Home   |    Visitor Info   |    Recipes   |    Videos   |    Events   |    Arts   |    Community   |    About                                                                                             

You Char Koay (Crispy Dough Fritters) - "Oil-Fried Ghosts"

Walking from point A to point B in George Town is a struggle.  There are distractions everywhere that have you reaching for your camera and your growling stomach.

On our way to a morning meeting, passing through Cintra Street, our brisk walk came to a halt at the smell of bread sizzling in oil.  You Char Koay (crispy dough fritters) was my favorite snack when I was a kid.  My dad would buy it, along with fresh soya milk that I would dip the bread into - a Malaysian style breakfast cereal.
Before we ordered, we stared at the hypnotic boiling pot, as members of the Chew family worked together to cut the dough, stretch it, combine it into pairs, and finally, dunk it in the oil to soak up all that goodness.  The family did not exchange a word - concentrating solely on the routine they have carried through the generations for 80 years.
According to Chinese folklore, You Char Koay, which means “oil-fried ghost”, was created by the Chinese people as an act of protest against a despicable official named Qin Hui from the Song Dynasty. Qin Hui and his wife, Lady Wang, were responsible for the execution of General Yue Fei, an icon of patriotism in Chinese history.  

The pair of bread sticks represent the couple, and symbolize punishment as Chinese fry and eat them.  Basically, the Chinese version of voodoo dolls. 

Unknown to many Penangites, they continue the torture of the legendary couple as they first dunk them head-first into scalding hot Kopi-O (local black coffee), then bite their heads off (or is it their feet?).

Statues of Lady Wang and Qin Hui in Hangzhou
To munch on a couple of Chinese voodoo dolls, while doing your part to honor General Yue Fei, visit the Chew family's shop at:

Cintra Street You Char Koay 日本街

76, Cintra Street, Penang
Business hours: 12pm to 7pm daily

3 comments:

stephen said...

They used to be in Peoples Court off Cintra Street.My parents would occasionally take us along for dinner at the restaurant next door.We would without fail purchase a few of those cruellers as snack food whilst waiting for the food to be served.
On one occasion, a thief was being chased by residents on the upper floor.The unfortunate thief made a tactical mistake and leapt into the boiling oil,cruellers and all!! The workers were splashed with boiling oil whilst the thief ran off with serious burns.

Still remember that event!!

I come over to Penang once a month to visit my mother.Enjoy reading your blog and the nice pics!! keep up the good work or is it play!!

Reese said...

Hi Stephen,

Thanks for sharing this great story! That must have been quite the scene.

Good to hear you are stopping by Penang so often. We all need to get our Penang food fix at least once a month.

Reese & Mark

***If anyone else has memories to share of their time in Penang, please do leave a comment. We would love to hear about it.

Reese said...

Hi Stephen,

Thanks for sharing this great story! That must have been quite the scene.

Good to hear you are stopping by Penang so often. We all need to get our Penang food fix at least once a month.

Reese & Mark

***If anyone else has memories to share of their time in Penang, please do leave a comment. We would love to hear about it.