Youtiao are fried bread sticks that are available only in the morning. The dough is similar to our raised donuts, only minus the sugar glaze or frosting.
They're cheap (just pennies a bread stick) and filling. They also are very, very greasy, so if you're watching your cholesterol, you may want to pass on this tasty treat. They're best eaten straight from the frying pot. The cook usually hands them to you in a thin paper that does not absorb the grease, so it's helpful if you have tissue to wipe your fingers on with you.
I have been a fan of youtiao since my firstt rip to China in 1984. The tour was very structured and we had little free time after 7:30 a.m. Some of us took to hitting the streets about 6 a.m. to see the "real" China. We were in Qufu, the birthplace of Confucius, when we spotted youtiao being made and just had to have one.
While other street snacks are available throughout the day, youtiao can only be found in the early morning hours. If you wait until 8 a.m. to look for some, you're probably out of luck.
Going to China?
If you're planning a trip to China, please check out Cheryl's China for tips, recommendations, guidebooks and more. Feel free to email me if you have questions about travel in China.