Eid Celebrations in China
Millions of people in the world have been celebrating Eid these last few days. Eid in China is actually happening today, and Chinese people belonging to nine or ten ethnic groups are celebrating it. Happiness and bliss is for everyone, so happy Eid everyone!
For many of us, the celebration of Eid is rather a traditional custom of our ethnic group (the Hui). For me, Eid celebrations represent a sweet memory of family gathering, and a moment of praying for my beloved grandparents and auntie.
My family used to all gather together (over 40 people, a big gathering:) ) the night before Eid to prepare food, especially the very traditional Eid food “You Xiang”.
The day after, we used to join a big crowd in the celebration area – it was my favorite time, because there you can see people mainly from minority groups gather together (for example, Hui or Weiwu’er) – I remember when I was little, I used to think they were all from abroad somewhere, because they looked so different to normal Han Chinese people. After praying for my grandparents and auntie, we would finish with a big meal feast.
- All the sweet memory – now, I am miles, miles away……
Chinese You Xiang
The food, the most symbolic food for this occasion is called Youxiang. (In English, it literally means ‘oil fragrance’.) It is fairly easy to make – It is just raised flour made into a round shape, and oil fried. – Sounds simple, no? But I remember my aunties and uncles used to discuss endlessly about details and made lots of preparations before preparing them. They would be able to tell you depending on how many people you need to prepare for, so how much flour and oil is needed, etc. For keeping on with tradition, I made some as well, however – not very sucessful – so I can never say it is easy or simple anymore. :)
However, Youxiang culture is never just simple. For example, before making You Xiang, the cooks (and those who are going to be near the cooker) need to “wash” themselves first, and then a particular kind of incense needs to be lighted up throughout the whole preparation and cooking process.
Then YouXiang needs to be packed as a pair in a bag for giving to friends, relatives or other people who share the same custom. You can give to people more than one pack, but the number of Youxiang always needs to be even. And when eating Youxiang, it needs to be torn or chopped into small pieces first, (normally around 4 pieces), it can never be eaten as a whole, which can be seen as a sign of very bad manner.
Youxiang is not only made for Eid, but also for many important occasions in my ethnic group, for example, for ‘memorial services’.
The recipe: Chinese You Xiang for Eid Celebration
Coming to how to make them – different regions in China have different ways Here I can only tell how my parents normally made them – briefly, as I did not make it very well this time.:(
Oil, plain flour, yeast (or soda, or other raising agent that you are familiar with), salt
1) Raising up the flour, and add in some salt. (Traditionally, many people use both yeast, alkaline water and salt to balance the PH level for the dough).
2) Divide the dough into smaller portions.
3) Roll the smaller dough into a round flat sheet, round 15cm diameter, 0.5cm thickness.
4) In a wok, pour in oil. (At least around 15cm deep), and turn on the fire (medium to low). When the oil is very hot, place the flat sheet into the oil. The sheet is supposed by ‘inflated’ in the middle.
5)Until both sides turn into ‘brawn’ colour, remove it from the oil.
I made relatively smaller ones, but unfortunately, I made them too salty, could not give it out to friends anymore. A lesson learned. :(
You xiang can be frozen. When warming them up, you can use the microwave, but again, very briefly, otherwise, they could get too hard. There is a better way of warming them up — namely by placing on top of rice – when you make rice, the water is just absorbed, or warm up rice, place Youxiang on top of rice. Then you can get soft and warm Youxiang.
They can be eaten as snack, or part of stable food with soup or congee.