Fried dough in the shape of a ring — the classic donut — is indeed a quintessential American delicacy. It's so beloved, in fact, that we recently honored the 25 best in the country, and the fried delicacy even has its own day. But while there is no denying that Americans love their donuts, so does the rest of the world.
Fried dough is a universal delight, and can be found in all kinds of shapes and flavors — from round and thick and filled with just about anything, to stick-shaped or thin and flat. The style of preparation also differs depending on the region, and while all donuts are fried (or it wouldn’t be a donut, right?), some are cooked in oil while others are simmered in ghee.
In Italy, the Tuscan treat bombolone is a sugar-coated and often custard- or cream-filled masterpiece, which, different from a classic Boston cream donut, gets its filling piped in from above (instead of the side) and is left with a visible cream top. In Northern India, Pakistan, and Nepal, you can bite into the delicious flaky-on-the-outside, creamy-on-the-inside balushahi, a donut made with yogurt that's fried in ghee (a type of clarified butter).
And similar to the stick-shaped and widely known churros, youtiao, also known as Chinese oil stick or Chinese cruller, is a lightly salted Chinese donut. But instead of getting a dunk into hot chocolate like is traditionally done with churros, these "oil sticks" are dipped into rice porridge or soy milk for breakfast.
1. Jalebi (South Asia, India, and the Middle East)
Jalebi, common in South Asia, India and the Middle East, are delicate "loops" of dough, resembling thin funnel cakes. The batter for these sticky sweets is fermented, and after frying, the jalebi are soaked in syrup. Like most pastries, these treats are best eaten hot.
2. Youtiao (China)
Youtiao, also known as Chinese oil sticks or Chinese crullers, are lightly salted Chinese donuts. But instead of dunking them in hot chocolate like is the tradition with churros, these "oil sticks" are dipped into rice porridge or soy milk for breakfast.
3. Sufganiyot (Israel)
Sufganiyot — fried, jelly-filled donuts — are a popular Hanukkah treat in Israel and in Jewish communities around the world. Different countries may call desserts like these by different names (in Russia, they're ponchiki; in Poland, pączki), but wherever they're found, sufganiyot are deep-fried in oil and filled with some type of jelly.
4. Balushahi (Northern India, Pakistan, Nepal)
The flaky-on-the-outside, creamy-on-the-inside balushahi are donuts made with yogurt fried in ghee (a type of clarified butter), and they're enjoyed as a traditional dessert or snack in parts of northern India, Pakistan, and Nepal.
5. Oliebollen (The Netherlands)
In the Netherlands, ball-shaped and deep-fried oliebollen (literally translated as "oil balls"), are typically filled with raisins, and enjoyed around festivities like New Year's Eve.
6. Churros (Spain, Mexico)
Churros have become popular in several parts of the world, but they're often connected with Spain or parts of Latin America. There, churros — fluted wands deep-fried in oil and dusted with cinnamon and sugar — are often eaten for breakfast (or as a late-night snack) dipped in cafe con leche or thick hot chocolate.
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