Sugar-Coated Haws: A Chinese Traditional Snack
The Chinese New Year will be here in just one month. If you are in northern China, you will see a traditional snack everywhere – sugar-coated haws. Today, let us learn about the origin of this snack.
Traditional sugar-coated haws:
Traditional sugar-coated haws were originally strung with hawthorns, and later evolved to be made with ingredients such as yam, black dates, and oranges. Some high-end candied haws even fill the hollowed-out hawthorn core with some fillings. In recent years, the raw materials for making sugar-coated haws have been continuously expanded, including apples, pineapples, grapes, strawberries, tomatoes and other fruits. In addition, the sugar used in candied haws is rock sugar, hence the name “sugar-coated haws”.
Traditional sugar-coated haws on a stick can usually only be seen in winter markets. Because the hawthorn and outer sugar layer are frozen by the cold temperature, it is very hard to bite, as if you are eating ice. Therefore, this snack is called “candied haws” and shows its unique taste. However, in recent years, candied haws have also been sold in summer. However, due to the hot weather, the outer sugar layer becomes very sticky, and the taste is quite different compared to winter.
There is a folklore related to the origin of candied haws. It is said that candied haws originated in the Song Dynasty, when Huang Guifei, the favorite concubine of Emperor Guangzong of the Southern Song Dynasty, fell ill. Doctors tried many expensive medications, but none worked. Finally, a quack came to the palace and suggested boiling it with rock sugar and hawthorn and eating five to ten pieces before each meal. After Huang Guifei was treated according to this method, she recovered within half a month. This practice was introduced to the people and evolved into the method of making candied haws.
In fact, hawthorn has a variety of medicinal effects, including eliminating indigestion and dispersing blood congestion. Li Shizhen, a medical scientist in the Ming Dynasty, also mentioned that hawthorn has a significant effect on digestion. Recent studies have confirmed that hawthorn also has the effects of lowering blood lipids and lowering serum cholesterol. Therefore, hawthorn has become one of people’s favorite ingredients, and the sweet, sour, and crispy candied haws have always maintained its popularity.
There is also a folk legend that sugar-coated haws originated in the Sui Dynasty. It is said that at that time, the imperial court awarded meritorious officials with a stick of candied haws pierced with haws. This method was later introduced to the people and formed the tradition of candied haws.
The exact historical record can be traced back to the Qing Dynasty’s “Yanjing Chronicles”: “The candied haws on a stick is made of bamboo sticks, with haws, crabapple, grapes, sesame yam, walnut kernels, bean paste, etc. dipped in rock sugar to make it sweet. Crisp and cool.”
Hawthorn is a very ancient food in my country that is both medicinal and edible. It contains many nutrients: vitamin C, vitamin E, carotene, dietary fiber, pectin, flavonoids, triterpenes, etc.
Vitamin C, vitamin E, and carotene are antioxidant substances that are very useful in preventing aging and maintaining skin elasticity.
Dietary fiber promotes digestion and maintains gastrointestinal health. Pectin has the effect of lowering cholesterol and blood sugar, preventing hyperlipidemia and diabetes. Flavonoids and triterpenes can dilate blood vessels, make blood flow faster, improve heart function, soften blood vessels, lower blood pressure, prevent blood clots, and ensure the health of the cardiovascular system.