Z likes bread.
She’s not so hot for rice though. Just like her mother. PL’s mom has said (in mandarin) that PL has an enmity with rice.
So Z gets that from her. Probably.
And gets her love of bread from me. Or has that in common with me.
Anyway, I watched a Food Wishes video on puffed tacos, and thought, “I could do that”.
And then I varied the recipe (after watching another video on making pita bread), and then after that, I was thinking, “you know what would go good with this? Five Spice powder!”
But before I went that way, I had made puffed tacos, which Z liked. Well, the crispy crust.
Then I made pita, which Z liked. But also just the crust, or chewy “skin”.
I fried some of the pita in oil (which would make them not pita), but Z preferred the non-oil crust. She’ll eat the other, but she preferred the non-oily, more authentic pita.
And now that I got my bread-making mojo back (mojo means momentum, right?) I started to get creative.
Or go off the reservation.
That’s when I added Chinese 5-spice powder to the dough.
And when deep-fried (or my version of it), it looked and tasted like Hum Cheem Paeng, but lighter!
While I like HCP, it is not my favourite of the three fried dough “breads” – Yew Char Kway (or Yew Tiao), Butterfly buns (a.k.a. Horse Leg – Mah Keok – I believe. I heard one version say “Horse Butt”, but I can’t confirm), and HCP.
YCK is my first choice. If it is done right. Unfortunately, it is not often done right. YCK is deceptively simple. Two strips of dough, stuck together, and deep fried. But as I have realised, the simple things in life are usually the most difficult to get right, because the flavours, the mix, the combination are all very subtle, very nuanced. They LOOK simple, and they taste GREAT, but because there is no dominant flavour, it is more difficult to get it right. (Or maybe, by not trying to be anything, it allows you to fill in what you need it to be. Zen, right?)
The sesame seed encrusted butterfly buns are my next favourite. Again, if it is done right. Like YCK, this should be crispy on the outside, and fluffy on the inside. And the sesame gives the taste some direction.
HCP is my third choice of the three. I hate to repeat myself, but only if it is done right. A lot of the new stalls make it too big, too “bready”. I like it to be mostly hollow, with a crispy “skin”, some substance, but generally hollow. And salty. HCP means salty (deep-fried) biscuit or cake in Cantonese (my Cantonese is flawed, so don’t quote me on this. I could be wrong).
The stall at Maxwell Road Hawker Centre where you fry your own HCP has one of the best HCP. The pieces are the smallest anywhere, but full of flavour the way it is supposed to be. Not bready.
Anyway, I was making pita bread dough, and frying it in oil, cos I’m impatient, and because I like fried bread, and before that I had added Five Spice powder to the dough. Then when I tasted the result, it reminded me of Hum Cheem Paeng.
So I tweaked the recipe and made more dough.
Then I fell asleep and when I woke up the dough had risen, and when I fried it, it was HCP lite!
I didn’t measure anything, so if you try to make HCP Lite from these instructions, good luck!
Flour – enough for 4 small pieces. I estimate about 100 gm.
Salt – half a teaspoon.
Sugar – 1 teaspoon
Five-spice powder – one shake (of the shaker) – about a quarter of a tsp or less. Five-spice powder can get bitter (or sour?) if you use too much.
Yeast – half a tsp, maybe.
Olive Oil (or any other oil) – about 1 tbsp
Water – enough to make a soft dough. – maybe 3 – 4 tbsp
Mix everything together, adding the water in batches. until you have a soft, not too sticky dough. Then let the mixture rest for a while (20 minutes).
Knead for 5 – 10 minutes adding more flour if the dough is sticky, form a round ball, oil it, and let it rest, covered, for about 30 minutes to an hour.
Divide the dough into 3 or 4 golf ball size dough. Oil the balls and let it rest. Play with your daughter and fall asleep, waking up 2 hours later. The dough should have risen (against your expectations).
Flatten into discs (about 10 – 15 cm in diameter) and deep fry the dough in hot oil (I don’t know the temperature. When I stick a chopstick in the oil, it bubbles.) Until the dough is brown to your desire. If your dough is quite flat, it should be done in minutes. The rest is just browning time.
I don’t have a deep fryer, so what I did was shallow fry in less than a cm of oil, and spoon over the hot oil onto the dough. But the proper method would be to deep fry.