You want to know something funny? The idea to make this recipe actually came from our visit to New Orleans earlier this year. So…what does New Orleans have to do with Cantonese Fried Dough?
As you know, you can’t go to New Orleans without having some beignets at the landmark Café Du Monde. It was my first visit to New Orleans, so trying some beignets was on my do-to list. The place was packed like a can of sardines, so we did take-out. Taking my first bite sitting on the sidewalk bench in front of Café Du Monde, my immediate reaction was: WOW, this tastes kind of like “Ham Chim Peng”! As I was murmuring, Bill looked at me sideways; he obviously did not agree. For any of you who have had both, what do you think? Let us know in the comments!
Ham Chim Peng (pronounced in Cantonese more like, “hahm jeen baeng“) is one of those foods that I had many, many years ago and promptly forgot about. Apparently, everyone else has forgotten about it as well, which means the younger generations haven’t had the pleasure of trying this crispy fried Chinese beignet treat. These days, it’s difficult to find it anywhere…even in Chinatown!
The distinctive look and flavor of Ham Chim Peng comes from the key ingredient: the red-colored Chinese fermented bean curd (南腐乳), or “bean cheese.” Its unique flavor is slightly different than that of it’s “cousin,” white fermented bean curd. Ultimately, it adds a great deal of taste to the dough. (We’ve already used it in a few recipes on the blog: Chinese Fried Ribs, Braised Pork Belly with Arrowroot, and Buddha’s Delight. Have a look!)
Fermented bean cheese is usually served with porridge. Shanghainese people like to eat it with pao fan (泡饭)–leftover rice boiled with water. Funnily enough, Cantonese Fried Dough is usually also served with porridge as a breakfast meal. Personally, I like to eat it as is!
I recently posted a Chinese Fried Dough (Youtiao) recipe. This recipe is much easier by comparison. It should take less than an hour from start to finish.
Just like youtiao, this is a *classic* Chinese breakfast food, and I hate to see it be forgotten. Here’s how to make it!
First mix together the flour, baking powder, and baking soda in a mixing bowl. Next, add the dark brown sugar, regular sugar, mashed Chinese fermented red bean curd, and five-spice powder.
Slowly stir in the water to form a wet dough. Make sure everything is well-combined. Cover and let the dough rest for 15 minutes.
While the dough is resting, take a medium pot and fill it with about 1 inch of oil for frying. Set aside. Once the dough is rested, dust a clean surface with a good amount of flour, and scrape the dough onto the floured surface. The dough will be very wet, so flour both hands before handling the dough. Divide it into 12 equal pieces.
Take each dough ball, and dip it into sesame seeds to coat—more or less depending on your preference. You can also coat both sides if you like.
Flatten the dough to a 5-inch circle with a small hole in the middle and set aside on a well-floured surface. They can look quite rough at this point; don’t feel the need to make them look perfect! Repeat until all 12 dough balls have been shaped.
Now, heat the oil to 325 degrees. Keep the heat between 325 to 350 degrees for the duration of the frying process. Fry the dough in batches, frying each side until golden brown, flipping one to two times to brown both sides. It should take 1 to 2 minutes each.
Drain on plate lined with paper towels or a wire rack and serve alone or with porridge. You can also store extras in the fridge and rejuvenate them with a quick turn through the oven or toaster oven.