Youtiao. Beijing breadsticks. Chinese churros. Strips of deep fried dough that resemble what we call “crullers” or “long johns” here in the States. Only in China they’re not sugared (though sometimes salted) and are a lot bigger, up to about two feet long. I’d like to try and make some that are that long, but don’t think I have a frying vessel that big anymore…I’ll have to look around.
Anyway, like doughnuts or crullers, youtiao are eaten mainly as a breakfast food in China, dunked in a cup of hot soy milk (what is it about doughnuts and dunking that seems to transcend all cultures?). However depending on where you are in China you may find them eaten with porridge, wrapped in pancakes or flat bread or stuffed with beef, pork or seafood.
And those are just the Chinese versions. For indeed youtaio are popular all over Southeast Asia, from Burma to Indonesia and beyond. Even the Australians get into the act with their versions which they call “chopstick cakes.” More on why that’s a particularly apt name soon.