A pairing of two famous snacks, the “fry two” is a Cantonese classic

Dim sum may be the most famous feature of Cantonese cuisine. Taken with tea, as a street snack, or part of a banquet, its most famous varieties—shrimp dumpling, steamed siu mai, cha siu bao, and egg tart—are known as the “Four Heavenly Kings.” Less internationally known, but just as authentic, is 炸两, literally “fry two .”

The name is both explicit and misleading. It is indeed made up of two different foods—changfen (肠粉, rice-noodle roll) and youtiao (油条, deep-fried dough stick). Both are common Chinese snacks, though only the latter is fried.

In Chinese, changfen literally means “intestine noodles,” but has nothing to do with internal organs. Its origin can be traced back to the Tang dynasty in Luoding, Guangdong province, then known as Shuangzhou, where a famous Buddhist temple known as Longkan served steamed rice cakes for breakfast. These usually had four or five layers, each containing rich ingredients like minced peanuts, scallions, and chopped Chinese chives. One year, a severe drought hit the city, resulting in serious crop failure and food scarcity. The Longkan Temple decided to provide rice cakes to all citizens. To feed as many as possible, the monks added water to the ground rice before steaming, which made the cakes much thinner, like pancakes. Surprisingly, they still tasted good. The monks rolled up those translucent wrappers, cut them in pieces, and distributed them to the starving people. To thank the monks, locals named the snack “Longkan rice cakes.”

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Twice as Nice is a story from our issue, “The Noughty Nineties.” To read the entire issue, become a subscriber and receive the full magazine. Alternatively, you can purchase the digital version from the App Store.


author Sun Jiahui (孙佳慧)

Sun Jiahui is a freelance writer and former editor at The World of Chinese. She writes about Chinese language, society and culture, and is especially passionate about sharing stories of China's ancient past with a wider audience. She has been writing for TWOC for over six years, and pens the Choice Chengyu column.

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