Random, I know – but I freaked out today when I found a street vendor selling the candy of my childhood: dragon’s beard candy. Also known as long xu tang, it’s a soft sugar candy that you can watch being made right in front of your eyes at the stall. I loooooove this candy, and when I was younger I would get it every time I saw the stall vendor. But then one day, the vendor disappeared, and I never got a chance to eat it’s soft, gooey goodness.
The return of the long xu tang man attracted a LOT of visitors. The lines in Chinatown were long, and many bought at least two containers to last them. I bought one first, then couldn’t resist and got on line to buy another one. I even watched as the man made a fresh batch behind his stall: a malleable lump of boiled sugar and maltose was folded and stretched several times over. It was then spun several times (much like hand-pulled noodles) until it became thread-y and thin. Each time it is pulled, it is also sunk into a huge bowl of flour so that the brown sugar becomes white. Afterward, the strands are pulled into small clumps, stuffed with a mixture of crushed sugar, peanuts, and sesame seeds, and rolled up.
I don’t know why this candy is always associated with my younger years, but it’s one of those sweet things that you will never see for years and then TADA it’s there! Every time I saw it in China, I would buy it, but it’s not like the candy was sold at every street corner either. It’s best to eat it once it’s made, as the candy is at its softest and warmest. After a half-hour or so, the sugar hardens, and though it is still good, the candy is more sticky and harder to chew. But long xu tang is long xu tang.
It is supposedly a candy that was eaten a couple thousands of years ago too in palaces, although don’t quote me on that. They look like tiny silkworms (or pillows, or a Chinese version of cotton candy with filling) and if you bite into it, you risk spilling all the sugar and peanuts, and getting strands of the “hair” stuck around your mouth. I usually end up dropping the whole thing in my mouth and letting it melt a bit before chewing.
Wanna know how desperate I was for some of this? I’m allergic to peanuts – but I risked getting itchy in my throat for a bit of childhood goodness.