"Tanghulu, Tanghulu..." With the arrival of winter, the cheerful scream of Tanghulu vendors starts to spread across the streets. Tanghulu is a candied mountain hawthorn. In Chinese, 'Tang' means sugar, and 'Hulu' means bottle gourd. As the shape looks like gourd (Chinese: Hulu) and the pronunciation is similar to luck, people call it Tanghulu. This traditional Chinese snack is easy to make. Vendors would cut the snack of fresh mountain hawthorns and string them together by bamboo sticks. Then they put it in the boiled sugar to get a thin layer. After cooling down on a wooden board, which has soaked in cold water for a long time, a Tanghulu is ready for eating.
Nowadays, there are various kinds of Tanghulu. Besides mountain hawthorns, vendors also use other fruits such as bananas, oranges, and strawberries. Some Tanghulu even has weird stuffings such as yams. Also, to make the snack cater to the taste of a wider audience, some vendors sell candied fruits stuffed with walnuts or covered by sesame seeds.
Tanghulu is a winter snack as the sugar coats are easy to melt in high temperature during other seasons. Traditionally, winter in China is considered to run from late December to late March. You may buy this sweet snack in other months too. Street vendors start to sell Tanghulus in different corners of Beijing after the Mid-Autumn Festival. It gets even more popular during the Chinese Spring Festival celebrations. At Beijing temple fairs, which traditionally run during the first week of the first lunar month, you can see vendors selling Tanghulus everywhere.
The tart and sweet snack is popular all across the Northern China. Locals say that it used to be more popular before the globalisation introduced other snacks to the young people. Who knows, maybe tourism will help to keep this traditional sweet snack as popular as hundred years ago.