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November 17, 2011

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Horse-racing fans love this pastry

SACHIMA, also called shaqima, is a famous Chinese pastry of the Manchu ethnic minority group. It mainly consists of flour, butter, egg, honey and rock sugar.

Sometimes raisin, watermelon seeds, sesame and sweet osmanthus are added in different regions. Sachima has a tantalizing aroma, a sweet taste and a chewy texture.

Sachima gained popularity in Beijing after Manchu people came to power and founded the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). Today, it has become a popular snack across China, particularly among children and seniors.

Some people in Hong Kong believe they will win in horse-racing bets after having a bite of sachima. The word has a similar pronunciation in Cantonese as "horse-racing gamester."

There are different versions of how the name sachima originated, some are legendary while others are fun.

One of the legends has it that the pastry was named by the Manchu leader Nurhaci. It is said that Nurhaci once tasted a snack made by the wife of a general and found it extremely delicious. He believed the snack was good for soldiers to carry as it can be preserved for a long time before going stale. The name of the general was Sachima, thus Nurhaci named it after him.

Another version goes that a Manchu general surnamed Sa fancied horses and hunting. He also liked eating snacks when he returned from hunting. Once he asked his chef to make something special and new and threatened to kill the chef if he failed to satisfy his demand. The chef was so scared that he broke the snack he had just fried into pieces.

At that time, the general asked him to serve the snack, the chef was enraged and grumbled "killing that horse rider (meaning shaqima in Chinese)." He had to serve the broken snack. The general liked it and asked its name. The chef said it was called shaqima.

Sachima can be made at home. First, beat several eggs and mix them with flour. Then make them into dough and slice the dough into noodle-shaped dough sticks.

Fry the sticks. Boil sugar, water, honey and sweet osmanthus and make them into syrup. Blend the fried sticks with the syrup and add raisin or sesame if you like. Finally, press the mixture into shapes and cool it down.

Although sachima is tasty, avoid eating too much because every 50 grams of sachima contains about 230 calories.

Chinese Snacks

This is the first in a regular series of stories about famous snacks in China. Each article will break down the ingredients of each tasty treat and tell you how it is prepared. Interesting stories about how each snack got its name will also be included.


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