This little red fruit is something I had never seen before in the flesh, so to speak, until the other day when we walked past a neighborhood mom and pop grocer 士多 and I spied the rosy orbs rolling about in a cardboard box placed along the sidewalk in front. Actually I had never actually properly seen these fruit even in images, as I had only ever seen them as part of a traditional sugar coated candy fruit treat called Tanghulu, or Bingtanghulu 糖葫蘆. But I had wondered about them and so was extremely delighted upon inquiring to discover that these tiny red fruits were indeed the elusive Chinese Hawthorn, or 山楂.
The Chinese Hawthorn fruit comes from the Chinese Hawthorn tree of course. The Chinese Hawthorn tree is also known as Chinese Hawberry, and in Chinese as 山楂 or 大紅果. The tiny fruits of this tree are an inch or so big, have a bright red skin, lightly frecked. Looks rather like the crabapple. The taste of the Chinese Hawthorn is tart and not too sweet, there is not much juice, while the texture resembles that of a soft textured apple.
This fruit is not great for eating on its own but its fresh tartness has been used in Chinese cuisine to make the wonderful and ubiquitous Haw Flake candy (see our post on Haw Flakes here) and also is a key ingredient in the authentic traditional version of sweet and sour sauce. Hawthorns can also be cooked to make a lovely red jam or jelly or even made into fruit rolls! Or, if you can find dried hawthorns, a lovely medicinal tea can be made, very good for blood circulation, cold feet and hands and so on.
And, most famously, the hawthorn is used in the traditional Tanghulu 糖葫蘆, a traditional Chinese winter sweet treat of skewered and hard caramel coated fruits which we will be writing about in the next post or so! Yummy...
The lovely Chinese hawthorn 山楂, what a treat to finally meet up with this elusive fruit. Well, that's our winter fruit for the day, but don't forget about the other winter fruits that are in season now. Ain't it the best thing in the world to follow the Seasons and take the best of what Nature has to offer us when the time it ripe!
Stay tuned for our Tanghulu 糖葫蘆 recipe coming up!
More Wintery Fruits at The Hong Kong Cookery: