The Simple Test To Ensure Your Homemade Tanghulu Is Done

Before becoming a worldwide sensation, tanghulu was originally a popular Chinese treat. This candied fruit was traditionally made using skewered hawthorn berries coated in a glossy hardened sugar syrup, but now, you can make tanghulu with any of your favorite fruits, from easy candy apples to strawberries, bananas, or mangoes. The process of making it sounds simple enough, however, ending up with a sticky shell instead of the crunchy ASMR-worthy coating that tanghulu is known for is often the unfortunate result. But guess what? We've got a simple hack that'll ensure your homemade tanghulu is done to perfection — the chopstick test.

As you cook up a batch of sugar syrup, you must wait until the temperature is just right (about 300 degrees Fahrenheit) before you dunk in the fruits. Using a candy thermometer is obviously the most accurate way to do this, but not everyone has one lying around in their kitchen. That's where this simple test comes in handy. Just take a chopstick and dip it in the bubbling sugar then immediately transfer it into a cup full of ice water. Let it cool down for a few seconds and then take a bite. If it's hard and crunchy, it's ready to coat the fruits. If not, let the syrup continue boiling a bit longer to raise the temperature further. Repeat the chopstick test after a few minutes until you get that desired crunch.

Why the chopstick test works

To understand the science behind this straightforward test, consider the process of making homemade hard candy. After all, the glossy hardened coating on tanghulu is made using similar ingredients, which include sugar and water at the least. Therefore, the stages of candy making are also at play in your tanghulu making.

As the syrup heats up, water gradually evaporates, increasing the sugar concentration in the remaining solution. This transformation results in the different stages of candy-making from the thread stage up to the hard-crack stage. The higher the temperature of the syrup, the more concentrated the sugar gets, and the harder the syrup becomes upon dipping in cold water. At 300 to 310 degrees Fahrenheit, your sugar syrup will be very concentrated with barely any water left, therefore, the rapid cooling test prompts the sugar molecules to crystalize forming a rigid candy. The same thing happens when preparing sugar syrup for tanghulu, and that's how you know when you've reached the required temperature.

Now, armed with this simple chopstick test, you can confidently whip up batch after batch of tanghulu without worrying about sticky disasters even if you don't have a kitchen thermometer. Just remember to keep an eye on your sugar syrup as it cooks, and test it frequently using a chopstick until you get that perfect hardening action.