Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Guess what this (food) is #2 - Answer

The food in question is called you tiao in Mandarin, yau ja gwai in Cantonese, and yew char kuey in Hokkien (which is what we called it when I was growing up).

It is a lightly salted deep-fried strip of dough, which can be easily torn into two long pieces. When fried lightly and drained on paper or a metal grill so it doesn't sit in its own oil, it is quite light. Fluffy on the inside and crunchy on the outside. If you've tried it and haven't liked it, you've either had a bad batch, or you don't share my impeccable taste :)

The translation of the Mandarin simply means "oil strip", but the Cantonese and Hokkien terms translate directly to "oil-fried devil" or "oil-fried ghost".

The story goes that a dastardly Song Dynasty official, Qin Kuai, together with his wife, conspired to bring down a well-loved and noble general named Yue Fei. With corruption in the government being widespread and virulent, people were to afraid to openly condemn the crime, and instead made up this food to show their contempt of the official and his wife. I'm sure the general populace found some kind of redeeming pleasure in figuratively tearing the two apart and chowing down on their delicious crispiness.

Other cultures build monuments and statues, the Chinese make up food. Them's my kind of folks.

If you would like to know more, please feel free to read about yew char kuey at Wikipedia!


Anonymous said...

Haha cool story. I love stories like this. The ones where there's a reason for every word, piece of food, style of building, etc.

God I wish I was more ethnic (the Spaniards are really just white, haha).

an9ie said...

Trust me, G, as a banana, I have ethnicity identity problems myself! But the stories are fascinating. I wish I could have learnt more of this stuff from my grandparents rather than Wikipedia :p

Anonymous said...

I love this stuff. I like to dip it into a sweet chilli sauce or have it sliced as suggested in the congee for breakfast. However it must be reasonably fresh as it gets very chewy if not. Jaymez