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Youtiao (Chinese Doughnut Stick)

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Youtiao Chinese Doughnut Stick is an incredibly popular street food and a daily breakfast staple in China and Southeast Asia. It is also known as Chinese cruller, Chinese doughnut, Chinese breadstick, Chinese fried churro, Chinese oil stick and Chinese fried breadstick. While in Malaysia and Singapore, it is called you char kway in Cantonese, directly translated as “oil-fried devil” or “oil-fried ghost”. Youtiao dough is essentially made from flour, egg, sugar, salt, and water. Traditionally, a leavening agent called ammonium bicarbonate is used in making youtiao.

Modern variation of youtiao includes adding baking powder and baking soda to the dough. Then the dough is shaped into two long doughnut sticks, pressed together and deep fried in oil until golden brown. Youtiao is savoury, mildly sweet, slightly crispy on the outside and hollow inside with a delicate chewiness. The hollow inside of youtiao is achieved by stretching the gluten dough up to 2½ times longer than the original gluten dough just before deep frying in hot oil.

For my gluten free youtiao recipe, my ingredients are self-raising flour, salt, baking powder, instant dry yeast , psyllium husk powder and rice milk. This recipe is also vegan, dairy free, nut free, soy free, egg free and sugar free. The gluten free youtiao dough can only be stretched up to 1½ inch longer than the original gluten free dough. I have tried many different methods and rising agents, but I am not able to replicate the hollow inside of gluten youtiao. However, the resulting gluten free youtiao is crispy outside and soft and spongy inside and tastes very similar to the gluten version.

You may also like my other Baked Osmanthus and Oolong Tea Doughnuts and Chinese 5 Spice Doughnuts (Ham Chim Peng) recipes.

Youtiao Chinese Doughnut Stick Gluten Free Vegan

Youtiao Chinese Doughnut Stick Gluten Free Vegan

History of Youtiao

The origin of youtiao dated all the way back to the Song Dynasty (960–1279 CE). Specifically, the period of the Southern Song Dynasty (1127–1279), during the reign of Emperor Gaozong. General Yue Fei was a highly intellectual general and a famous symbol of loyalty and devotion. He was victorious in leading his army to defeat the Jin Dynasty army and reclaimed many territories. When Yue Fei was prepared to retake the North from the Jin Dynasty, he was ordered by Emperor Gaozong to withdraw his army and returned to Hangzhou (city name known today).

The emperor was forewarned by the Song Dynasty head of state, Qin Hui, that conquering the Jin Dynasty will result in the release of Emperor Qinzong, who will take the crown instead. Emperor Gaozong was convinced by Qin Hui to end the war and make a peace reconciliation with the Jin Dynasty by returning all reclaimed territories to them. Qin Hui and his wife had premeditated, entrapped, and betrayed general Yue Fei, resulting in his death.

In accordance with widely held folklore, two street food vendors invented youtiao and it was initially shaped into two human figures dough and deep fried in hot oil. This act signified revenge for general Yue Fei and objections to Qin Hui and his wife. There are two tales relating to Yue Fei’s death, one is that he was attacked during his journey back to Hangzhou. The second tale is that he was imprisoned straight after his return to Hangzhou whereby false charges were lodged against him and he was executed.

Later, youtiao was further modified and today, it is regularly shaped into two long strips of dough pressed together in the middle.

Youtiao Chinese Doughnut Stick Gluten Free Vegan

Ways to Eat Youtiao

There are numerous approaches to enjoy youtiao depending on the countries and their regions. Most commonly, this much-loved youtiao is served as a complement or side dish alongside soy milk (savoury or sweet) during breakfast in China. Youtiao is also included as a filling in Cifan (glutinous rice roll), a popular Shanghainese breakfast. Cifan are made with sticky rice, shaped into balls, then filled with you tiao, pork sung and pickled vegetables. Youtiao can also be a stuffing in shaobing, a type of Chinese roasted flatbread.

In Hong Kong and Guangdong province, youtiao is enclosed in steamed rice noodle roll (cheong fun), a popular dim sum dish called ‘zhaliang’. Whereas, in Malaysia and Singapore, you cha kway or youtiao is enjoyed by dunking into local coffee during breakfast or teatime as a snack. Furthermore, Malaysians and Singaporeans love to serve sliced youtiao with bak kut teh (meat bone tea), a type of pork herbal soup and with rice congee/porridge.

How to Make Youtiao


Gluten Free Youtiao Ingredients
For Preparing the Dough:
  1. In a large mixing bowl, sift in all the dry ingredients, whisk, and mix well.
  2. Make a well in the middle of the large mixing bowl and add the extra virgin olive oil and hot rice milk into the well.
  3. Use a spatula to mix the dry and wet ingredients together until you get bread crumb like texture.
  4. Rub 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil into the palm of your hands and start kneading the dough. The oil will prevent the dough from sticking to your hands.
  5. Add additional 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil gradually (1 tablespoon at a time) to the dough and continue kneading with your hands until it is combined into the dough. The resulting dough should be sticky and lumpy yet well mixed.
  6. Cover the dough with cling wrap and rest on the benchtop for 3 hour.

For Making and Shaping the Youtiao:
  1. Dust the work surface with some gluten free flour.
  2. Place the dough onto the working surface, and gently pull with your hands to form a long rectangular shape around 10 inches wide.
  3. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough until around 12 inches wide, 8 inches tall and ¼ inch (0.6cm) thick.
  4. Lightly dust the top pf the dough with some gluten free flour.
  5. Using a knife, cut the dough into 10 strips, each strip 1.2 inch wide and space each strip around ½ inch apart.
  6. Scatter and lightly dust the cut dough pieces with some gluten free flour, particularly the cut sides. This step is important because the flour will prevent 2 pieces of doughs from sticking when stacked together later.
  7. Make a vertical indentation for each piece of dough with a chopstick.
  8. Then wet each piece of dough along the vertical indentation with some water.
  9. Place one strip of dough on top of another (with the vertical indentation side facing down), until you have 5 sets of dough. Stack dough strips with the same length together.
  10. Press firmly on the centre of each set of dough with a chopstick to make a deep indentation vertically. Press all the way especially in the middle taking care not to break the dough. This will prevent the two pieces of dough from coming apart when deep frying.

For Cooking the Youtiao:
How to Cook Gluten Free Youtiao
  1. Preheat a wok half filled with rice bran oil to 200C or 390F. Measure the temperature with a kitchen thermometer before frying. (I used a 12 inch wok).
  2. Hold the two ends of each set of dough and carefully stretch the dough to 9½ inches long. Gluten free dough cannot be stretched more than 1½ inches. Do this just before you lower the stretched dough into the oil.
  3. Once the oil reached the 200C or 390C, turn the temperature to medium low. Then gently lower a set of dough into the oil. The youtiao will inflate quickly and float to the surface in less than 5 seconds.
  4. When the dough floats up, use a pair of chopsticks to continuously turn the dough every 3 seconds. This is to expand and fry the doughs evenly until golden brown, around 1 to 2 minutes.

Youtiao Chinese Doughnut Stick Gluten Free Vegan

Youtiao Chinese Doughnut Stick Gluten Free Vegan

Youtiao Chinese Doughnut Stick Gluten Free Vegan
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2 Responses

  1. Peter in Scotland
    | Reply

    Interesting, I will try this. I have a good GF sourdough doughnut recipe where you pipe the mixture (with yeast added) as rings onto squares of greaseproof paper. Then you invert them into the hot oil and remove the paper. They round up in the oil producing round doughnuts with an excellent sourdough flavour. But definitely a sweet dish.

    I also make fresh GF pasta using 100% buckwheat flour. After making and resting the dough you kneed it by stretching it repeatedly until it stretches smoothly. There’s a mucilage in buckwheat which is being activated. I might experiment by adding buckwheat flour to this to see if it stretches better.

    • Daphne Goh
      | Reply

      Your GF sourdough doughnut recipe sounds fascinating too!

      Would love to hear your feedback on whether adding buckwheat flour to this GF Youtiao recipe will help make it stretch better. :)

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