Crunchy on the outside, soft and sweet on the inside—-this fruit snack that is a specialty of northern China is as delicious as it is beautiful to look at.

Alysia Bebel
March 22, 2021
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Tanghulu
Credit: Getty Images / plej92

I was doing my evening scrolling through Instagram when I came across the most beautiful glass-like strawberries from @asmr.eatss. I immediately tapped the video for sound and to my delight, these hardened treats make the most satisfying ASMR sound when tapped together (ASMR stands for autonomous sensory meridian response and it describes a pleasant sensation often associated with certain sounds.) If you don't believe me, just listen for yourself! I must have watched the video four times before deciding that everyone needs to know about tanghulu.

While it's not a new concept by any means, tanghulu is gaining some traction recently on social media. So we reached out to Maggie Zhu, the writer behind the popular Chinese food blog Omnivore's Cookbook, who shared with us her childhood experience with the popular street snack growing up in Beijing.

"When I grew up in the '90s, you usually saw street vendors cooking and selling them on the street," says Zhu. "It was a sign of winter, and tanghulu was something we looked forward to despite the cold weather." While the video I discovered uses strawberries, Zhu let us know that tanghulu is traditionally made with hawthorn berries. But, she adds, "Nowadays it is common to use many other types of fruit." While researching I discovered many tanghulu recipes made with everything from grapes to this impressive platter with kiwi, mango and dragon fruit

I also discovered a similar preserved Chinese fruit snack for sale on Amazon. However, if you want the real deal, take a stab at making them fresh at home using this recipe from Easy Chinese Recipes

The glossy sugar coating is what captured my attention and when done right it is extremely crisp and shatters upon the first bite—so satisfying! "To cook tanghulu, rock sugar is melted in a large iron wok and cooked until lightly golden, then the hawthorn [or other fruit] skewer is quickly dipped into the syrup, rolled to coat all the surfaces, then placed on a wooden board," says Zhu. After the syrup solidifies, you've got yourself a sweet and crispy fruit treat.

As Western dessert continues entering the Chinese market, Zhu says, "Tanghulu is still a favorite snack of mine." She continues, "It represents the core spirit of Chinese cuisine—making a humble ingredient delightful while balancing its health benefits with a dollop of indulgence. It has existed for hundreds of years, and I hope the craftsmanship carries on."