Dual Language Schools: Biliteracy Word of the WeekDonuts Around the World

11/2019
Author Photo: Velázquez Press
Photo for: Donuts Around the World

Donuts, sometimes spelled doughnuts, are an American staple. In almost every corner of a city one will find a doughnut shop. The quintessential doughnut is fried and ring-shaped with a hole. They come in frosted ball shapes, frosted and glazed, sprinkled, filled with custard, jelly, chocolate. You name it! Sweet fried dough is not an American invention, however; many peoples around the world figured out that frying dough was a quick and delicious way to eat bread. Over the centuries, these fried dough pastries developed differently in many regions of the world. Some countries share the same exact same pastry, often with a different name.

Donuts in the United States can trace their origins to the Dutch olykoek, “oily cake,” that the Dutch brought from the Netherlands to New Amsterdam, now New York. Overtime, these fried delicacies spread throughout the United States and different ways of decorating them emerged. In other regions of the United States, fried dough pastries have long existed before these territories were under the American flag. In Louisiana, especially the city of New Orleans, beignets are the preferred “donuts” of the people. Beignets trace their origins to France, but it is in Louisiana where they have become known. In 1986, the beignet became the official state doughnut. Further west, in New Mexico and Texas, a puffy fried dough pastry has been eaten since the first Spanish settlers arrived there in the 17th and 18th centuries. Sopapillas, or sopaipillas, as they are called, can be either sweet or savory. The sweet version can be drizzled with honey or aniseed syrup, whereas the savory kind can be eaten with stews, beans, or sauces. In Texas, they are almost served as dessert covered with sugar and cinnamon.

South of the border, very similar to sopapillas are the round buñuelos. These tortilla-shaped pastries can be drenched in honey or syrup or sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon. Buñuelos are not just exclusive to Mexico; they can be found and eaten all over Latin America. Like churros, another delicious fried pastry, buñuelos were brought by the Spanish to the Americas. Spain is no stranger to sweet fried dough pastries. Rosquillas, known for their doughnut-like shape, are commonly eaten during Easter and Christmas along with churros and other delectable treats. Many of the fried foods that are prepared in Spain can trace their origins to the time when the Moors lived there. One can see the similarities just on the other side of the Strait of Gibraltar, in Morocco, where سفنج (sfenj) can be served drenched in orange-flavored syrup. These soft, spongy (etymologically related to the pastry) morsels can be enjoyed with a nice cup of tea or milk. Similar in name is the Israeli ספגנייה (sufganiya), which are round doughnuts filled with different types of jellies, chocolate, cream, custard, and even dulce de leche. Sufganiyot, unlike in the United States where donuts can be readily available, are traditionally available during Hanukkah, the festival that commemorates the miracle of the oil lasting for eight days in the ancient Temple of Jerusalem.

In Hong Kong and in the Guangdong Province of China, 牛脷酥 (ngau lei sou), literally “ox-horse tongue” in Cantonese, is an oblong-shaped, sweet, fried pastry that is crusty on the outside and chewy on the inside. Known as the “Chinese doughnut,” they are commonly eaten for breakfast and are similar to another Chinese fried pastry known in Mandarin as 油条 (yóutiáo). Youtiaos, which literally means ‘oil strip,’ are not sweet but are still eaten at breakfast, especially with congee, which is a type of rice porridge.

All over the world, many people have found ways to fry dough, sweeten it, and eat it. There are countless of pastries like doughnuts, but everywhere you go, there will be a difference: shape, flavor, style; ways of eating it: with coffee, hot chocolate, or milk. Regardless of its origins, donuts will remain a staple of the American diet.

and glazed, sprinkled, filled with custard, jelly, chocolate. You name it! Sweet fried dough is not an American invention, however; many peoples around the world figured out that frying dough was a quick and delicious way to eat bread. Over the centuries, these fried dough pastries developed differently in many regions of the world. Some countries share the same exact same pastry, often with a different name.

Donuts in the United States can trace their origins to the Dutch olykoek, “oily cake,” that the Dutch brought from the Netherlands to New Amsterdam, now New York. Overtime, these fried delicacies spread throughout the United States and different ways of decorating them emerged. In other regions of the United States, fried dough pastries have long existed before these territories were under the American flag. In Louisiana, especially the city of New Orleans, beignets are the preferred “donuts” of the people. Beignets trace their origins to France, but it is in Louisiana where they have become known. In 1986, the beignet became the official state doughnut. Further west, in New Mexico and Texas, a puffy fried dough pastry has been eaten since the first Spanish settlers arrived there in the 17th and 18th centuries. Sopapillas, or sopaipillas, as they are called, can be either sweet or savory. The sweet version can be drizzled with honey or aniseed syrup, whereas the savory kind can be eaten with stews, beans, or sauces. In Texas, they are almost served as dessert covered with sugar and cinnamon.

South of the border, very similar to sopapillas are the round buñuelos. These tortilla-shaped pastries can be drenched in honey or syrup or sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon. Buñuelos are not just exclusive to Mexico; they can be found and eaten all over Latin America. Like churros, another delicious fried pastry, buñuelos were brought by the Spanish to the Americas. Spain is no stranger to sweet fried dough pastries. Rosquillas, known for their doughnut-like shape, are commonly eaten during Easter and Christmas along with churros and other delectable treats. Many of the fried foods that are prepared in Spain can trace their origins to the time when the Moors lived there. One can see the similarities just on the other side of the Strait of Gibraltar, in Morocco, where سفنج (sfenj) can be served drenched in orange-flavored syrup. These soft, spongy (etymologically related to the pastry) morsels can be enjoyed with a nice cup of tea or milk. Similar in name is the Israeli ספגנייה (sufganiya), which are round doughnuts filled with different types of jellies, chocolate, cream, custard, and even dulce de leche. Sufganiyot, unlike in the United States where donuts can be readily available, are traditionally available during Hanukkah, the festival that commemorates the miracle of the oil lasting for eight days in the ancient Temple of Jerusalem.

In Hong Kong and in the Guangdong Province of China, 牛脷酥 (ngau lei sou), literally “ox-horse tongue” in Cantonese, is an oblong-shaped, sweet, fried pastry that is crusty on the outside and chewy on the inside. Known as the “Chinese doughnut,” they are commonly eaten for breakfast and are similar to another Chinese fried pastry known in Mandarin as 油条 (yóutiáo). Youtiaos, which literally means ‘oil strip,’ are not sweet but are still eaten at breakfast, especially with congee, which is a type of rice porridge.

All over the world, many people have found ways to fry dough, sweeten it, and eat it. There are countless of pastries like doughnuts, but everywhere you go, there will be a difference: shape, flavor, style; ways of eating it: with coffee, hot chocolate, or milk. Regardless of its origins, donuts will remain a staple of the American diet.