As the aroma of the fragrant steamed buns filled the air, the little ones eagerly waited for the crispy and chewy delight, fried dough rice noodle rolls. It was the star of the meal, and nothing could quite compare to the satisfaction of biting into the crispy dough and the soft rice noodles together.
What is Zhaliang?
Cantonese zhaliang features silky rice noodles encased in a coating of crispy Chinese fried dough (youtiao). A finishing touch of sweet soy sauce and optional sesame seeds or scallions complete the dish.
You can’t go wrong with such a delicious and satisfying flavor combination.
So, a youtiao is ripped in half and used to make zhaliang.
Zhayip (which literally translates to “fried one”), on the other hand, contains a single whole youtiao and is more expensive. Time proved that the cheaper option was superior, and zhayip eventually faded from memory.
Everyone loves a good deal, and retailers know it.
For the Sauce:
- 1 scallion (white part only)
- 1 inch piece ginger
- 1/3 cup of water
- 2 1/2 tablespoons of light soy sauce
- 5 teaspoons of sugar
- 2 teaspoons of dark soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon of oyster sauce
- 1 teaspoon of oil
- salt (to taste)
For the Zhaliang:
- 1 youtiao (Chinese fried dough stick)
- 1 cup of water
- 5 tablespoons of rice flour (40g)
- 2 tablespoons of wheat starch (18g)
- 2 tablespoons of cornstarch
- 1 tablespoon of mung bean starch (9g)
- 1/4 teaspoon of salt
- vegetable or canola oil (for brushing)
Make the Sauce:
- For the sauce, heat a small saucepan with all the ingredients (one scallion (just the white part), one inch of ginger, two and a half tablespoons of light soy sauce, two and a half teaspoons of dark soy sauce, five and a half teaspoons of sugar, one-third of a cup of water, one teaspoon of oyster sauce, one teaspoon of oil, and salt to taste) until everything is dissolved.
- The sauce should be brought to a simmer before being turned off. Take out the ginger and scallion once it has cooled fully. This condiment will keep for up to two weeks in the fridge.
Warm up the Youtiao
- Bring the temperature of your oven or toaster oven up to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). One piece of Chinese Fried Dough should be ripped in half lengthwise to create two long pieces, and then reheated for 5-8 minutes, or until it is hot and somewhat crunchy but not brittle like toast. Make sure it doesn’t get burned. Once chilled, they will become crisp.
Prepare the Rice Noodle Rolls
- Step one is to assemble all of the ingredients and cooking implements. We recommend soaking the cotton cloth for a few minutes to ensure it is fully saturated.
- Whisk together the rice flour, mung bean starch, wheat starch, cornstarch, and salt in a separate bowl. Stir the water into the dry ingredients for at least three minutes. Put it aside and give the bubbles time to disappear.
- Brush oil on a clean, smooth surface, such as a non-porous countertop, a large flat plate, or a smooth cutting board, to create a huge assembly station. A large, smooth plate has the least amount of friction, which is why I recommend it.
- Next, bring water to a boil in your steamer or wok with the lid on (more on how to set up a steamer here), taking care that the flat-bottomed pan you intend to use to cook the rice noodles fits within. Specifically, a non-stick sheet pan measuring 9 inches by 13 inches. In a pan of this dimension, you can cook two complete sheets of rice noodles (equivalent to about two dim sum orders).
- Take the cotton towel out of the water and use it to cover the base of the pan. Ignore the urge to wring out the water.
- Remix the starch and water until smooth, then add just enough to cover the fabric in the pan. The rice noodles would be too thick if they were any thicker. Your steamer’s water has to be at a rolling boil. Carefully place the pan on the steamer rack or, if using a wok, into the simmering water. Noodles will be uneven in thickness if the pan isn’t completely level. Put the top on immediately and steam for 2 minutes at maximum heat. Time is of the essence for this whole process.
- After 2 minutes, take the pan out of the steamer with the plate gripper and take it to your assembly station. Carefully remove the cloth from the pan and set it, rice noodle side down, on the oiled work surface, you set up earlier. Carefully scrape the rice noodle sheet off the cotton cloth using the dough scraper and your hands, then lift the cloth aside, so the noodle is in a single layer on the oiled surface. While the noodles and cotton cloth are still hot, this step must be completed quickly. Don’t be alarmed if you see a tiny hole in the noodle. Both the taste and appearance of the final product will remain unaffected.
Assemble the Zhaliang
- Put one youtiao in a row down the rice noodle’s long side. Roll the dough scraper’s contents on rice paper to make a long cigar. Enjoy while still hot by slicing each into bite-sized pieces and dousing them in the sauce you’ve made.
- Before using the cotton cloth again, rinse it in clean water (no soap or detergent needed) to get rid of the rice residue. Freshness is key when enjoying them.