I have often been told of the importance of having breakfast as it is the very first meal of the day. I never really had time to cook breakfast for myself and would usually require someone else to cook for me; again, not that I'm lazy but because I really can't afford to use up what remains of my time every morning. For busy people like me who are always on the go, it's only logical to grab quick, stuffing breakfast snacks, ensuring that you won't be late for work (or at least not exceedingly late).
Don't they just look so yummy? :)
Known in Hokkien as you char kwai, the Chinese oil stick or oily bread stick called youtiao (油条) has been my favorite breakfast for the longest time. It doesn't compare to the nutrition one can get from having a complete breakfast but it's enough to fill your tummy and solve your early morning hunger.
Youtiao with a cup of doujiang/soy milk (豆浆)
I remember early mornings in school where I would have gotten out of bed with just 10 minutes before the start of class. In situations like that, there's no time to pop open a box of cereals, boil eggs, or think of what else there is to eat. I admit, back in the day, I have gone to class a few times without bathing but, again, not because I'm lazy--it was winter, and it was very cold! Brrr. A minute to rinse my face and gargle mouthwash gives me nine more minutes to go to class. But of course, I'd stop by the canteen first to grab a bag of youtiao, paired with a variety of naicha (奶茶).
My classmates can attest to my addiction to the oil sticks as they often see me barging into the classroom with a stick in my mouth. "油条?不是你昨天也吃的了吗?" (Youtiao? Didn't you also eat that yesterday?) I got warned by my professors that eating youtiao and gulping cold naicha was unhealthy though. Makes sense since the oil from the snack could easily solidify once it comes in contact with the cold drink. Since then, I opted to have hot naicha instead--tastes even better!
What's peculiar about the traditional youtiao is the taste. Those familiar with the snack would easily find it common-tasting but little do they know that having ammonia as an ingredient in food isn't common in other parts of the world. The combined taste of salt, oil, and ammonia gives the youtiao a taste like no other. While there may be other variants of this breakfast snack like the Philippine biscocho or sia-koy, the Thai pathongko, etc., I still prefer the original version, those which you can buy for 0.5元 a piece.
How I miss you, fragrant youtiao!