Tanghulu is just a delightful treat to behold. These candied, fruity snacks will greet you everywhere you go in China. From neighborhood food stalls to high-end restaurants, everywhere you go, you can find bing tang hulu. And their addictive sweetness means that you will always come to go looking for them even if you’re already out of the country. Thankfully enough, making your own Tanghulu, is as easy as pie.
But first, let’s describe what tanghulu is, for people who haven’t had the privilege of tasting or seeing one.
Bing Tang Hulu: A Quick Rundown
Bing Tang Hulu is a traditional Chinese snack that can be dated all the way back to the Song Dynasty (an imperial dynasty of China that began in 960 and lasted until 1279). Today, you can find Tanghulu in every major city in China: Beijing, Tianjin, and Shanghai.
If you’re in Beijing, you can find this delicious snack on Wangfujing street but don’t worry if you can’t make it there; there are plenty of street vendors who travel from street to street selling them. The Chinese also believe that by eating these sugar-coated, candied fruits on New Year’s they will be blessed with good luck all year!
If you’ve ever had candy apples before, then you’ve already eaten something that is pretty similar in execution as tanghulu.
Tanghulu (also known as bing tanghulu) is a traditional Chinese snack made out of fruits skewered on bamboo sticks that are coated in a crispy shell of sugar.
The hardened sugar around the fruit is where the “bing” in the name comes from, because “bing” means iced. The tanghulu part of the name means “bottle gourd” which references the overall shape of the snack (that is said to resemble the shape of the gourd fruit). The name literally means “iced bottle gourd.”
It is commonly eaten during the colder winter months in China. While old-school, traditional tanghulu is made out of yellow and red hawthorn berries (which are known to have medicinal properties), any kind of fruit (and even nuts) can be turned into this treat as long as it can be skewered on a stick and be coated with sugar.
Is Bing Tang Hulu Healthy?
Well, not really. The sugar content is off the roof, and the calories might be more than you would expect from a fruit-based snack. But eaten in moderation, it’s probably okay, especially if you make it with traditional haw berries which are rich in Vitamin C. The snack has medicinal roots anyway.
The Legend Behind The Treat
Before Tanghulu was just your regular everyday snack it was actually made to cure illness. Original Tanghulu is made of hawthorns, and hawthorns are plants that are rich in vitamin C. Their leaves, flowers, and berries have long been known to have medicinal properties in traditional Chinese medicine.
Legend has it that a royal concubine of an emperor in the Song dynasty caught a mysterious illness. The court physician, knowing about the medicinal properties of hawthorn berries, told her to eat five to ten pieces of these berries before every meal. Alas, the only way that the concubine was able to eat these berries is if they are coated with sugar to make them more palatable.
But the tasty “cure” eventually worked, and the woman eventually recovered. Townsfolk heard about this miraculous cure, and soon enough, people were eating candied haw on a stick as a snack from thereon.
Best Fruit for Making Tanghulu
Original Tanghulu is made with hawthorn berries that can be found around China. But we don’t all live in China and we all want some Tanghulu so what are some of the best fruits for making this tasty snack?
You can never ever go wrong with strawberries. Strawberry ice cream, yes. Strawberry milkshake, yes. Strawberry Tanghulu, yes yes yes! The balance between the sweetened hard sugar on the outside and the sour soft strawberry on the inside is just perfect.
They say that the hawthorn berries’ texture resembles an apple’s texture, but that isn’t the only reason you want to try this mouthwatering snack with an apple. Apples are filled with sweet and delicious juice; just imagine taking a bite into crunchy sweet sugar and then into a cold juicy, crunchy apple. If I close my eyes, I can taste it.
Tanghulu grapes are considered a huge success! Pop them into your mouth one at a time and enjoy a crunchy, sweet, juicy adventure!
Candied Haw AKA Traditional Bing Tang Hulu
1. Put the hawthorn berries on the skewers. Limit the number of berries to three or four per stick- anything higher than this will make the tanghulu troublesome to prepare and eat.
2. In a small pot, heat 150ml of water with about 200 grams of white sugar on medium heat. Add the sugar gradually, while keeping most of the granules in the center of the pot.
3. Don’t stir the sugar mixture. Just wait for it to boil over; it’s done once the sugar is fully disolved and the solution is clear.
4. The sugar solution will still continue to cook even after you’ve taken the pot off the heat. It will turn into a dark amber color eventually. But to prevent the sugar coating mixture from cooking (and darkening) further, dip the bottom of the pot into cold water. But do this carefully, since by doing so you run the risk of crystallizing the solution early.
5. Finally, dip the skewered candied haw into the sugar solution. It’s best to do this quickly while the sugar solution is still runny. Hang the skewers on a rack and wait for it to cool down.
Other Things You Should Know About Bing Tang Hulu
1. Tang hulu is commonly eaten in the winter. Why? It’s because the sugar surrounding the fruit will melt and will become sticky and messy if you eat it during the hotter parts of the year.
2. You can try using other fruits as tanghulu. Strawberries are a popular alternative to haw. But other fruits you can try out include kiwi, apples, and oranges.
3. Add a sprinkle of sesame seeds to the sugar coating if you want a nutty taste to your tanghulu.
- Red and yellow hawthorn berries
- 250 grams White sugar
- 150 ml Water
- Bamboo skewers
- Put the hawthorn berries on the skewers. Limit the number of berries to three or four per stick- anything higher than this will make the tanghulu troublesome to prepare and eat.
- Don’t stir the sugar mixture. Just wait for it to boil over; it’s done once the sugar is fully disolved and the solution is clear.
- The sugar solution will still continue to cook even after you’ve taken the pot off the heat. It will turn into a dark amber color eventually. But to prevent the sugar coating mixture from cooking (and darkening) further, dip the bottom of the pot into cold water. But do this carefully, since by doing so you run the risk of crystallizing the solution early.
- Finally, dip the skewered candied haw into the sugar solution. It’s best to do this quickly while the sugar solution is still runny. Hang the skewers on a rack and wait for it to cool down.
Do you put Tanghulu in the fridge?
You can put your Tanghulu in the fridge to help it cool down faster. Tanghulu should be eaten as soon as it has cooled down.
If you must keep it in the fridge, it should only be for a few short hours, and in a tightly sealed container. This is because the fruit will start to dissolve the sugar, and then you’ll be left with soft fruit in a pool of extra sweet juice. Sounds delicious, but it’s not the crunchy Tanghulu snack we were hoping for now.
Why is my Tanghulu sticky?
When making Tanghulu, you need to make sure to cook the sugar and water all the way through to the right temperature. It needs to have the consistency of honey, and the sugar needs to harden almost immediately when around the fruit.
If you don’t have a candy thermometer, you can easily test your sugar with a spoon. Place the spoon in ice water and then dip it in your sugar. If it hardens, then your sugar is ready!
What does Tanghulu taste like?
Original Tanghulu is made from hawthorn berries found in China. These berries are not usually sweet, and their texture resembles that of an apple. You can, of course, make your own Tanghulu using any fruit you desire.