Carolyn Tillie Posted May 22, 2010 Share Posted May 22, 2010 So, for those who don't following blogs (or who don't care to), I'll state here the fact that I have started a sort of specialty blog where I am investigating the various joys of fried dough; doughnuts, beignets, fritters, you name it... I want to blog more than the mere Krispy Kreme or Dunkin offering. I'm looking at the fact that most cultures have some form of fried dough and it is one of the more ancient forms of cooking known to man. There will be occasional media tidbits (past links include clips from The Simpsons, The Muppet Show, and Twin Peaks) and posts on versions in art and historical references. I'll include some of the more interesting finds here on a weekly basis - literally, Fried Dough Friday - starting with yesterday's visit to Chinatown with some very nice ladies who got me into the kitchen to photograph the chefs. As usual, pictures lie elsewhere: Several weeks ago, my friend, Cassandra, introduced me to her friend, Sara. We were talking about my doughnut obsession and Sara, in all her exuberance, offered to show me around the joys of Chinese fried dough, something which has almost completely alluded me. We set out for Chinatown got to our first stop, Hing Lung, a bit late; it seemed that the classic pork liver-based porridge which is served with a special fried dough was already sold out for the day. But not to fear, there was still plenty for me to try. The first offering was a long, slender fried dough known as youtiao (油条) — approximately 2″ thick and 9″ long. Wrapped in a steamed rice noodle, it is then known as zháliǎng (炸两). This is a classic dim sum dish, garnished with sliced scallions, sesame seeds, and served in a small puddle of sweetened soy sauce. The interior fried dough was still warm from the deep frying and crunchy, with a tender, light interior. I was somewhat anticipating the dish to be soggy, but the slightly custardy dough was not limp or too dense. The golden brown exterior had a distinct, light crunch to it and an easy tooth. The steamed rice noodle provides a savory complement along with a differing textural component. Because of the fried dough, it was rich and filling. But that didn’t stop us from enjoying a separate Chinese cruller, the tánggāo (糖糕), or “sugar cake,” a sweet, fried food item similar in appearance to youtiao but shorter in length and rounder, somewhat like a football. We ate this plain, although I believe it was this version that is often served with the porridge, soy milk, or rice congee for breakfast. Still warm, they were shaped with a seam down the center and are designed to be torn in half lengthwise. A little investigating revealed this parable: The Cantonese name yàuhjagwái literally means “oil-fried ghost” and, according to folklore, is an act of protest against an official who is said to have orchestrated the plot to frame the general Yue Fei, an icon of patriotism in the 1100s who fought for the Southern Song Dynasty. It is said that the food, originally took the form of two deep-fried humans and later evolved into two figures joined in the middle, representing Qin Hui and his wife who both had a hand in collaborating with the enemy to bring about the great general’s demise. The two sides of the youtiao symbolically represent the husband and the wife and their demise is affected by deep frying them and then after their death, separating them for all eternity by ripping them apart and consuming them. It was a very fortunate day, Sara and Cassandra were able to get me special access to the kitchen area and photograph the station where the chefs create the dough and fry them. There is a long, flour-covered work station and trays of the dough can be seen waiting to be worked and sliced before heading to the deep fryer. Unlike the Western-style commercial fast-food deep fryers which so many McDonalds workers are accustomed to, there are no inset baskets in which the dough is placed. These men of talent carefully hold a long-handled wire strainer and extra long chopsticks to grasp and hold the dough as it is cooking. They have to be careful to not allow the dough to sink to the bottom of the cavernous vat of scalding oil. It is hot, demanding work and while appears easy, requires deft and skill. What a fabulous day to just skim the surface of Chinese fried dough. According to Sara, I’ve got a long way to go in the exploration and I can’t wait to continue. Quote Link to post Share on other sites
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