A taste of tanghulu

The mostly favoured flavour of wintry snack in Northern China

If you think that in winter a hot coffee (or tea) is all that you need to treat yourself while outing in China, especially in the north, you may have missed your sweet memory. Our Chinese LIG volunteer, Xiaohui, whose hometown in South China, is receiving pre-service training in Beijing currently. She will tell you what she has discovered in her spare time wandering around capital city, as shown below.

Have you been to China and seen this? Are there anything similar to this in your own country?

  • What’s this and what’s it called?
  • What’s it made of?
  • How to eat it?
  • What does it taste like?
  • How much does it cost?

Now here is what Xiaohui explains –

  • Name in Chinese: 糖葫芦(冰糖葫芦)
  • Pinyin: tánghúlu (bīngtánghúlu)
  • Lit: sugar bottle gourd (rocky sugar bottle gourd); 冰 (bīng, ice), 糖 (táng, sugar/candy), 葫芦 (húlu, bottle gourd)
  • Name in English: candy hawberry (or candy fruit)
  • Ingredients: typically 山楂 (shānzhā, Chinese hawberry) or more recently a variety of other fruits like 桔子 (júzi, mandarin orange), 苹果 (píngguǒ, apple), 猕猴桃 (míhóutáo, kiwi), 草莓 (cǎoméi, strawberry), 香蕉 (xiāngjiāo, banana), and many more; 糖浆 (tángjiāng, sugar syrup)
  • Eat as it is, one by one – similar to eating BBQ skewers but very different feel – it is best to eat in winter as the sugar coating is hardened by the cold weather as if one’s tasting ice
  • Sweet (from sugar coating), sweet and sour (from fruits)!
  • Only 7 块 (kuài, the colloquial of RMB yuan) per skewer (less than one pound)

Additional information
It has nothing to do with fruit gourd in ingredients but that it somewhat resembles the shape of bottle gourds put together. Hence, the name.

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Happy Chinese ‘Singles’ Day’

Singles’ Day or Bachelors’ Day (光棍节 Guānggùn Jié) is a day unofficially made for young Chinese who are single to celebrate on the 11th of November (11/11 – two elevens – aka “双十一”节 Shuāng Shíyī Jié). The date was chosen for the connection between singles and the number ‘1’. The four ‘1’s ironically refer to the individuals who have no boyfriends/girlfriends yet, therefore, becoming the bachelors or bachelorettes.

Initiated in 1993, this celebration has become popular among young Chinese, especially university and college students. In celebrating their festival, young singles organise parties and Karaoke to meet new friends or try their fortunes.

In more recent years, the festival has become commercialised as the largest physical and online shopping day in the world, compared with other shopping events such as the Black Friday shopping.

The photos below were taken when I undertook my fieldwork in China on 10/11/2008. With great interest I attended an English class in a university in which two students were presenting their topic on the Singles’ Day. The mascots they explained are represented by two common and typical Chinese breakfast food – 油条 (yóutiáo) and 包子 (bāozi).

Language points

  • 光棍 (guānggùn) – single, unmarried people; bachelor or bachelorette (esp. male, oft. derogatory)
  • 节 (jié) – festival, special day
  • 双十一 (shuāng shíyī) – double 11(th)
  • 油条 (yóutiáo) – deep-fried long twisted dough strips
  • 包子 (bāozi) – steamed bun with fillings


In their presentation, the two girls claimed that only in China a special day was set for the singles. Is that true? What about in your country/culture? Please leave a reply below in the comment box.