I'm guessing South African Chinese decided to translate "dan san" (蛋散) to "bow ties" because they look like bow ties. They are amazingly good, at least the ones my mom and grandmother made. The ones at bakeries are greasy or the dough is too thick so I no longer buy even if I'm craving them.
Anyways let me introduce you to my family's bow ties. They are light pastries that are deep fried and covered with a syrup coating. They are shaped into bow ties, hence the name bow ties.
The dough is simple to make. It's just sifted flour and baking powder. You can use vegetable oil but my mom said lard makes the dough more crispy and flaky.
Then four eggs are added.
And mix the dough until it combines.
As you can see, it is crumbly at first.
Then becomes smoother.
I'm sure traditionally, the dough was hand rolled until it was paper thin and even. That must have been time consuming. Since the time I remember my grandmother making it, we've been using a pasta machine to make long thin pieces. Setting 6 or 7 on the pasta machine will result in the perfect thinness.
Then we cut the sheet into small rectangles and placed the two sheets on top of the other. With a sharp knife, we cut three slits lengthwise on the both rectangles sheets.
This is the slightly tricky part where we twisted the dough. To do this, slide the bottom part of the rectangle into the middle slit. The result is a bow tie looking thing.
Deep fry the dough until it floats.
And now, the easy part is done (that's the pastry part). While the dough is cooling, we made the syrup.
The hardest part of making bow ties is the syrup. My grandmother used to say that on a cloudy day, the syrup tends to fail more. I didn't believe this but my mom made two batches of syrup this time. On the first day, the syrup wasn't very good, since it was too sticky. It was possibly overcooked. The second syrup was made the next day and was perfect. Guess which day was cloudy and which day was sunny?
Anyways to make syrup, just cook sugar, water and 3 slices of lemon. My mom say the "old wives tales" say that the 3 pieces of lemon is to reduce the failure of making the syrup. I didn't know that. I thought it was to add a slight lemon flavour to the syrup.
To tell if syrup is ready, you should be able to put a drop of syrup into cold water and it'll form a soft ball. This is a term used in candy making.
Once syrup is done, dip the bow ties and voila.
I love bow ties. They are delicate, crispy and flakey pastries and melt in your mouth as you bite them. The sweetness from the syrup complements the oil from fried dough. Mmmmm.
The recipe seems simple but as I said, the syrup is where failure occurs. You don't know if your bow ties' syrup failed or not until you've dipped all your bow ties. It's because you dip the bow ties in hot syrup, which is liquid so you can't tell if the syrup is a failure or success.
The syrup is important because if it's undercooked, the syrup will slide off the bow ties or if it is overcooked, the sugar crystalizes and the bow ties become crunchy and hard.
In my mom's first batch, the sugar was just slightly overcooked so the syrup coating was too sticky that it stuck on your teeth. It also stuck on the bow ties making the syrup coating thick. A thick coating of syrup makes the bow ties crunchy rather than flaky.
Making the syrup is finicky that my mom rarely makes this. Just to share this to you all, I had to beg my mom to make them!!! Thanks Mom!!!
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