What: After the heavy flavors and questionable anatomy of other classic Beijing snacks, tanghulu comes as an unexpected sweet surprise. A favorite treat for kids (and the young at heart!), it’s a string of bright red hawthorn berries on a wooden stick, generously drizzled in sugar glaze. Take a bite and feel the hard crunch of the sugar give way to the soft and meaty fruit inside–just watch out for the seeds inside!
Good to know: You may hear some people call it bing tanghulu. The character “bing” (冰) means frozen, and refers not only to the ice-like sugar glaze on the outside, but also to the fact that these were traditionally eaten only in the wintertime, as sweltering Beijing summers would quickly turn a tanghulu into a sticky mess. Even today, as refrigerators and air conditioners have allowed tanghulu to become a snack for all seasons, they’re still closely associated with the carnival-like “temple fairs” held during Chinese New Year.
Where: We got our tanghulu at Wangfujing Snack Street (王府井小吃街, map), tucked into a corner of one of Beijing’s busiest pedestrian shopping streets. We’ll be honest: Most of the “old Beijing” snacks on sale here are pale imitations of the real thing, but the impossible-to-ruin tanghulu is still a definite winner.
When: Daily, 10am-10pm
Order: You can try the classic version for 10 RMB per stick, or upgrade to hawthorns stuffed with red beans and sesame for 12 RMB. More modern adaptations, involving strawberries and even pineapple, are available as well.
Alternatively: You’ll find stalls and hawkers selling tanghulu around scenic spots, supermarkets, and pretty much anywhere else crowds tend to gather. Qianmen and Houhai are almost guaranteed to have sellers wandering about almost any time of day.