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Home Travel in Beijing Beijing Snacks—Tanghulu (糖葫芦)
Beijing Snacks—Tanghulu (糖葫芦)
Travel in Beijing
Beijing snacks, combining varied flavors from different nationalities like Han, Hui, Meng, Man and court snacks from the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) and the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), include many kinds and form the characteristic of their own.

Tanghulu (Tidbits on a stick / 糖葫芦)
Tanghulu, or crystalline sugar-coated haws on a stick, do not require much promotion among young sweet-lovers in Beijing, despite the increasing competition from new generation snack foods like potato chips, popcorn and chocolate.
About 20 centimeters long, bright red in color with a perfect sweet-and-sour taste, tanghulu are a much-loved traditional confection in the capital city.
If you get the chance to go to Beijing, be sure to try some of the delicacies sold in the local outdoor market places or street-carts. You should especially not miss out on the delicious sweet snacks on offer. Anyone who has been to Beijing cannot claim to have missed seeing the colorful skewers threaded with sugar glazed berries called tanghulu. Tanghulus are the absolute favorite snack of native Beijingers, easily besting other finger foods such as chips, popcorn and chocolate.
Every year as the weather cools down, tanghulu sales start heating up on almost every street corner in the city. Mobile food vendors carry large straw or plastic poles with dozens of tanghulu stuck in them as they make their rounds from one neighborhood to another.
Each vendor has his or her own distinct, rhythmic call. Many of the food stalls in parks, supermarkets or along the roadside add tanghulu to their menus. Buyers can watch the stall owners making the snack on the spot.
For many Beijing people, tanghulu is not only a tasty treat, but also an auspicious symbol and highlight of the traditional temple fairs held during the Lunar New Year holidays in Beijing.
Tanghulu sold at the Changdian Temple Fair in Xuanwu District are regarded as the most auspicious ones by many Beijingers.
Dating back to the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), the temple fair at Changdian was resumed in 2001, after a 37-year halt, and is now one of the largest such fairs in the capital city.Many of the tanghulu sold at the fair are about one meter long and decorated with colorful flags on the top.Buyers take them home as a kind of auspicious token, which they believe will bring them good luck, fortune and prosperity in the coming new year.
In Beijing, sales of tanghulu generally go up when winter approaches and the temperature drops. During this season, these tasty snacks can be found at virtually every street corner. Although tanghulus are popular in many cities in northern and northeastern China, they have become the unofficial official snack of Beijing.
Tanghulus have been part of the Chinese food culture for centuries, and for Beijingers especially, New Year celebrations would be nothing without these scrumptious bringers of good luck. The tanghulus sold during the Changdian Temple Fair in the Xuanwu District have gained a reputation for being the most auspicious ones of all. The tradition of the temple fair spans centuries, but between the beginning of the 1900s and 2001, a total of 37 years passed without it taking place. Since being added to the annual events calendar, it has quickly become one of the most popular tourist attractions in Beijing. So, if you're looking for the most delicious tanghulus on the planet, Xuanwu District is your place! The local vendors sell skewers that are up to one meter long and decorated with colorful flags. Generally speaking, the tanghulus bought here are not eaten on the spot, instead, people take them home believing they will bring them good luck and prosperity, especially during the new year.
Legend has it that tanghulu date back to the Song Dynasty (960-1279). Once an imperial concubine of Emperor Guangzong (1147-1200) fell seriously sick and the court physicians failed to find an effective treatment. The worried emperor knitted his brows in despair every day.
Then a doctor from outside the court volunteered to try and cure the concubine's illness. After examining the patient thoroughly, the doctor wrote out a simple prescription: Simmer haws in sugar and water, and eat five to 10 of them before each meal. The doctor said the concubine would get well in less than two weeks if she followed the prescription. Neither the emperor nor the court physician believed the doctor's words. But unexpectedly, the concubine got better and better and eventually recovered.
The story of the miraculous cure and the making of the healthy food quickly spread among the common people. Some food vendors began putting haws on bamboo skewers and selling them as snacks, and after a bap tism in hot sugar syrup, they became the tanghulu we know.
It was said that the first tanghulu had only two haws: a small one on top and a big one on the bottom, which made the treat look like a hulu , or bottle gourd.
This is why they are called tanghulu today, which means "candy bottle gourd'' in Chinese.
Many experts argue that the market still has an insatiable appetite for traditional snack foods like tanghulu and that the business still has potential for further growth.
Over the past few years, some tanghulu manufacturers from other provinces have begun to step into the market in Beijing. And they have come in with their own brand names, such as Gaolaotai, from northeast China's Liaoning Province.
And Beijing manufacturers are feeling the heat of local competition.


Where Can I Find It ?
There are many Tanghulu stands in Wangfujing (王府井) and Chenghuangmiao (城隍庙).
You are also likely to find it in places like Taiyanggong (太阳宫), Xibahe (西坝河), and Heping Street (和平街北口).
Now Tanghulu in packets are also available in most supermakets in Beijing.