DIY Skewered Candied Fruits

Tanghulu is a traditional Chinese snack made by skewering fruits, typically hawthorn berries, strawberries, or grapes, and then dipping them in a sugar syrup that hardens to a glossy shell.  The name “Tanghulu” translates to “sugar bottle gourd,” though it doesn’t actually contain any gourd.  It’s a popular street food in China, especially during the winter months, and is enjoyed by people of all ages.

The history of Tanghulu dates back centuries in China.  It is believed to have originated during the Song Dynasty (960–1279 AD) in northern China, particularly in Beijing.  Initially, it was made with hawthorn berries, a common fruit in the region.  The snack gained popularity due to its sweet and crunchy texture, making it a favorite among both children and adults.

Over time, the concept of Tanghulu expanded to include various other fruits, such as strawberries, grapes, and even citrus fruits like oranges and kumquats.  Each region of China may have its own variation of Tanghulu, using locally available fruits.

I recently tried making this delicious snack from scratch and it was much easier than anticipated! Here’s how you can make Fruit Tanghulu at home:

  • Fresh fruits of your choice (strawberries, grapes, kiwi, pineapple chunks, etc.)
  • Wooden skewers or lollipop sticks
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • Optional: food coloring (for colored sugar syrup)
  1. Prepare the Fruits:
  • Wash and thoroughly dry the fruits you’ll be using. Make sure they are completely dry before skewering.
  • If using large fruits like strawberries, you may want to halve or quarter them for easier skewering.
  1. Skewer the Fruits:
  • Thread the fruits onto wooden skewers or lollipop sticks, leaving some space between each piece to ensure even coating with the sugar syrup.
  • Make sure the skewers are long enough to hold comfortably without touching the hot sugar syrup.
  1. Make the Sugar Syrup:
  • In a small saucepan, combine granulated sugar and water. If desired, add a few drops of food coloring to achieve the desired color for your sugar syrup.
  • Heat the mixture over medium heat, stirring continuously until the sugar is completely dissolved.
  1. Cook the Sugar Syrup:
  • Once the sugar is dissolved, bring the mixture to a gentle boil. Continue to cook without stirring until the syrup reaches the hard crack stage, which is around 300°F (150°C) on a candy thermometer.
  • If you don’t have a candy thermometer, you can test the syrup by dropping a small amount into a bowl of cold water. It should harden immediately and become brittle.
  1. Coat the Fruits:
  • Once the sugar syrup reaches the desired temperature, remove it from the heat.
  • Carefully dip each skewered fruit into the hot sugar syrup, turning to coat it evenly. Be cautious as the syrup will be very hot.
  • Hold the skewer over the saucepan for a few seconds to allow any excess syrup to drip off.
  1. Set and Cool:
  • Place the coated fruits on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone mat to cool and harden.
  • Allow the Tanghulu to cool completely before serving. The sugar syrup will harden into a glossy shell around the fruits.
  1. Serve:
  • Once the Tanghulu is completely set, it’s ready to serve! Enjoy your homemade Fruit Tanghulu as a sweet and crunchy treat.

Remember to enjoy Tanghulu soon after making it, as the sugar shell can become sticky in humid conditions.  I used strawberries and grapes in this experimental cooking adventure, but various other fruits such as pineapples, oranges, melons can be used.