Yau Char Kwai(油炸鬼) , in Cantonese literally means oil fried ghost. It is also called You Tiao (油条) in Mandarin. Some said the name Yau Char Kwai is the corruption of Minnan dialect (or Hockkian) Yau Char Koe(油炸粿 ), which means cake or pastry. It is deep fried Chinese Crullers, a long yellowish brown deep fried double strips of flour dough joined together at the middle, which are able to split into two strips. Yau Char Kwai or You Tiao is the icon of patriotism in ancient Chinese culture. By eating it, you are actually protest against one Song dynasty official, Qin Hui 秦檜/秦桧(1090-1155), who widely regarded as a traitor to the Chinese of Han race, who played a role in political execution of the general Yue Fei 岳飛/ 岳飞(1103-1142), who was a role model of patriotism for Chinese. The Yau Char Kwai or You Tiao, signify the bodies of Qin Hui and his wife. You eat Yau Char Kwai, you are eating Qin Hui and his wife. It is a form of patriotism using action hate culture. But I wonder how many young people who eat Yau Char Kwai remember the story......
There was a memorial temple built at the tomb of General Yue Fei at West Lake(西湖), Hangzhou(杭州), China; in memory of General Yue Fei. There were iron statues of Qin Hui and his wife(Lady Wang王氏) in the temple, kneeling before General Yue Fei's tomb.
(The front entrance to the General Yue Fei shrine and tomb; West Lake, Hangzhou, China.Photo taken by Sumple on 20/12/2003).
(Qin Hui and Lady Wong knelled in front of the tomb of General Yue Fei. Visitors always spit on the statutes, to show their emotion on the traitors. Photo credited to helennawindylee , taken on 12-9-2006)
Today friends from Surabaya, Indonesia come all the way to Penang. The uncle from Indonesia said he want to eat Yau Char Kwai. People said the best Yau Char Kwai is the one at the shop near Cintra Street Flat or People Court, just behind Tai Tung Restaurant (Cintra Street). This shop is operated by the 3rd generation operator, and it sell only Yau Char Kwai. The man who is shirtless was cutting the flat flour dough, and put it into the boiling oil in the big wok. The Yau Char Kwai was in pair, deep fry until it turned crunchy and yellow.
There is another shop in Cintra Street(日本街) Ji̍t-pún-ke, but seems to closed today.The only complaint of the Yau Char Kwai shop, is that the oil is so dark. They are also the wholesaler , supplying Yau Char Kwai to the hawkers and restaurants. The time we visited the shop, they have already completed their daily work. They just deep fry the fresh Yau Char Kwai for us, because we want it hot. That may be the reason the cooking oil is black. Some people said the one in Cintra Street is cook with clear oil, as they are wholly a retailer .
Penang people like to take Yau Char Kwai with kopi- o(black coffee) or with porridge. But in Taiwan and China, it is taken with soy milk as breakfast.
Note: Cintra Street was named after Portuguese town of Cintra. It is located between Kimberley Street(汕頭街)and Chulia Street(牛干冬), intersected by Campbell Street(新街) in the middle. The Chinese name is Jit-pun-ke(日本街), literally means Japanese street, but the actual meaning was Japan prostitutes street. The sound "ke" in Hockkian dialect can means both street, and also prostitutes. This is because there were Japanese brothel located here in the colonial days until the WW2. It is also called Sin-ke-hoai-ke(新街橫街) which literally means the cross road of Campbell Street(新街 sin-ke). Sin-ke was a brothel street or new prostitutes street. Some called it Jit-pun-hang-kai (日本橫街)in Cantonese, which actually referred to the road between Kimberley Street and Campbell Street. For posting related to Japanese in Penang, please refer to my posting on 19-4-2009 with the title " Japanese Cemetery in Penang".