Thursday, September 9, 2010

Dragon Beard Candy in New York City, Chinatown - 2000 year old Chinese candy for your tasting!

Dragon Beard Candy - oh, how I love thee... :D If you can't tell what "it" is by the picture -- well you would think it looks like a cocoon -- but its not -- its a Chinese candy called Dragon Beard Candy. Dragon beard candy is the Chinese version of cotton candy -- spun sugar made to long beard-like strands that is wrapped around a mixture of crushed peanuts and sesame flavoring, though at times I recall tasting coconut... but I could be wrong. Dragon Beard Candy was said to have been first made for the Chinese emperors more than 2,000 years ago!

It has been a long time since I've seen someone make Dragon Beard Candy and I was fortunate to have come upon this candy maker in Chinatown. Growing up in Los Angeles, I remember seeing Dragon Beard Candy being made at the entrances/exits of Chinese supermarkets and I would always be entranced by it -- not able to remove my eyes from the hands of the dragon beard candy maker. I also remember persuading my family members, though not successful at times, to buy them for me on occasion. But the taste of it made it all the more worthwhile when I had them. Yes, I remember the taste and the consistency of the candy -- with the first touch of it feeling soft; then as it was placed in my mouth -- the sugar strands quickly melted ...and as I begin to chew on the candy it sort of sticks to your back molars -- however, its not as sticky as chewing on salt-water taffy, but the texture of that chewiness is the same... except, with the dragon beard candy, the spun sugar strands, the peanuts, the sesame flavoring -- all of it begins to melt in your mouth at once. Oh, the delicious memory!

So, without saying, I had to buy some to relive my childhood memory and to share it with my non-Chinese friends. For a box of six, it was $3.00 -- and I don't know if this is reasonable or not -- since its the only cart I've seen in New York making and selling it! It was a neat experience witnessing my friends eating it -- for them, the didn't know what to expect -- but they all enjoyed it . . .

Where can you find the Dragon Beard Candy Cart? I found the cart as I was walking east on Canal towards Bowery. The cart was stationed outside of the Citibank, between Elizabeth and Mott Street.

Note: After the candy is made, you have to eat it almost immediately, otherwise, it gets hard. You an try microwaving it when you get home, but I can't guarantee if that works or not!

For more info on Dragon Beard Candy, you can read wikipedia's description of it.

The candy is made by boiling partially solidified sugar or a plain saturated and maltose solution until it just reaches the stage and then leaving it to chill. The resulting solid, which is elastic, is formed into a torus and then repeatedly pulled and folded over, doubling the number of strands after each repetition. While the candy is being folded it is kept covered in toasted glutinous flour, in order to keep the strands from sticking together.

  • The finished beard is cut up into small pieces and then usually wrapped around crushed peanuts. The candy is to be eaten immediately after manufacture, although it will keep for up to six minutes in heat.

    Traditionally the candy is made from sugar and maltose syrup, although recipes based on corn syrup are now used in the United States.

    It is common for street vendors of dragon's beard candy to carry out the folding process at their stall, which attracts customers fascinated by the process as much as by a desire to purchase the candy.

If you're curious about how its made, below are two youtube videos created by Peter Pang, each 6 minutes long showing you how Dragon Beard Candy is made. Personally, I would just buy the candy from the candy maker -- but its still neat to watch them make it. For a faster clip, watch the third video posting below - 3 minutes. JUST TURN YOUR MUTE BUTTON ON.

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