Specifically, the one prepared by Chef Ringo Chan at the Four Seasons Hong Kong.
I can’t remember the last time I had one sha yung (莎翁). It must have been a random pick-me-up from a local bakery that turned out to be a fluke to roll out a new batch and you just can’t resist the aromatic puff that runs through the whole street. Shayung were also not something enjoyed frequently; the traditional Chinese pastry often deemed too fried, too sweet — too much”more hayas my mother would say. But every time he popped up on our dining tables, he was swept up in seconds and devoured with adorable praise.
It’s a memory similar to that of Executive Chef Ringo Chan, who broke my sha yung dry spell with a freshly baked box he had concocted in the morning after missing the ones he had when he was younger. “Shayung is a childhood memory [me],” he says. “Every time I walked past Jordan, it was [would] always takes me back in time. He had his first – and best, he reminds me to add – sha yung the; a neighborhood bakery that sadly closed, but which Chef Ringo always remembered as “super delicious.”
And, here they are: Gorgeous golden fried puffs with distinct cracked crevices, glistening with a layer of crystalline sugar. Irresistibly fragrant too. “Shayung is basically a fried dough, made with flour, sugar, eggs and butter,” says chef Ringo. “It takes about 18 minutes to prepare, start to finish, and they’re best eaten fresh fried.”
His sha yung are still warm to the touch. And they taste exactly how they appear: light when you take them, crispy on first bite and when the coated crust opens, extremely airy inside. Chef Ringo credits this to the fine-tuned recipe he took his time to perfect. “Some don’t use baking soda, but we do because it makes the dough softer,” he reveals. “The proportion of eggs is also higher, which also contributes to the softness of the dough.” First it’s salty, fried dough, then deliciously sweet. A satisfying crunch too, brought on by the sugary exterior.
The closest comparison I can make with sha yung – for those unfamiliar – is probably a sugar donut. Or maybe a churro. It is difficult to establish similarities since sha yung seems to have it all: salty and sweet, crispy and chewy in one bite. The exact type of snack to have if you’re the type who insists on having sweet after salty, then salty after sweet and the cycle repeats itself. They are a continuation of the extensive list of deep-fried dough dishes that are common in Chinese cuisine – see: deep-fried dough sticks (油炸鬼) that you dip into bubbling bowls of congee or pastry to beef tongue (牛脷酥), the real Chinese donut, which has nothing to do with beef tongue (it just has the shape) and everything to do with being a humble pastry and sweet for breakfast. the sha yung sits down at the end and takes on the role of dessert, best, as I have repeatedly reminded myself, enjoyed piping hot (like, burn-the-roof-of-your-mouth-hot) to enjoy a tiny bit of caramelization that occurs as the fried puff pastry is rolled on a bed of sugar.
So for the Chinese New Year celebrations, take a trip down memory lane with a new box of sha yung. Your family will love it. Either way, the age-old feast is all about gathering and sharing food as we welcome the Year of the Tiger. Start with the sha yung.
Chef Ringo Chan’s sha yung (HK$25) is available daily at Four Seasons Hong Kong Patisserie in limited batches: 12pm, 2pm and 4pm until February 28. They are available for pre-order 24 hours in advance. here.