It’s been a non-stop parade of celebrations these couple of weeks. First Valentine’s Day, then Isabelle turned 25 months (I know, once babies turn 2 you don’t really do the month thing anymore, but it’s still a milestone), we celebrated 4 years since we adopted Snickers (I need to do a post on that too!), plus it’s Chinese New Year on the 19th! Oh, and I guess there was Presidents’ Day on Monday, which really served as just a day to get caught up on all these other events!
Every Chinese New Year I’ve tried to make some traditional Chinese dessert, or at least something new year-themed. With one celebration after another this year, I didn’t have time to plan an elaborate dessert, and at the last minute decided to do the Chinese version of donut puffs.
It turned out to be the perfect choice since these are probably the easiest and quickest donut-type pastries I’ve ever made. Talking about Chinese donuts can be a little confusing since there are lots of deep-fried pastry items in Chinese cuisine, and translations vary everywhere. The type of donut I’m referring to here is called sai yong in Chinese, is basically made from a type of pâte à choux dough, is very sweet, and is meant to be eaten as dessert (because in Chinese cuisine you can enjoy fried donut-y items at any point of the meal – seriously, whenever I go to Hong Kong I can’t believe I don’t gain ten pounds every time).
The most common name I’ve found for this pastry in English is sugar egg puffs or just egg puffs. Again, also very confusing because there is yet another, entirely different Chinese pastry that is sometimes called egg puffs. You can see there’s a lot of lost in translation going on with my foray into Chinese baking!
I do like the name egg puff though, because it fairly accurately describes the dish – imagine a deep fried cream puff shell, crisp and sweet on the outside, moist and eggy inside. It’s the contrast between the delicate, ethereally crisp exterior and the rich interior that makes this puff so addictive. It’s almost like the idealized version of what I want cream puffs to be. What doesn’t a little deep-frying solve?
The batter is, as I discovered through a little research, essentially pâte à choux dough. It’s likely that Chinese chefs adapted the French classic into a dim sum staple. I should also not be surprised that I love these puffs so much, since they are pretty much the same as French crullers, which I already waxed rapturous about when I taught my donut class.
Here’s a shot of the batter: thick and silky smooth. It’s easiest to scoop it with an oiled measuring cup and use a spoon to push the batter into the hot oil. The egg puffs in Chinese restaurants can reach outrageously large proportions, but it’s easier to cook smaller-size dollops of batter. Watch for the puffs to expand dramatically about halfway through frying.
It also turns out that the French also have their own version of fried pâte à choux dough, called pets de nonnes, or nuns’ farts (I have to say this was some of the most entertaining food research I’d done in a while). Another famous fried pâte à choux pastry is, of course, beignets, which are very similar but often made with yeast. One of the reasons I’m so enamored of these sugar egg puffs is that there is no yeast, so you don’t need to wait for the dough to rise before frying. These really are the quickest and easiest (and delicious) donuts ever!
By the way, I also did not realize until now that February 17th was Fat Tuesday! It’s like an endless stream of reasons to make merry and eat well! So if you don’t time to make beignets for Mardi Gras, consider sugar egg puffs/pets de nonnes as a quick and simple version.
This is true for pretty much all donuts, but these egg puffs are at their best when super fresh: basically just cooled enough so you can roll them in sugar and bite into them without burning your mouth. They do not keep well – there’s not much point in trying to save in reheat them, so gather a few friends and have your own Chinese New Year/Mardi Gras celebration with some sugar egg puffs. You will be so happy to have someone else to share the sugar coma with afterwards.
Happy Year of the Ram! I hope this new year brings good fortune, happiness, and all things delicious to you!
- 1 cup (230 g) water
- 2 tablespoons (28 g) unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons (26 g) sugar
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup (125 g) all purpose flour
- 4 large eggs, room temperature
- vegetable oil for frying
- 1/2 cup (100 g) sugar for coating
- Combine water, butter, sugar and salt in a heavy bottomed medium saucepan and heat on medium high.
- Once the mixture is at a rolling boil, add all of the flour at once, reduce the heat to low and start to stir the mixture vigorously with a wooden spoon. The dough should come together into a ball. Continue stirring for another couple of minutes until it is completely smooth and soft.
- Transfer the dough into a bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat to cool it down slightly. Add in the eggs one at a time, beating after each egg has been added to incorporate it into the dough. The dough should be very thick and shiny but not liquidy.
- Heat at least 2 inches of oil in a heavy bottomed pot to 350 F. Carefully drop in 1/4-cup scoops of batter in the oil. Do a couple of puffs at a time - don't overcrowd the pot. Watch the temperature of the oil and make sure it doesn't drop too much.
- Fry until cooked through and crispy, about 8-10 minutes, flipping them over frequently. The puffs should double in size and become golden brown. Remove from the oil with a slotted spoon and place on paper towel-covered wire rack to drain and cool slightly.
- Place additional sugar in a bowl. Place puff in sugar and toss lightly to coat. Serve immediately.
AMAZING! *pinned* these look incredible!
Thanks so much for pinning, Rowan!
So delicious. I’ll have to make these!
Those look so good! I’ve had them at Chinese restuarants before but had no idea how to make them. The little guy I nanny for turned 2 this week and I still plan on celebrating every month too haha.
Thank you for sharing! I have always wanted to try to make these, and now that I know they aren’t too hard, I definitely will.
Stephanie @ Back for Seconds says
How about we do a fat Wednesday and eat these all day long? 🙂
Oh. My. GAH!!! Have I mentioned how much I love that you’re infusing more Chinese pastries into you site? Because I’m pretty dang thrilled about it. I must make these puffs!
Meant to respond earlier and say it’s so nice to hear you enjoying the Chinese pastry recipes on my site! Definitely looking forward to exploring more of them!
[email protected] Behind The Curtain says
Great recipe! These look so light and airy.
The Food Hunter says
That batter shot is beautiful
Amanda @ The Kitcheneer says
These look absolutely incredible. I must make these!
these look so tasty
thanks for the inspo
Martha @ A Family Feast says
My neighbor is having a Chinese New Year dinner at her house tomorrow night and we’ve been assigned to bring a dessert – I think I’m going to try this recipe! Looks great!
Fran @ G'day Souffle' says
Interesting! I recognize your recipe as being ‘choux pastry’ which has then been shaped into balls and fried. For my donut recipe, I made the choux pastry then poured it into individual ramekins and then baked them. Yum!
These look gorgeous! What treat! Pinning. xo, Catherine
Thanks so much for pinning, Catherine!
[email protected] Mom says
The inside of the donut almost resembles a pop over to me. These look fabulous!
Ginny McMeans says
Wow! So light and fluffy. My husband will love them.
Heather / girlichef says
Oh, they do look like crullers on the inside – YUM! I kinda need a couple of these right now…
Alice @ Hip Foodie Mom says
Anita, Happy Chinese New Year! oh my gawd, I love these!! that inside shot looks great! I can’t wait to try these sugar egg puffs! let the celebration continue! 😛
These look so delicious! I always love anything fried, especially when it’s sweet. Happy Chinese New Year!
Colleen (Souffle Bombay) says
I have to try these, I already know my kids will love them! Any donut-ish or pastry-ish recipe that doesn’t use yeast makes me happy! I like simple & easy! Thank you and Happy New Year!!
Beauty Follower says
They look so fluffy! Must be really delicious.
Oh my goodness … I just drooled all over myself while looking at your pics and reading about these amazing eff puffs! Pinning immediately!
Cookin Canuck says
What a busy month you’ve had! I love making choux pastry…it’s always so forgiving and produces the best desserts or savory treats. These look wonderful!
Erin @ Texanerin Baking says
These look incredible! I’m celebrating tomorrow and would love to make these, except German all-purpose flour and American aren’t at all the same and I know they’d fail. Bummer! I’ll bookmark this for when I’m back in the US. 🙂
Chelley @ AisForAdelaide says
These look amazing! I’m going to try and make them for dessert this weekend!
Never heard of these Chinese sugar egg puffs, but I do love how these don’t have any yeast!
Nutmeg Nanny says
These sound so easy and totally addicting. If I made these I fear I wouldn’t be able to stop at one…or two…or three 🙂
Angie | Big Bear's Wife says
Donut puffs or egg puffs, whatever you call them, I want them! They sounds pretty easy too! Making these soon!
Coleen @ The Redhead Baker says
I had no idea that there was a Chinese version of beignets! I make pate a choux quite often, I can’t wait to give these a try!
Lauren @ Healthy Delicious says
OMG I love these things! I always go a little overboard on them when we go to the Chinese buffet. Being able to make them at home might be dangerous, especially since I’m sure they’re a million times better than the ones I already love.
If I don’t have a stand mixer can I still make this using my hand mixer?
I think you could use your hand mixer – it might take a little longer, but it would work. Don’t use an immersion blender or stick blender though, that’s not the same! Thanks!
Made these yesterday with my hand mixer and they were amazing. It brings me right back to my childhood. Will be making them again for Mother’s Day. Thank you so much for providing the recipe!
Mei, thanks so much for writing in and letting me know! I’m so glad that you enjoyed them and I hope your family does too!
This is the BEST recipe! My husband followed your recipe and made the most amazing Sai yong! Can’t stop using exclamation marks cause I’m blown away how good they are. It taste the same as the famous pastry shop in Hong Kong.
The first 3 batches made super light sai yong but the last 2 was denser in the middle. The sai yong doubles and bursted everytime. Do we continue to cook a bit after it burst? Did the oil affect the last 2 denser batch?
Thanks so much for writing in and I’m so glad the recipe worked so well for you! They are super addictive!
I’m not sure about why they were bursting in the last few batches – I don’t think that ever happened to me. I guess my first question would be if you were using a thermometer and checking the temperature of the oil as you went along. Maybe the oil was getting hotter or colder than you realized which might have affected how they cooked. Also if you put in too many pieces of dough at once and overcrowd them, they might take longer to cook and absorb more oil, which makes them denser? Just a couple of ideas. If you make them again, you’ll probably figure out how to refine the process. Good luck!
I’ve made them twice this week! ???
Thank you for sharing this wonderful recipe.
Thank you for letting me know! I’m glad you enjoy them so much!
Fong Katheryn says
I made these this morning after craving Shanghai Dumplng’s version during this past month of Shelter in Place. They were especially delightful for my donut-loving husband. He ate six of them; absolutely loved them!
So glad that you enjoyed them! Thank you for your comment!