New food trends

Fancy ways to eat youtiao

Fried dough fritters can be eaten like prata with curry or paired with ice cream

Fancy youtiao, or fried dough fritters, are making a quiet comeback.

The fried snack is no stranger to the local palate - whether eaten on its own, dipped in coffee or soya milk, eaten with congee or bak kut teh, tossed in rojak.

But besides these usual ways of eating the Chinese cruller, some savvy business owners are offering more styles of serving it.

Mr Daniel Hui, 43, owner of the Mr YouTiao chain, calls youtiao the "new prata". At his outlets, diners can get a small dish of curry to dip the crispy youtiao in - just like how one would eat roti prata.

Formerly known as Bread Bar when it opened in 2007 as a kiosk in Square 2 mall in Novena, the concept has gone through some changes. Back then, it gained attention for offering youtiao in flavours such as green tea and almond, along with dips such as peanut butter and chocolate.

Over the years, Mr Hui has been tweaking the concept - from renaming the brand because people were asking why he was selling youtiao instead of bread, to dropping the dips and offering only the classic, black sesame and almond youtiao now.

And tapping the growing popularity of cafes, he expanded the Novena kiosk into a cafe offering set meals that complement youtiao.

His latest outlet at Paya Lebar Square opened three months ago and he has other outlets at Bedok Mall and Century Square, which is currently under renovation.

He does not rule out bringing back special flavours and re-introducing the kaya dip.

Mr YouTiao's menu features dishes such as curry chicken rice with youtiao ($6.50); bak kut teh and youtiao with rice ($7.50); and youtiao egg ($4.90), a take on the local kopi, eggs and toast breakfast. This is on top of the more traditional porridge and soya beancurd pairings.

Mr Hui, an engineer by training, says: "Youtiao is a versatile item, you can eat it savoury or sweet. It is also a way to present nostalgia and tradition with a twist. People can identify with the dishes because they are still something they recognise.

"And they are proper meals that people can eat not just for breakfast or lunch, but for dinner too. I can sustain business till 10pm."

Another brand that is jazzing up its youtiao offerings is I Love Yoo!, a chain established in 2007 with more than 50 outlets in Malaysia. It entered Singapore last year and has three outlets at Tiong Bahru Plaza, Hillion Mall and the latest at SingPost Centre, which opened last month.

It offers a selection of traditional "yoo tiao" sets with soya bean drink and porridge, along with noodle options such as mee kantin ($4.90), which is dry noodles served with sambal, egg, sakura shrimp and lime; and new items - herbal salted chicken and mee ($7.90); and curry chicken and mee ($7.90) - all accompanied with pieces of youtiao for that added crunch.

There is also yong tau foo with chee cheong fun (from $3.60), as well as an interesting youtiao and ice cream ($2.60) combination.

Mr YouTiao and I Love Yoo! add to the likes of other players that also sell youtiao along with a variety of other fritters.

These include You Tiao Man in Toa Payoh Lorong 1; and youtiao supplier Dough Culture which has outlets at locations including Changi City Point, Nex and Causeway Point.

Retired technician Henry Chan, 65, says: "If my porridge has no youtiao, I will feel like something is missing. But after trying the youtiao with curry at Mr YouTiao, that's my new favourite combination. Plus the youtiao is crispier than roti prata."

•Follow Eunice Quek on Twitter @STEuniceQ

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on November 19, 2017, with the headline 'Fancy ways to eat youtiao'. Print Edition | Subscribe