Friday, May 20, 2011

Street Snack: Youtiao - X Marks The Spot

Waffles are my favorite guilty snack when I'm out among the street stalls in Thailand, but when I'm really looking to clog an artery I'll stop for an order of the Thai street version of Chinese crullers known as Youtiao. These little fried devils are probably as bad for you as that cheese glorp they ladle over tortilla chips at the baseball parks here in the US. A comedian I followed a couple of decades ago thought they ought to have a "Clothespin On Your Aorta Day" and just clamp off an an artery for you on the way into the ball park... but I digress.

A fried pastry pusher tries to look innocent as he lures the unsuspecting in with his treats

With a paper-thin crispy shell on the outside and a light and airy interior, these are - as my brother would say "just like heroin."

I can eat them until I'm queasy (which doesn't take all that long, truth be known). Sprinkled with powdered sugar, drizzled with sweetened condensed milk or just plain they're absolutely delicious.

Buy a small bag of them fresh and warm after you've watched them dance around in the oil and you just may turn up your nose at Krispy Kremes or anything similar for the rest of your days.

After the ingredients are mixed together they're allowed to rise, and then the dough is folded and worked lightly and quickly; kneaded and stretched into long, flat bands that are chopped with a dull flat blade into small strips.

Two strips are then basted with water in one spot to make them stick, criss-crossed into a sort of "X" shape and dropped quickly (but carefully) into the hot fat.

Because of the air pockets created as the dough rests and rises they float and sizzle gently as they cook. Using long chopstick they're turned to brown evenly on both sides, and then put onto a rack to drain and cool.

If you've ever been around fresh raised donuts cooking you already know the aroma they produce. If you haven't been you're certainly in for a pleasant sensory experience. It was the scent of them cooking that caught my attention some years back, before I was within 10 feet of the cart. When I'd stopped to look closely at the small heap of them the woman had cooling on the rack she picked one up with the long sticks and handed it to me to try.

Looking back I probably should have recognized the little voice as being similar to The Old Dope Peddler saying "come here and try this, sonny... the first one's free," because just that fast - boom! - I was hooked. Just seeing the images today makes my hands shake a little, so if you get there before I do next have a half dozen for me, will you?


Anonymous said...

It's interesting that Thai uses the Cantonese word for these treats.

But, if you purchase them in Hong Kong, there'll be no sugar, no condensed milk. They are eaten plain, along with (or chopped into) rice soup.

khunbaobao said...

They may well be called several different things - that's part of my learning curve. Wikipedia says as of 1987 14% of Thai claimed to be of Chinese ethnicity, so it's natural to see and hear dialects of the language. I've had them served to me as the more traditional (longer) unsweetened form with porridge, too - but those were a little different. Both are pretty good!

krobbie said...

Well that does it. I land in BKK on June 30 and the next day I will ask Bobey where the nearest cart is for these. He knows what to find where at any given time of the day.

I can almost smell the delicious little morsels from my desk in Auckland just from the photo's.

Cheers Bao-Bao,