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Chinese Traditional Snack: Tanghulu

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.

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.

 

“Tanghulu has been my favorite sweet since I was a kid,” said Ma Long, a 27-year-old native Beijinger who works for a foreign company. “Childhood memories of tanghulu still linger in my mind today.”

Back in those days, most children couldn’t afford expensive treats and tanghulu, which cost about one jiao (1 US cent) each, were always the most popular, Ma said.

“Every afternoon on my way home from school, I liked to buy a tanghulu,” Ma recalled.

Although all kinds of snacks are available nowadays, made by either local or overseas manufacturers, Ma remains a staunch tanghulu fan.

“Nothing is more satisfying than eating a tasty tanghulu on a cold day,” Ma said. Ma’s passion for tanghulu is shared by many young adults including 25-year-old Wang Yan, a primary school teacher in Beijing.

“When I was young, my mother once warned me if I kept eating so many tanghulu, I would lose all of my teeth,” Wang recalled.

But the mother’s words did not dampen the young girl’s love of the snack. Every winter, she continued to spend most of her pocket money for tanghulu.

“Even now I can’t resist tanghulu whenever I see them in supermarkets or at streetside snack stands,” said Wang.

Though tanghulu are also popular in many other cities in North and Northeast China, they have become sort of unofficial, non-dancing logo of Beijing.

Auspicious symbol

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.

“A visit to the temple fair is not complete without buying one of these huge tanghulu,” said Ma.

 

Generally most buyers don’t eat them.

They 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.

Long history

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.

And the name has stuck despite the fact that most tanghulu include four to eight haws and don’t look the least bit like a candy gourd today.

Back in the early 1900s, the most-sought after tanghulu were sold in food stores in the Dong’an Market in downtown Beijing. Most of these stores were not very large, but enjoyed a booming business every day.

In addition to haws, a dazzling variety of ingredients such as kumquats, yam, water chestnuts and Chinese dates are used to make tanghulu. But they are all made in pretty much the same way.

Take haws, for example. Wash the haws, take out the seeds, put the haws together on a bamboo skewer, then dip it into boiling syrup and take it out and allow it to cool to harden the syrup.

Ingredients like yams and water chestnuts have to be steamed before being made into tanghulu.

The most attractive varieties are sugar-coated haws with fillings. Each haw is cut open, filled with sweet bean paste, and then trimmed with the edible kernels of melon seeds.

Many tanghulu-makers stress that heat control is the key element in making good tanghulu. If the temperature of the syrup is too low, the tanghulu will be sticky; if the syrup is over-heated, candied coating of the tanghulu will look dark and taste bitter.

Among the many tanghulu makers, only a few have established fame or secured trademarks for their brands.

One famous tanghulu-maker in old Beijing was Xinyuanzhai, one of the oldest shops in the city that made and sold traditional snack food.

Built during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), the store was particularly well-known for its special tanghulu product called tangdun.

Tangdun were made with only one large haw,although they were prepared in almost the same way as regular tanghulu. They were juicy and crispy and had a perfect combination of sweetness and sourness, and they were very popular up to the mid-1930s.

The golden days of both Dong’an Market and Xinyuanzhai have gone with the changing times. Few people remember Xinyuanzhai’s tangdun, while Dong’an Market has been replaced by the modern shopping mall, Sun Dong An Plaza, in 1998.

Surviving tradition

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.

Rising incomes and changes in lifestyle have created new demands that traditional snack foods do not fulfill, said Lu Zhonghua, manager of the Beijing-based Tanghuluwa Food Plant.

“For a long time, the business relied mostly on traditional techniques which had been passed on for generations,” Lu said. “With backward technology and poor management, we had trouble keeping our own tanghulu fresh and selling well.”

Now modern technology and modern management are becoming essential elements if one wishes to survive, Lu added.

Established in 2000, the company now operates over 20 outlets in the city. Most of them are located in large supermarkets and shopping malls. In addition to tanghulu freshly made on site, these outlets also offer packaged products, which have a longer shelf life.

“Packaged tanghulu are welcomed by customers who like to take them home to share with their families,” Lu explained.

Like Tanghuluwa Food Plant, many other snack stores are looking for ways to increase sales.

“Eating trends are changing and we have to display new products to adapt to market trends,” said Zhang Mei, who works in a tanghulu store in Sun Dong An Plaza. Every year, the snack bar presents new varieties with bananas, strawberries, cherries and tomatoes.

“Though the conventional types are still our best sellers, people are also interested to try new products,” said Zhang.

donkey roll about(Beijing)

ludaguan (donkey roll about), is a glutinous rice cake. It is made from steamed glutinous yellow rice flour, which is made into a flat cake, with fried bean flour and brown sugar powder sprayed onto the surface, and rolled up into several layers to make a cake.

Wonton Soup Recipe

Recipe: Wonton Soup
Serving: 15 wontons or 3 servings of wonton soup

Ingredients:

8 oz. peeled and deveined medium size shrimp
1/8 teaspoon sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon chicken bouillon powder
1/8 teaspoon fish sauce
1 small pinch of salt
3 dashes white pepper powder
1 oz yellow chives (chopped finely)
1/2 teaspoon corn starch
15 wonton wrappers
3 cups stock
Salt to taste
White pepper powder to taste
Sesame oil to taste

Stock Ingredients:

1 1/2 pound leg quarters (chicken thighs and legs)
1 1/2 pound lean pork
1 1/2 pound ham
10 cups water

wonton_soup1

Method:

Prepare the stock first by boiling all the ingredients in a deep stockpot. Bring it to boil and skim off the scum that surfaces until the stock is clear. Simmer on low heat for a couple of hours. Pour the stock through a sieve and set aside. Save the extra in a container and keep it in the fridge for future use.

Put the shrimp in a small bowl and rinse them under cold running water for about 5-10 minutes. (This step makes the shrimp crunchy.) Drain the water and pat the shrimp dry with paper towels and then cut each shrimp into 3-4 pieces.

Add half of the chopped yellow chives into the shrimp and marinate with the seasonings for 1 hour. Blend the shrimp well with the seasoning.

Place a wonton wrapper on your palm and put about 1 teaspoon (about 3-4 pieces) of the shrimp filling in the center of the wonton wrapper. Gather the corners of the wrapper with the other hand and give it a twist in the middle to “close” the wonton. Repeat until the filling is used up.

Add 3 cups of stock into a medium saucepan and bring it to boil. Add the remaining chopped yellow chives into the stock, add salt, white pepper powder, and sesame oil to taste and set aside.

Heat up another big saucepan with water. As soon as it boils, drop the wontons into the water. Stirring gently so the wontons don’t stick together. Continue to boil until the wontons are cooked and float to the surface.

Transfer the wontons out with a hand strainer and divide them into 3 equal servings. Pour a ladleful of stock over each serving and serve immediately.

wonton_soup2

Shrimp and Avocado Salad Recipe

This simple salad features a delicious contrast between the tangy avocado and tender shrimp, and the sharp hot mustard paste really brings them together.

Prep time: 3 minutes
Cook time: 3 minutes

Utensils:

Pot, 2 bowls.

Serves 2

Ingredients:

1/2 cup shrimp, peeled, deveined, parboiled
1 avocado, peeled, cut into 1-inch cubes
Seasonings:

1 tbsp.light soy sauce
1 tbsp.hot mustard
2 tbsps.lemon juice
Directions:
1. Put a pot of water on to boil, parboil the shrimp meat, about 1-2 minutes (P1).

Parboiled shrimp meat and avocado cubes

P1

2. Make the dressing by whisking all the seasonings together in a bowl (P2).

Mix all the seasonings together in a bowl

P2

3. Put the avocado cubes and shrimp in a separate bowl, spoon the dressing over them, combine to properly coat with the sauce.

4. Serve immediately (P3).

Shrimp and Avocado Salad Recipe

P3

Chinese Food Recipes Tips And Guide

My friend simmon’s family cooks a Chinese food at least once a month. It looks like a tradition. Everyone clears the schedule. He sister, parents, He uncles, He brother gather around the family kitchen to taste meal from the Orient. Yes, Chinese food. They really love it because it is easy to follow. One of our favorite is the sauces. It’s very delicious for our tongue. Our family can adapt with the variety of flavorful spices.

The main taste of Chinese food or Chinese cooking depends on the ingredients of the sauces. If you are fan of Chinese food, you must know it. These cooking sauces are used in a variety of delicious authentic recipes. Fried rice, for example, is made of spices and sauces that make the delicious taste.

Kids really like a delicious meal. There are a lot of Chinese foods for children. Try to serve the dipping sauce in a little bowl to accompany appetizers like egg rolls, spring rolls or pot stickers. Let them choose the bowl and you’ll see their faces light up. By the way, there are so many different Chinese cuisine types of flavors that can be implemented into everyday menu. Some of the famous are sTheyet and sour sauce, garlic sauce, hot mustard and chili oil.

They use chili oil to enhance the flavor. Chili oil is made of chili peppers. Hot mustard and garlic sauce are delicious sauces. It is used for Chinese appetizers. And another favorite in Chinese food is sTheyet and sour sauce. If you interested with those sauces, you can try to give your family Chinese food for dinner. The sauces are easy to make.

Nowadays, the sauces have become very popular around the world because They can make it easily and it has a great flavor when you add to Chinese meals. It’s so adaptable. Chinese cuisine has become our favorite. You can try it out. Happy cooking!

Cooking With Spring Roll Wrappers – Add a Little Crunchy Fried Goodness to Your Next Meal!

After you’ve procured yourself a frozen package of spring roll wrappers – you will not believe how easy it is to make great spring rolls. But although these wafer thin squares of dough do roll up nicely into an Asian style spring roll snack – why limit yourself to the tastes of the Orient? Spring roll wrappers can be incorporated into the flavors of any cuisine and add a surprising and very tasty bit of crunch to any meal idea.

What Kind of Spring Roll Wrappers to Buy?

In truth there is only one kind of spring roll wrapper, but these are sometimes confused with egg-roll wrappers or with rice paper wrappers (which are used to make fresh Vietnamese style rolls).
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  • Egg roll style wrappers are thicker and usually smaller – and they look like egg pasta. These are not what you want.
  • Rice paper wrappers are dried and brittle and are an almost translucent white. Don’t get these either.
  • Spring roll wrappers are made from wheat flour and water and are generally sold frozen. They are very thin and resemble filo pastry in appearance. They are generally sold in about 4-5 inch square package sizes.

Keep these in the freezer indefinitely, removing wrappers as you need them.

How Do You Use Them?

You can roll your chosen filling up either by closing (folding over) the ends as you wrap, or by leaving the ends open. To seal off the rolls, mix together a small quantity of water and flour to form a paste like glue. Add a dab of this flour to the end corner of your wrapper paper and this will hold your seal.

How Do You Flavor Them?

As an idea to get you started. Take a single spring roll wrapper our and lay it flat on your work surface. Add on about 2 Tbls of grated carrot and a small pinch of salt.

You are going to roll this up “open ended” style like a cigar to add crunch, visual interest and savory taste to your plate, but you should also add in a complimentary seasoning that matches with the flavor profile of your dinner.

  • If you are cooking a Caribbean meal – you might add in a scant tough of ginger or cinnamon and after frying add another pinch of cinnamon outside.
  • If you are cooking Italian, you might add in a pinch of fresh thyme with the carrots and serve with a tomato “salsa” in an olive oil and garlic dressing.

Add in any spice or flavoring that would compliment the carrot (or whatever other filling ingredient you choose) and the other main ingredients on the plate.

Alternatives to Rolling?

You can also cut the wrappers into halves, and fry them in oil flat. When they are crispy, you can use them on your plate to create very professional looking napoleons! Try layering in flavored root vegetable purees between slices of fried spring roll pastry…delicious!

Or, fry them flat and toss them in flavored sugar for a crunchy garnish to your favorite dessert.

Or, proceed as above with the sugar, but layer in ice cream and fruit sauces for an impressive homemade ice cream sandwich!

Pick up a package the next time you find yourself in an Asian grocery store and start playing around with these very versatile and very tasty sheets of CRUNCH!

How To Make Jiao Zi (Chinese Dumplings)

The humble dumpling. In Western-style cuisine it is a simple staple, a source of carbohydrates and great comfort food. Done Chinese style, it is a work of culinary art. Jiao Zi (or Gow Gee, in the Mandarin dialect) is a concoction made of dough stuffed with meat and/or vegetables. It is often served as part of dim sum. Proper preparation takes a bit of time and effort. But the results, when done correctly, are well worth it.

Ingredients

Wrap:

4 cups white flour
1-1 1/2 cups water
1 tsp salt

You’ll want to acquire the correct type of Chinese flour, whether you use rice flour or wheat flour. Ordinary Western-style wheat flour has a very different consistency when prepared.

Chill the water to just above freezing and dissolve the salt into 2 cups of it. Blend thoroughly and add the extra 1/2 cup only if the dough isn’t completely wetted. Knead well and ensure that the result is firm. If needed, sprinkle in a bit more flour. Then chill the dough.

Filling:

1 lb lean ground meat
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp brandy
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp white pepper

Combine all the ingredients, then stir. Don’t overdo it in order to avoid making the meat mushy.

Bring out the chilled dough and separate a piece into two parts. Flatten each section until they’re about 1/8 inch thick. Layer the meat mixture onto one then cover with the other. Crimp the edges until the result looks something like a white fortune cookie crumpled around the rim. Repeat until you’ve used up all the dough and meat.

The raw dumpling can be boiled or fried, as desired.

To boil, use a pot large enough to cover the dumplings with a couple of inches of water. Bring the water to a boil, then layer the Jiao Zi along the bottom of the pot. Stir gently to prevent them sticking together. Continue heating until the mixture boils again. Add a cup of cold water and allow to come to a boil again, then remove from heat.

To fry, simply line a wok with a layer of sesame oil and bring to a high heat. Then toss in the dumplings. Remember that woks cook very quickly. You’ll need to keep the dumplings moving in order to get them evenly cooked on both sides. It’s particularly important to ensure that the meat inside is well done.

Serve

The results are often dipped into a sauce of equal amounts of black vinegar and soy. Jiao Zi is a component of a traditional dim sum cart and are often served during the Chinese New Year’s celebration. As a symbol of wealth they bring good fortune in the coming year, but these are delicious anytime.