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Chinese Sugar Fried Chestnuts

The “Liang Xiang” chestnuts are well known. Here “Liang Xiang” refers to the old “Liang Xiang” county, which is equivalent to part of the mountain area of “Fangshan” district of Beijing, and is not the “Liang Xiang” village county. “Liang Xiang” chestnuts really are “Fangshan Chinese chestnuts”. It is kind of confusing, even to many Chinese.

There are many ways to eat chestnuts, but the most popular one is the sugar roasted chestnuts.

As soon as chestnuts are harvested in autumn, you’ll see cauldrons are set up at every corner of the street. Mix chestnuts with sand, sprinkle plain sugar syrup, fry it till the sand becomes pitch-black. The chestnuts will then look shining and bright as if a layer of oil has been applied to the shells. The burning smell flutters all over. People like me who are craving chestnuts would come to buy without seller’s calling out. People used to use shovel to fry, now the process is electrically operated.

The history of Beijing sugar roasted chestnuts is quite long.

The old “Zhitang” man copied other’s quotes from Lu You’s “Old School Notes” in “Roasted Chestnuts”, talking about a chestnut roasting story: The most well-known and best-selling chestnuts in the Northern Song Dynasty Kaifeng were roasted by Li, HeEr. Others tried everything possible to imitate, but no one succeeded at the end. During the Southern Song Dynasty Shaoxing years, Song’s ambassador arrived the now Beijing. Suddenly two people, who called themselves “Li, HeEr”, sent in 20 bags of sugar roasted chestnuts, then left with tears.

This chestnut frying expert wandered about destitute in Beijing after Kaifeng was breached by Jin people, expressing his nostalgia with several packages of roasted chestnuts. Perhaps Beijing sugar roasted chestnuts got handed down because of this, the same with Hangzhou’s Song sister-in-law fish soup, all were the Northern Song Dynasty’s old custom.

The standard sugar roasted chestnuts require the shell to be supple and crisp. The outer shell, the internal membrane, and the nut should be separated effortlessly when you open it. The pleasure of eating roasted chestnuts would simply vanish if one has to go through the hassle ripping the outer shell, and then more effort involved to tear off the internal membrane. The nuts should not be crisp, soft, or worst of all, tough (gen). It supposed to feel moisture in dryness, sandy, floury, and the smell should be strong and sweet.

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Written by Seo Yi Ji


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