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Shanghai Street Food #11 Yóu Tiáo – Deep-Fried Bread Sticks

Yóu tiáo 油条 are nothing more than deep-fried twists of bread, salted and crisp. They are almost exclusively a breakfast food, like jian bing, and are usually eaten with congee (zhōu) or with a bowl of steaming sweetened soy milk. 

The vendors get started at around 5am and are still making them way past eleven, for all the late-risers. It’s so commonplace to see someone in pyjamas and flip-flops walking back home with a plastic bag filled with three or four you tiao sticking out of it, for the family breakfast.

Yóu tiáo are fantastic when pulled fresh from the deep-fryer. The foot-long bread can be separated into two side-by-side pieces, with a crisp, almost waffle-like exterior, and a light and chewy interior. Like all fried things, the flavour depends entirely on the quality of oil being used and the freshness. Best consumed within ten minutes of cooking, otherwise they become very tough and rubbery.

The yóu tiáo are made from yeast dough, rolled flat, then cut into short narrow strips. Each strip is placed on top of a second, then pressed lightly together lengthways to make the join that can later be pulled apart after cooking. The baker then deftly twists and stretches them until they are the right length, and lays them side by side in the deep fryer until they are golden brown and nicely crisp. Just drop your money into the ‘cash register’ on the counter (one kuai each, about 16 cents) and your take-away breakfast is good to go.


Enjoyed that? We’re already up to Number 11 in this series on delicious and cheap Shanghai Street Foods. Here are links to the others, if you’re feeling peckish. Everyone especially likes the noodles at Number 4, and the steamed buns at Number 6.

Number 1   Roast Sweet Potatoes
Number 2   Snack-on-a-stick 
Number 3   Liangpi – a spicy cold noodle dish
Number 4   Langzhou Lamian – hand-pulled noodles
Number 5   Cong You Bing – fried shallot pancakes
Number 6   Baozi – steamed buns, Shanghai style
Number 7   Jian Bing – the famous egg pancake
Number 8   Dan Gao – street cakes
Number 9   Shao mai – sticky rice treats
Number 10  Summer on a Stick – fresh fruits

Number 11  You Tiao – deep-fried breadsticks
Number 12  Dan Juan – egg rolls
Number 13  Shao Kao – street barbecue
Number 14  Bao Mi Hua – exploding rice flowers
Number 15  Chou Doufu – stinky tofu
Number 16  Bing Tang Shan Zha – crystal sugar hawthorns
Number 17  Mutton Polo
Number 18  Yumi Bang – puffed corn sticks
Number 19  Mian Hua Tang – cotton candy
Number 20  You Dunzi – fried radish cakes

Number 21  Suzhou Shi Yue Bing – homestyle mooncakes 
Number 22  Gui Hua Lian’ou – honeyed lotus root stuffed with sticky rice
Number 23  Cong You Ban Mian – scallion oil noodles
Number 24  Guotie – potsticker dumplings
Number 25  Nuomi Cai Tou – fried clover pancakes
Number 26  Da Bing, Shao Bing – sesame breakfast pastries
Number 27  Ci Fan – sticky rice breakfast balls
Number 28  Gui Hua Gao – steamed osmanthus cake
Number 29  Zongzi – bamboo leaf wrapped sticky rice
Number 30  Shengjianbao – pan-fried dumplings

Number 31  Mala Tang – DIY spicy soup

  • https://www.blogger.com/profile/18155270197400039566 Yin

    I love this Yóu tiáo 油条 very much, missed them too. Hardly can find good You tiao in Auckland, not so crispy like back home 🙁
    I enjoyed street food in China too, tasted "you tiao" at road side when we traveled to Beijing back in 2001, so thin and cripsy and the "dou fu nau" (Tofu jelly) Yummmy……

  • https://www.blogger.com/profile/06517771659910444299 Jeannie

    These you tiaos are very popular among us in Malaysia too…there're even franchises all over the city selling just you tiao and congee and soya bean milk! Cheap and delicious!