Juicy tangerine slices coated in a hard, crunchy candy shell. Tangerine tanghulu is an homage to the traditional Chinese street snack.
What is tanghulu?
Tanghulu (糖葫蘆) or bing tang hu lu is a Chinese street snack. It's traditionally made with hawthorn berries (a tart and mildly sweet fruit) on bamboo skewers that are coated in a shell of hardened sugar syrup. Many fruit variations exist now as eye-catching street food such as strawberries, grapes, and mixed fruits.
Tang or bing tang translates to "sugar" or "rock sugar" while hu lu refers to the shape of the fruit on the skewer which resembles the appearance of a bottle gourd, a type of melon common in Asia.
How to make tangerine tanghulu
Skewer the tangerines: Add 3 tangerine slices to the end of each skewer and set aside.
Dissolve sugar: In a small pot, stir together the sugar and water on low heat until the sugar has dissolved.
Boil syrup: Turn it up to medium heat and boil the syrup until it reaches 300°F or 150°C, about 8-10 minutes. The bubbles will noticeably become larger and slower as the mixture thickens. If you don't have a candy thermometer, you can dip a chopstick into the syrup and immediately into cold water. Bite the chopstick and if it crunches, it's ready.
Coat the tangerines: Tilt the pot so that the sugar pools in a corner and quickly swirl a tangerine skewer in the syrup to coat.
Let cool: Place the skewers on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and let cool for 5-10 minutes until the sugar has hardened. Enjoy right away.
Tips for success
- You can use any fruits other than tangerines for your tanghulu as long as they aren't too "wet". Dry off any fruit with a paper towel before dipping in the syrup.
- Using a candy thermometer to make sure the syrup is at the correct candy stage makes this process way easier. You won't have to guess when the syrup is ready or keep testing it. If you try to use it before it reaches the correct temperature, it will not harden properly.
- That being said, if you don't have a candy thermometer, you can do the "cold water test". When the bubbles in the boiling syrup get noticeably slower as it thickens, dip a chopstick into the syrup and immediately into cold water. Bite the end of the chopstick and if it crunches, it's ready. You can also drop a spoonful of syrup into a glass of cold water and the syrup will harden right away if it's ready.
- Once the syrup reaches the correct temperature, you'll want to work quickly with the skewers. The sugar may crystallize once too much of the water has evaporated and it will be impossible to work with.
- Tanghulu should be eaten right away as soon as the candied coating hardens or within 1-2 hours. The juices from the fruit will start to dissolve the sugar coating, turning it back into syrup.