shops. Some innovative ways of eating youtiao even includes stuffing it with prawn paste and deep frying to serve as a communal dish for dinner. One of my personal favourite way to enjoy it is to dip freshly fried crispy youtiao into a hot bowl of creamy coconut laksa, it makes me salivate as I write out this blog post. 

Unfortunately in Singapore, there are not too many stalls that sell freshly deep fried Chinese doughnuts. What is available near my home is an over-the-counter dim sum stall that sells pre-fried dim sum snacks, so you can imagine the youtiao is not so fresh and already drenched in stale oil. 

There are so many different ways to savour this humble yet addictive snack. You tiao is made of simple ingredients that are incredibly cheap but making it involves a lengthy process of kneading and allowing it time to rest for hours before deep frying it. 

The standard youtiao consists of two pieces of dough stuck together. The key to making lightly salted, crispy fluffy fried Chinese doughnuts lies in the dough. I have tried a couple of ingredients proportion, different timings of resting it, as well as kneading technique. This one from YouTuber Lisa’s Kitchen is the best that has worked so far for me, she speaks Mandarin in her video so here’s my adapted version in English. 

Patience is key in making the perfect youtiao. Set aside at least 4-5 hours to prepare and rest the dough before deep frying it. Dust the dough with flour and make sure the two doughs stick to each other only in the middle without falling apart while deep frying. Taking any shortcuts would mean a less-than-ideal end product which is so not worth the long process of making it.

The you tiao dough must have the right moisture content, not too oily nor too soft. The perfect dough should be soft yet firm, non-sticky, slightly stretchy but does not spring back when poked. If it springs back when poked, let it rest more. 

Tips for making the perfect You Tiao

  • While mixing the batter with the water, add the liquid gradually to ensure it’s well mixed.
  • In this recipe, the dough is kneaded thrice and rested for 2 intervals of 30 minutes, before the final rest of 3 hours. If you are preparing this for the next day, you can keep it covered in the fridge overnight and bring it to room temperature before deep frying. 
  • Before the first rest, the dough is slightly sticky, lumpy and rough, rest 30 minutes each time and the dough turns smoother and softer. Be sure to rub a little oil and cover up before resting the dough.
  • The size of each piece of dough (after cutting and before stacking) in this recipe is about 3cm wide, 5cm length, 1.5cm thick.
  • I use a 29cm diameter by 9cm deep stainless stain pot wok for deep frying. The length of each dough should be about 30% length of the diameter of your pot as the You Tiao will expand 3-4 times the size, mainly by thickness and not so much by length and this creates the puffiness of the dough stick.
  • Use enough oil for deep frying, I used about 1.2 litre of vegetable oil and used it for about 4 rounds of deep frying.
  • Flour the dough on the sides, top and bottom to ensure the two layers of dough do not stick to each other, otherwise it will not fry well. Use a wet chopstick or skewer stick to wet the middle of the dough before pressing both layers of dough down to stick. Press an extra time on both ends of the pressed line for extra stickiness.
  • Hold the dough on both ends and pull it gently but quickly until about 3-4 times the original length. Avoid pinching the dough too hard, it will not turn out nice on the ends after frying.
  • The right temperature of the oil for deep frying the youtiao is between 190°C/374°F and 200°C/392°F. It might turn out dense and oily if fried at a lower temperature, or too hard and burnt if fried at a higher temperature. Use a food thermometer to measure the oil temperature to get the best gauge. Once the heat reaches about 190°C/374°F, turn the heat down lower, otherwise the temperature might continue to rise.
  • I used a stainless stain pot for deep frying. You can also use a wok or a deep fryer machine to deep fry the You Tiao, but stainless steel is the best safe option.
  • Each dough will take about 1 minute 15 seconds to 1 minute 30 seconds for the whole deep frying process. When you stretch the dough and dip it carefully into the hot oil, the dough will sink and then float up within seconds. This is the time you have to quickly toss the dough around continuously. I used a pair of long wooden chopsticks for this purpose. the dough will expand and turn evenly golden. Once it stops expand, toss it a few more times before transferring it to a plate lined with baking paper to absorb the oil.
  • The perfect You Tiao should be crispy on the outside and fluffy and chewy on the inside. When pressed, it will spring back nicely.
  • Air-frying is unfortunately not possible to yield the standard quality of this delicious snack. I used the airfryer for reheating instead.

Storing You Tiao

Youtiao are best eaten immediately when it’s crispy, light and fluffy. It can be left covered overnight on the kitchen countertop or in the fridge, just reheat in a toaster or air fryer to enjoy it again but it will not be as crispy as before. You can store it in airtight container in the freezer for up to a month, and reheat it in a toaster or air fryer.

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You Tiao, Fried Chinese Doughnuts 油条

Here's a fail-proof recipe of You Tiao 油条 or Fried Chinese Doughnuts. YouTiao is a delicious savoury fried fritter that’s crispy, light and fluffy, mildly salted, typically eaten for breakfast with congee, soy milk or mung bean soup.
Course Breakfast, Snack
Cuisine asian, Chinese
Keyword chinese food, deep fry, doughnut, you tiao, youtiao
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Dough resting 4 hours
Total Time 4 hours 40 minutes
Servings 6 persons
Calories 192kcal

Ingredients

  • 300 g plain flour
  • 6 g baking powder
  • 2 g baking soda
  • 3 g fine salt
  • 15 ml vegetable oil and more for brushing
  • 1 egg room temperature, about 60g with shell
  • 130-150 ml water room temperature

Instructions

  • In a large mixing bowl, combine 300g plain flour, 6g baking powder, 2g baking soda, 3g fine salt and mix until well-combined.
    300 g plain flour, 6 g baking powder, 2 g baking soda, 3 g fine salt
  • Add 1 egg and 15ml vegetable oil and use a chopstick to mix. Mixture will be uneven and lumpy but that's normal.
    15 ml vegetable oil, 1 egg
  • Add 130-150ml of water gradually, according to the absorption rate of the dry ingredients, use 130ml of water at first and if it's still dry after mixing, add a little more water. Mix well with chopstick until the dough becomes hard to mix. Then start kneading with hands. Dough will turn out damp, sticky and lumpy. 
    130-150 ml water
  • Add about 1/2 tsp of vegetable oil and rub over the dough. Cover up and let it rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.
  • Knead the dough by gently punching it with your fist for about 1 to 2 minutes. Dough will turn softer and smoother.
  • Add about 1/2 tsp of vegetable oil and rub over the dough. Cover up and let it rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.
  • Knead the dough by gently punching it with your fist for about 1 minute. Dough will turn out even softer and smoother.
  • Add about 1/2 tsp of vegetable oil and rub over the dough. Cover up and let it rest at room temperature for 3 hours.
    Note: You can also keep it in the fridge overnight. Before deep frying, remove from fridge and bring to room temperature. This may take a few hours depending on your kitchen.
  • The dough should be very soft (yet firm) after resting, slightly stretchy and will not spring back when poked. If it’s springy, let it rest more. Lay the dough on a rolling mat dusted with plain flour, dust some flour on the dough. Do not knead anymore at this stage.
  • Roll and shape into 24cm x 10cm x 1.5cm thick.
  • Cut the dough into 3cm x 5cm x 1.5cm thick pieces.
  • Lightly dust the cut doughs (side, front, back) with plain flour. Try to avoid flouring the centre portion as we will need to stick the doughs together.
  • Wet a chopstick or skewer stick and press it in the middle of each dough.
  • Stack 2 doughs on top of each other. Use a wet chopstick or skewer stick and press it in the middle of each stack of doughs, making sure the 2 doughs stick well.
    Note: If the doughs do not stick well, wet the stick again and press again, it may be because there is too much flour making the surface too dry. For extra stickiness, press the wet stick on both ends of the dough stack.
  • Heat about 1.2 litre of vegetable oil in a stainless steel pot, and let it reach between 190°C/374°F to 200°C/392°F.
    Note: Reduce the heat slightly during deep frying to prevent the temperature to keep rising during the cooking process.
  • Hold the dough stack on both ends gently and quickly pull the dough to 3-4 times the original length.
  • Carefully dip the dough into the hot oil. It'll sink and float up within seconds. Use a pair of wooden chopsticks and continuously toss the dough as it expands. The whole deep frying process will take about 75-90 seconds. Once the dough stops expanding and turns an even golden light brown colour, it's ready.
  • Remove from oil and place on a plate with baking paper to absorb the excess oil. Enjoy it warm and crispy.

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Hello! I'm Pauline. Welcome to Beautiful Voyager, my food recipe and travel blog where I share my favourite recipes and travel stories. Do drop a note to say a little "hello!" and do not hesitate to ask any questions related to my posts.

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