Tanghulu 糖葫芦, also called bīngtánghúlu 冰糖葫芦, is a traditional winter snack in northern China, especially in Beijing, Tianjin and the cities of northeastern China and particularly for children. It consists of candied fruits on bamboo skewers that are approximately 20cm long.
Tanghulu typically has a hardened sugar coating that comes from dipping the skewer in sugar syrup, but versions can also be found with a second chocolate coating or sesame sprinkles. Traditionally, the fruit used is the Chinese hawthorn (shān zhā, 山楂), but in recent times vendors have also used cherry tomatoes, oranges, strawberries, blueberries, pineapples, kiwifruit, bananas, grapes, or Chinese yam.
Here is a popular tale about this speciality:
In the Song dynasty, an imperial concubine of the emperor Song Guang Zong was ill. She had no appetite for food and drinks. The imperial doctors tried many medicines and methods, but all failed. The emperor was very worried and angry. At last, an old hermit said he can cure the illness. He instructed: “please stew sugar and hawthorn together, and eat five to ten hawthorns before each meal. The imperial concubine will feel better within half a month.” To everyone’s surprise, she soon became healthy. Later on, this method spread widely. People strung the hawthorns together with bamboo skewers and called it Tanghulu.