Traditional Tanghulu Recipe: A Fruity, Sugary Snack for The Ages

Cooking Around the World- China

Candied haw on skewers or bing tanghulu is a traditional winter snack in China. Learn how to make this tasty and fruity treat in your own kitchen by following this recipe.

Candy apples got nothing on Tanghulu. These delightful candied fruit treats on skewers greeted me when I first set foot on China for a business trip, and I've been hooked on them ever since. You can find them anywhere in Beijing, from street carts to outdoor market stalls, and even in fine dining places where they're served as dessert.

What is **Bing Tang** Hulu, Anyway?

Tanghulu (also called as bing tanghulu) is a Chinese candied fruit treat commonly eaten during winter. Traditionally, Tanghulu is made out of yellow or red hawthorn berries, but modern recipes now incorporate all kinds of fruits and nuts. As long as you can put the fruit on skewers and dip it into sugar syrup, then you can turn it into tanghulu.

The sugar syrup which the fruits are dipped into later crystallizes to form a sweet crispy coating. This is the reason why the snack is also called as bing tanghulu, because "bing" means "iced." Tanghulu, on the other hand, literally means "bottle gourd"- a reference to the snack's shape which people think resembles the shape of the gourd fruit.

Why Do People Eat Tanghulu in the Winter?

It's tradition for people in Northern China to eat tanghulu during reunions, celebrations and festivals, especially during the cold winter months.

But why is this so?

The answer to this is simple: the sugar coating melts and turns into a sticky mess if you expose it to warmer temperatures. The hawthorn berries that traditional tanghulus are made out of also ripen around late autumn, which means that when winter comes along they'll be ready to be cooked into yummy tanghulus.

Is Tanghulu Healthy?

It's probably not the healthiest of snacks you could make at home, on account of all that sugar. However, depending on the fruit that you make it with, it could still give you a healthy amount of Vitamin C if eaten in moderation.

Curiously enough, tanghulu actually originated as a medicinal cure about 800 years ago, during the Song dynasty. It was said that one of the emperor's royal concubines fell sick and lost her appetite; the court physician then recommended that she eat five to ten **candied haws** before each meal everyday. The concubine recovered from her illness (must be because of all the extra Vitamin C she was getting from the hawthorn berries) and the **candied haw** miracle "cure" soon spread throughout the land like wildfire. Soon enough, people were finding that the medicinal "treat" is actually good enough to eat on its own as a snack.

Traditional **Bing Tang** Hulu - **Candied Haw** on A Stick

*Red or yellow hawthorn berries
*Strawberries (or any of your favorite fruits like kiwifruit, grapes, mandarin orange slices, etcetera)
*Bamboo skewers
*White sugar
*Water
  1. Skewer the fruit using the bamboo sticks.

  2. Add about 200g of white sugar to 100 ml of water in a small pot. Pour the sugar in slowly, keeping the sugar granules mostly in the center of the pot. Turn on the stove to medium heat.

  3. Wait for the solution to boil and bubble over. At first, the sugar mixture will be cloudy, but don't mix or stir it. As the solution boils, the sugar will be eventually dissolved, and the solution will clear up.

  4. Once the solution clears up, it's time to take the pot off the heat of the stove. The syrup will continue to cook and darken even after you remove it from the heat. If you don't like the syrup turning into a darker shade of amber (and want a clear coating for your tanghulu), you can have a bowl of cold water on standby. Once you've removed the pot from the stove, immediately dip its bottom in the water to prevent the syrup from cooking further. The only downside to this technqiue is that you run the risk of crystallizing the syrup early on.

  5. Dip your fruit skewers one by one into the syrup solution. Move quickly and try to coat the fruit while the syrup is still thin and runny. Tanghulu is usually cooled on water-soaked wooden boards. Alternatively, you can hang them on racks so that the sugar won't form a flat surface on the bottom of the fruit.

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