You know Chinese New Year is approaching when the streets are lined with red. Flowers. Decorations. Food. The color symbolizes good luck in the year to come. And no snack better encapsulates the celebratory season than the scarlet skewers of candied hawthorn berries.
The Chinese hawthorn berry is a tiny, tart sphere that looks a bit like a crab apple. To turn the berries into the popular street snack known as tanghulu, vendors place several on a bamboo skewer and coat them in caramelized sugar. The result is a sweet, crispy coating surrounding a chewy, sour fruit. Sometimes, hawkers might add a sprinkle of sesame seeds to the treat.
Besides being a delicious and festive snack, the hawthorn fruit and plant have played a role in traditional Chinese medicine since the seventh century. The berries in particular are a valued digestive aid, and several studies have shown they have cardiovascular benefits.
Although the traditional hawthorn variety is the most popular, you may also come across sticks of tanghulu featuring other sugar-coated fruits, such as strawberries, pineapples, or mandarin oranges.
Need to Know
During the winter, vendors sell candied hawthorn at many different public spaces in Beijing.
Where to Try It
Wangfujing Snack StreetWangfujing St, WangFuJing, Dongcheng Qu, Beijing Shi, 100006, China
While some of the traditional snacks on this strip aren't authentic, the candied hawthorn is the real deal.
Chinese New Year Flower MarketVictoria Park, Hing Fat St, 1, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong
This annual market, held during the week leading up to the Chinese New Year, features plenty of flowers and New Year treats, including candied hawthorn.