What is tanghulu and why is everybody eating it?

What is tanghulu and why is everybody eating it?
File photo.

FROM its Song Dynasty origins to the streets of Cebu, explore the evolution of tanghulu, coating fruits in a candied exterior for a visually appealing treat.

One will never guess eating fruits could be this fun. This viral snack, originating from China and now sweeping across Asia, has taken the internet by storm with its crunchy, sweet or sour fruits on sticks that are as fun to make as they are to eat.

This confection involves coating fruits, traditionally hawthorn berries but now commonly strawberries, grapes or kiwis, in a candied exterior. The process entails careful strategizing because precision in temperature and timing is key to achieving the perfect tanghulu. Once it is perfectly hardened with sugar, be careful not to get too addicted to the snack.

Short background

Tanghulu, a beloved Chinese sweet, traces its roots to the Song Dynasty (960–1279) when Emperor Guangzong’s concubine, falling ill, was prescribed hawthorn berries fried in brown sugar. Her recovery popularized the candied fruit, evolving into a street snack sold across China. Today, it’s a ubiquitous and visually appealing treat, with street vendors showcasing these shiny, candied delights on long bamboo skewers.

Preparation steps

Filipino food content creator, Abi Marquez, shares her own recipe as the viral sweet snacks have also set foot in the Philippines.

Abi’s tip: pick the prettiest Shine Muscat grapes, but the real secret is in the crunch – so make sure those fruits are perfectly dry before dipping them in a magical concoction of melted sugar.

Give your strawberries a trim and thread them onto skewer sticks alongside your favorite fruits.

Now, you’re ready for the sweet sauce, in a pan over medium heat, let a generous amount of sugar melt with a splash of water until they reach a delightful amber hue, roughly around 300 degrees.

Once your sugary concoction is ready, keep the heat low to maintain that perfect temperature.

Take each fruit skewer, dip it into the sugar blend, and swiftly submerge it into a container filled with ice-cold water.

The result? The crispy crunch of the sugar exterior meets the refreshing juiciness within.

Where to find in Cebu

Despite the surge in popularity of tanghulu last year, access to this candied fruit remains limited in Cebu. Yet, a small stall named Strawberry Station at Chibugan Food Park, Kamagayan, Cebu City, has caught people’s attention for offering the sweet delight of strawberry tanghulu priced at P100. It’s an enticing offer that attracted a lengthy queue of students and dessert enthusiasts alike.

The journey of tanghulu from its ancient Chinese roots to becoming a viral sensation across Asia showcases the universal joy found in the fusion of crunchy, sweet and tangy flavors on a stick.


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