If I were a Southerner, these would be my precious little hush puppies.
I'm fully aware that by this time of the year, I should be writing about fried turkeys already. But nope, I decided to defy the norm. Besides, I've never really been a big fan of turkey. Definitely not compared to honey-glazed ham. Or roasted Peking ducks for that matter. I do love stuffings though. Anyways, last week I stopped by at a Chinese restaurant nestled in the strip of Atlanta's mecca of ethnic food, Buford Hwy, called Bobo Garden. And that's when I spotted these little guys. They bring back a lot of remarkable childhood memories. These are the things that I grew up eating almost every single day long before the days my taste buds got acquainted to zucchini, eggs benedict, or even pizza! They are a great complementary to what I call comfort food, a weighty fragment of my family's Sunday brunch rituals and the street food culture of Jakarta.
They're called you tiao (Mandarin) or yau ja gwai (Cantonese) - very common in Chinese cuisine especially to be eaten with rice congee or soy milk. They're also called by a bunch of different names here in the U.S such as chinese crullers, chinese doughnuts, fried bread stick, fried dough, etc. Oh well. The Indonesians call it cakwe. On another note, it always amuses me how the Indonesian language tends to try adapting foreign languages and sort of adding their own twist to it (read: butcher savagely). I take great pleasure in eating my cakwe Indonesian style though: drenched in peanut sauce.
Of course, the quality of these cakwe that I had at Bobo Garden was far from those that pretty much summed up my childhood. The skin should boast some satisfying crunch like it just comes out of the fryer, and the inside part should be pillowy soft. There are also some stuffed versions out there. The original shape is supposed to look like they're made of two pieces joined in the middle. Read this Wikipedia entry under folk etymology to find out the myth behind the shape.