Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Weird Food Wednesdays: Dragon's Beard Candy

During our trip to Vancouver last month, Kris and I visited the Richmond Summer Night Market, where we gorged ourselves on Asian street food (stay tuned, that's a whole 'nother post!) And that's also where I found the 'regal' dragon's beard candy, originally made for the emperors of China. The dragon is a Chinese imperial symbol and the long white strands of spun sugar resemble a beard, hence the name 'dragon's beard'.

The ancient art of making dragon's beard candy has been passed down from master to apprentice, and only a few hundred people in the world today know how to properly make it. Sugar, corn syrup/maltose, and water are boiled down to the soft-crack candy stage, left to cool and then pulled to form thousands of silky strands. Glutinous rice flour is used to keep the strands separated during the pulling process (watch detailed video of this secret art on youtube,
Part 1 and Part 2). The strands are sectioned into manageable sized pieces and wrapped around chopped roasted peanuts, sesame seeds, and shredded coconut:

After all this work, $3 for 6 pieces seemed like a bargain!

They're also fun to eat -the outside melts away in your mouth like cotton candy, leaving you with the crunch from the yummy nuts and seeds. Not earth-shattering, but I'm glad I got to try it.

Dragon's beard candy is difficult to find, not only because there are few 'masters' left who know how to make it, but also due to its non-existent shelf life. Freshly made candy are best enjoyed immediately (like cotton candy), or else they will shrivel up into mummified goobers (trying to save some for later will undoubtedly turn into a sticky science experiment).

But for all you weird food fanatics out there, Bamboo Garden has found a way to keep their "
Icy-Crispy Dragon Beard Candy" fresh for up to six months from the date of manufacture. But be prepared to pay $2 per piece plus shipping!

Or you might have some luck finding dragon's beard candy in your local Chinatown or Asian supermarkets. I'll post an update if I ever come across it again.

Have you ever tried dragon's beard candy? Or know where to get it? Please leave me a comment!



Anonymous said...

I have never heard of this, very curious about it and if I ever find it and taste it I will definitely let you know!

OysterCulture said...

What a cool sounding candy, now you know I must scour Chinatown so I can try it for myself, I have a quest to scratch an itch for dragon's beard candy.

KennyT said...

I know I know where I can find dragon's beard candy! Temple Street in Yau Ma Tei of Hong Kong. (,_Hong_Kong)

By the way, did the candy remind you of silkworm cocoons when you were tasting it?(photo here: LOL.

Heavenly Housewife said...

This looks way cool, and its definitely a new one for me. Still haven't gotten to try the magosteen yet.

Teanna said...

Dragon's beard candy!? It sounds like something in a witches spell! That is so interesting!!!

Jenn said...

From the first picture it looks like cotton candy. LOL. It's been a while since I've taken a trip up to Chinatwon. I'm sure they'd have this in there.

Chow and Chatter said...

looks yummy, vancouver has great eats

foodcreate said...

Chinatown here I come! Look tasteful like cotton candy.

Thanks for sharing your recipe:)


Phyllis said...

5 Star Foodie: my favorite part was watching the candy being made in front of me- can't believe that there are over 8000 strands of sugar in every piece. Hope you get to try it!

OysterCulture: Hope you get to scratch that itch! :)

Kenny: Haha - Of course you know where to find it! Can never stump you with anything! Silkworm cocoons, maybe a little bit, do people eat those with the furry stuff on it?!

Heavenly Housewife: It's pretty cool, but I'd be just as happy with just regular cotton candy. And at this rate, I'm going to have to ship a mangosteen to the UK for you! :)

Teanna: Yes, the name sounds a bit like witches and warlocks, but it's just the direct translation of the Chinese name, the candy is totally non-threatening!

Jenn: Let me know if you find it in your chinatown - it's actually not that easy to find!

Chow and Chatter: the best eats! I bet NC has some interesting food finds as well.

foodcreate: less sweet than cotton candy, nice with the nuts and seeds. Hope you get to try it!

Tangled Noodle said...

This looks so cool! But I admit, depending on your symbolic references, this almost looks like "Santa's Beard Candy"! 8-)

I've never tried it before and given how few people have mastered the art of making it, I'm surprised that it's relatively inexpensive. I hope I'm lucky enough to find and try it someday!

Phyllis said...

Tangled Noodle: haha - santa's beard candy! Hope you come across it one day, if you are lucky there might be a guy in Chinatown making them right on the street! And you might even see strawberry varieties in some places.

Anonymous said...'s quite easy to find. I eat it ever Chinese New Year...Moon festivals, and pretty much day to day life. If you're in the L.A. area, specifically The San Gabriel Valley, there are many CHinese Supermarkets you can choose from that supply this candy.