February 12, 2015

Chinese Candied Kumquats 糖漬金橘

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This Chinese New Year recipe is a delicioso combination of a couple of things I really love: candy and fruit, and something really lucky for the Chinese New Year, the kumquat, or 金橘.  金橘 translates as "gold orange" which symbolizes that good fortune (which for the Chinese always means MONEY!) will find you in the upcoming year.

Which, to be honest, is always a good thing, right?  More money means more yummy food, amiright?  What people usually do is to buy big pots of kumquat laden trees (tying on lucky red pocket envelopes all over it) to put in their house and invite in the luck for the new year.  

This year we decided to not just decorate our house with kumquat trees but to make some 'golden' food to ingest into our bodies so as to increase our likelihood of golden luckiness even more!  And thus we present to you our version of the Chinese Candied Kumquat 糖漬金橘, a choice snack for the festivities of the Chinese New Year, bringing you not only yummilicious delight for your sweet tooth but also a fun way to swallow some of that 'golden luckiness' right into your very being!

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Citrus japonica: flowering and fruiting stem  Coloured zincograph, 1876, by Walter Fitch

I have always loved the look of the kumquat, so prettily oval shaped and such a golden orange color and small enough to fit neatly inside your closed fist.  

We had a beautiful kumquat tree in our backyard when I was a little girl and one day long ago I decided it was a good idea to pop a whole kumquat in my mouth.  To my surprise, this beautiful cute little fruit was bitter and pretty sour!  I spit it out, wiped my mouth and thought, well, I'll never try that again!  

Some folks enjoy that puckering, refreshing sourness, I know, but I'm just a wimp when it comes to sour.

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Dried candied kumquats sold at stall
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Old lady at her roadside stall

However, the kumquat cleverly stole back onto the scene when recently my 老公 brought us some dried candied kumquats from an old lady camped under a big umbrella somewhere in the New Territories and, to my surprise, they were really, really delicious!  So delicious in fact that I bugged my hubby to be sure and find that old lady again to ask her how it was made.  

But, alas, fate intervened and the old lady by the roadside was nowhere to be found.  What to do then but to try to make our own Candied Kumquats?  And indeed it was perfect timing as well, as what could be luckier for the Chinese New Year than to eat a lovely 金橘, or 'gold orange'!

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Kumquats after cooking in syrup

Yay...a cooking adventure!  And so we began...  Making these candied kumquats was a slow process that took place over a few days.   The house smelled soooo good those few days, the air filled with the gentle drifting scent of citrus.  

The key thing when cooking kumquats is to remember that they quite quickly become tender and liable to burst apart.  So you must use a really low slow heat while cooking wherein the kumquats are allowed to bathe in gentle sugary waters until they are absolutely bursting from the seams with syrup.

Some recipes say that you cook until the kumquats turn translucent.  Well, my kumquats stayed stubbornly opaque no matter how long I cooked it.  They did, however become super soft and plump and sticky.  Then after an overnight dry I popped the tender kumquats into a very, very low oven, not to cook, but to slowly dry out.  

This was the first time I had used the oven to dry food and it was really cool!  Definitely want to try this oven 'drying method out on other things!

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After drying out in oven

Our Chinese Candied Kumquat was not really like the one from the old lady's stall that had inspired our experiment.  That one was kinda hard and deliciously chewy (kinda like these).  Ours came out different but delightfully good as well!  (Thank goodness, cuz I wasn't too sure how it was going to work out!)  

It turns out that a bit of tender loving care (and sugar) transforms the sour and bitter kumquat into a super duper delicious sweet treat!  Our candied kumquat was a soft, translucent (finally!), lusciously jellied on the inside, a candy that tasted of citrus and spring and sweetness and just enough hint of 甘, or bitterness, to balance it and keep it interesting.  My little girl said to me that it tasted like flowers, which is lovely, isn't it!

Bring yourself some golden luckiness in this upcoming Chinese New Year by making and, of course, eating these really yummilicious Chinese Candied Kumquats!  We at The Hong Kong Cookery wish everyone the best of luck in the Year of the Sheep!  羊年大吉!

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Chinese Candied Kumquat Recipe

(Prep time: 3 mins  Cook time: 3 hours 10 mins)



Wash kumquats well.  Prick the fruit all over with something sharp.  Put in pot and cover with water.  Bring to a boil, cover and immediately remove from the heat.  Allow water to cool down, then pour out and add fresh water.  Repeat previous boiling step two-three more times, making sure to turn the heat off immediately as it boils so as to preserve the kumquat whole.  This will remove most of the bitterness in the skins.

Pour out water.  Add 2 cups water, sugar, ginger and spices to the kumquats.  Bring pot to a boil then immediately turn down to very,very low heat.  (No bubbling to knock the fragile kumquats around.)  Let cook for one hour and then rest overnight.

Next day cook at very, very low heat for 2-3 hours or until you feel the sugar has really penetrated the entire kumquat and it achieves a super glossy, very plumped up look.  Again be sure to cook at a very low heat so the fruit doesn't get knocked around in the pot.

Carefully remove fruits to a rack and let dry overnight.  Pour the cooled syrup into a sterilized jelly jar and use for sweetening your tea.  (It's absolutely delish, a citrusy scented syrup!)

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Our kumquat scented syrup!

The next day further dry your kumquats by placing your rack into your oven.  Be sure to line your baking tray to catch any sticky drips.  Bake at 140F, with your oven door propped open about two inches, for 4-5 hours, then turn heat off, close the oven door and let sit overnight.  (Baking time is variable depending on the size of your fruit, so just keep an eye of them.)

Next day, test by touching the kumquat.  If pliable and not very sticky (this is key!) then they are ready.  If not, just turn on the oven (with door propped open) for another hour or so.  Once done, let the kumquat cool completely.  Store in an air tight container.

Tip:  These candies will have some seeds in it which you can either eat or just spit out so try to buy kumquats that are smaller in size so that the seeds inside will likewise be smaller and very few.

Tip: We've kept these in an air tight container for over a month at room temperature now and they are perfectly fine, but on the safe side eat within two weeks.



  1. can they be dried in dehydrater

    1. Hi Ed - they sure can be dried in dehydrator but you will need to adjust drying time in accordance with your dehydrator instructions. I wish I had one, dehydrators seem like very useful and fun! ~ellen

    2. To oven dry, 80 deg Celsius would do it.

  2. Sounds absolutely delicious!

    1. Yes, they're pretty darned delish, but then all fruit candies are yummy! ~ellen