On a spring day, nothing is more relaxing than enjoying a cup of tea together with candied fruits. Today, people seem to have candied fruits mainly on the occasion of Lunar New Year; the treat is no longer made for daily enjoyment. However, in the past, high-grade candied fruits and tea were served after every feast, not just during the holiday. Besides, candied fruits also help treating illnesses. Candied ginger relieves cold, candied kumquat treats cough, candied coconut and pumpkin boosts digestion.
Candied fruits are highly appreciated during the Lunar New Year. Different types of candied fruits with the colors of green, red, yellow, white, and black are arranged in a box to represent the five natural elements accordingly: Trees, Fire, Earth, Metal, Water, which symbolize harmony, balance and prosperity. There are countless varieties of candied fruits, including mango, citron, orange, almond, apple, lotus root, etc. The process of making candied fruits is considered an art of cooking.
The traditional method used in Hue’s royal court is using an enamel-glazed brass basin with thick bottom to retain the heat longer. It takes a great deal of time and effort to make tasty candied fruits. For example, to make candied orange, people have to use freshly-picked ones; the peel must not be too ripe or too green. The fruit is peeled using a razor blade, not knife, in order to avoid cutting into the orange flesh. A standard peeled orange must be flawlessly round. Firstly, the orange is soaked into salted water and lime water. Secondly, the orange is soaked into sugar water for one day to absorb the sweetness. Then, this mixture is cooked until the sugar water boils then it is marinated again overnight. Keep heating this mixture while drizzling sugar water over the oranges. Repeat this step until the sugar water becomes sticky as honey. The standard candied orange will be fragrant, glossy, and succulent. This complicated process has given the traditional candied fruits a delicious flavor and eye-catching appearance.
There remains various traditional craft villages in Hanoi that specialize in candied fruit-making, such as: Xuan Dinh village in Tu Liem district (famous for candied pumpkin, sweet potato, peanut), or Trieu Khuc village. However, in recent years, the most popular place for visitors who want to discover this specialty is Hang Duong street (Hoan Kiem district).
Visitors from other places wandering in the Old Quarter can head across Hang Ngang, Hang Dao streets, toward Dong Xuan market, to reach Hang Duong street – where a wide range of candied and salted dry fruits is displayed neatly together. Candied apple, lotus seed, winter melon are scrumptious. Salted dry fruits like apricot, plum, tamarind, dracontomelum are also meticulously made. All of them are contained in big glass jars. Talk about charming and tasty.
Across the country, there are some exclusive types of sugared dry fruit that represent a region; for example: Bac Kan sugared plum, candied lotus seed in Hai Duong, Ha Nam dried banana, sticky sweet potato of Quang Tri, Kim Long candied ginger in Hue, dried hibiscus of Da Lat, candied kumquat of Hoi An, sugared dry coconut of Ben Tre…
During Tet holiday, candied fruits displayed on a beautiful tray is an indispensable welcome food in each family. Sweet colorful fruits add more charm, and even flavor to the reunions.
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