Saturday, July 14, 2012

Chinese Crullers (Yau Char Kwai)

When I first read through the recipe for Yau Char Kwai on foodbuzz, I was intimidated. The recipe was daunting perhaps because of a couple of ingredients in there which I'd never used before: Ammonia Bicarbonate and Alum. The rest of the recipe seemed familiar enough and the method was pretty simple, almost like making doughnuts but I hesitated a little before giving the recipe a go.

But the temptation was too great. I love Yau Char Kwai. I've loved it since the first time I tried them when I was a kid. Sunday morning breakfasts always comprised some sticks of Yau Char Kwai. Some eat them in porridge or dip them in soup but I like to eat them as they are. 

They look like the Mexican/Spanish churros but these are savoury, rather than sweet. Some say the churro owes its roots to these deep-fried Chinese crullers but there are as many origin theories as there are variations of this dish.

So yesterday I went to my baking supply store and bought a bottle of alum and another of ammonia bicarbonate. Both were powdery white substances but the ammonia kinda had a foul smell. The ammonia is a leavening agent while the alum adds a crunch to the crullers.

The process of making these crullers is pretty simple and the most challenging part turned out to be waiting for the dough to proof (it took 2 hours and I could hardly wait!). The end result was perfect, I am quite pleased.... heck, I am deliriously happy at how they turned out. Deliciously salty, chewy, crunchy... oh yum. Oh yes, nice and oily too :)

Yau Char Kwai

Part A
1 tsp instant yeast
1 tsp sugar
1 tbsp tepid water

Part B
250 ml water
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp alum
1/2 tsp ammonia bicarb

Part C
300g bread flour
1 tsp salt

Combine the ingredients in A together and let it sit for 10 mins or till it starts frothing.

Combine the ingredients in B.

Sieve flour and salt in a large bowl. Add A and B to the flour and mix with a wooden spoon till a dough forms. Use your hands and knead for about 5 mins. If it's too sticky, add a little (just a little) more flour. 

Leave in the bowl, cover with cling film, and let it proof for 2 hours.

Once risen, transfer to a well floured surface and shape into a rectangle. Cut into 1cm slices (mine were too thick and I had to cut each slice in half before frying) and pile one piece on top of another. 

Heat about 3 inches of vegetable oil in a deep wok. To test if its hot enough, drop a small piece of the dough in the oil. It should bubble and sizzle immediately. 

Lift the two pieces of cut dough, pressing them together, stretch them a little and gently drop them into the oil. You can fry two or three together, depending on how large your wok is. Keep turning them in the oil using a pair of chopsticks. Cook until they are golden. Remove and drain. Eat immediately!!

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