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Thursday, September 8, 2011

Food Evolution: Churros

The churro. Most people in Texas would recognize it as a humble Mexican cousin to the doughnut, sticks of fried dough covered in cinnamon and sugar, perhaps filled with sweet cajeta. Well, maybe not so humble, when gussied up as Xooro (I can't link to the website - it's a horrid thing with Flash and loud music).

But the ancestry of the churro doesn't actually originate in Mexico - it was brought there by the Spanish. And the Spanish picked it up from the Portuguese.

Spanish churros, Dulcinea

Churros con chocolate espeso
Unlike the crusty Mexican churro, the Spanish rendition comes unadorned with sugar or cinnamon, and is a much lighter and "eggier" dough. The traditional accompaniment is hot chocolate - unlike the watery spiced Mexican hot chocolate, the Spanish had access to the premium stuff, and thus, drinking chocolate, fortified with cream, thick and luscious, prove to be the perfect dipping companion.

But where did the Portuguese learn the art from? As it turns out - a lot further east. Churros can trace their ancestry all the way to China.

youtiao, from Fufu Cafe, Houston, TX
Meet the youtiao, or "oil stick". Popular in China, it's a piece of fried dough that's often served with soup or some soy milk to dip in. Crunchy, chewy, it's amazing hot out the wok. When the Portuguese traded with the Chinese (you know those little egg custard pies at dim sum? Descendants of the Portuguese pasteis de nata.), they wanted to know how to make these breads, but the Chinese didn't share the method with them. So, the extruded churro was an attempt at recreating this dish, and has since then taken on a life, and history, of its own.


  1. wait so youtiao came first before churros oh wowwww haha learnt something new today!

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