Origin of Youtiao



Youtiao, an everyday Chinese breakfast food, is basically two long fried sticks attached together, made up of flour and cooked in vegetable oil. It is often served with Doujiang, kind of soybean milk.


Youtiao had its origin dating back to the story of Yue Fei during the Southern Song Dynasty. Yue was one of China’s most beloved heroes, a general whose patriotism was rooted in his childhood. He was born in a poor and humble family. When he was young, his mother tattooed on his back these 4 characters: "Jin Zhong Bao Guo" which meant Loyalty and Patriotism.


As a young man, Yue witnessed the fall of the Northern Song Dynasty to Jurchen invaders. As a general during the Southern Song Dynasty, he was determined to prevent the Jurchens from advancing into the south, and launched offensives to recover the former Northern Song territory. The soldiers who fought under Yue highly respected him for his intelligence and integrity. His words to his soldiers became famous: "Do not tear down houses because you need firewood, even if you are freezing; do not steal from the people, even if you are hungry".


Yue won many victories against the Jins and once defeated an enemy force of 500,000 strong with only 800 men. The Jin commander sighed that it is easier to shake Taishan Mount than Yue’s army.


At that time, China was divided as to how to deal with the Jins. Many people wanted continued resistance and others wanted peace at all costs. Although Yue, along with another general, Han Shizong, had recovered a large part of Song territory, the capitulationists dominated the court and took the real power. As Yue was about to recover Kaifeng, the former Northern Song capital, the emperor Gaozong recalled him back to Hangzhou. Yue could not believe what he saw and thought the order was a fake. He at first ignored it, but then Gaozong sent repeated orders telling him to come back to the capital. Yue had to come back because not to do so would be insubordination. Of course he did not know the devious intentions of Gaozong and Qin Hui.


Qin, the prime minister, persuaded Gaozong that it would be better to make a peace treaty with the Jins rather than fight them. Qin and his wife then thought of a scheme to get rid of Yue. Yue was thrown into jail based on fabricated charges and then executed.


Although Qin’s act was despicable, Gaozong was the real bad guy here. He held the ultimate authority and did not have to listen to Qin. He listened to Qin because that would alleviate his insecurity of having to face the possibility of Yue accompanying the two captured Song emperors back to the capital. Gaozong feared for his job and was willing to appease the Jin and keep his throne, rather than lose it by reestablishing Chinese sovereignty.


The people hated Qin afterwards. A dough maker took two pieces of dough, shaped them into Qin and his wife, dipped them in boiling hot oil, and invited people to take bites out of his new delicacy. People began to call this food "You Zha Hui" (deep-fried Hui). This is said to be the origin of today’s Youtiao.



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