Yau char kway is an oil-fried pull-apart dough stick popular throughout Southeast Asia. Twinned lengths of wheat-flour dough are fused together, with a groove down the centre making them easy to tear in half lengthways. Behind it is a tale worthy of a soap-opera.
This simple dough stick has its origins in China, where legend says it represents a Chinese official from the Song dynasty named Qin Hui, and his wife Lady Wang, who conspired to betray a respected and heroic general, Yue Fei. Their punishment: to be thrown into boiling oil!
In Cantonese, yau char kway translates as “oil-fried devil”, which appears to be a reference to the ill-fated couple. However, a toned-down version of the saga suggests the pastry was created as a political protest by a dough maker to reflect public anger against Qin Hui and his wife. He took two pieces of dough, shaped them together to represent the pair, fried the stick in hot oil, and invited people to eat it to express their anger and mourn their hero. In China, it’s increasingly known by its Mandarin name, youtiao – a change designed to expunge the legend.
Yau char kway is classified as a snack. It is often eaten at breakfast, usually with congee or bak kut teh (a pork rib soup), or dipped in soy milk or regular milk, sometimes with sugar. In Malaysia, it’s commonly found in Chinese-focused hawker centres, often located near other hawker stalls that sell congee or milk-based beverages.
You’ll usually find yau char kway stalls also make ham chin peng, a pastry with a softer dough. Also known as haam ji peng or hum ji peng, it is a deep-fried hollow doughnut that comes plain, filled with sticky rice or red bean paste among other fillings, and is often coated in sesame seeds.
Ham chin peng is another great snack, particularly with a hot beverage like coffee or teh tarik as it’s perfect for dunking.
Restoran New Hollywood, 38, Lorong Cecil Rae, Taman Canning, Ipoh
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