HAW to Recreate These Recipes Using This Legendary Childhood Sweet

When Mom decid­ed to pack your lunch for school, you knew you were in for a treat. In your lunch­box,  there would be a tiny, cylin­dri­cal fire­crack­er pack­age, wrapped with alu­minum foil and a piece of red wrap­ping paper. “HAW FLAKES”, the wrap­per would say. Whether it’s before or after your actu­al meal, your itchy mouth would prompt you to unwrap and unrav­el the deep red discs of can­died hawthorn with­in. Made with hawthorn berries, sug­ar, water and red food colour­ing, these lit­tle disks seem to crum­ble on the first bite, yet chewy. They are sweet yet tart, and the lit­tle morsels were so fun to eat that you wished your mom packed a few more tubes for you to gnaw on.

We nev­er real­ly think about these lit­tle things that make up our child­hood until one day, we see anoth­er young fledg­ling enjoy­ing the morsel like we used to. Haw flakes are, per­haps, a more con­ve­nient take on the famous Chi­nese tang hu lu, which are skew­ered fruits dipped in sug­ar, with hawthorn berries being one of them.

The sto­ry of how hawthorn berries came to go as such: A busi­ness­man remar­ried after his first wife had passed on, but his sec­ond wife abhorred his first son. Know­ing that his son went up to the moun­tains for work, she pre­pared his lunch with half-cooked rice, hop­ing that he would suf­fer and die from indi­ges­tion. It worked, for he com­plained of indi­ges­tion and grew ema­ci­at­ed over time.

The step­moth­er was glee­ful.

One day, the son spot­ted berries grow­ing up in the moun­tains. Curi­ous, he ate them and found that they were thirst-quench­ing and refresh­ing. He ate them every day and soon enough, his indi­ges­tion was cured. The step­moth­er wasn’t hap­py, but his father brought these berries to the herbal­ist and sold them. That was how the hawthorn fruit came about. In Chi­nese, it is called ?? (Shan Zha), mean­ing moun­tains and the oth­er char­ac­ter mean­ing to chop and hew, prob­a­bly refer­ring to the tree and the place where the boy found the fruit.

Tra­di­tion­al­ly, in Chi­na, haw flakes were giv­en to chil­dren for deworm­ing diges­tive tract par­a­sites. But the hawthorn fruit itself actu­al­ly has many med­i­c­i­nal prop­er­ties, like help­ing with dis­eases of the heart and blood (e.g high blood pres­sure, high cho­les­terol and con­ges­tive heart fail­ure). It also helps with diges­tion and relieves anx­i­ety, as well as men­stru­al prob­lems. Who knew our favourite child­hood snack has so many more uses to it than just being a piece of plain old can­dy?

Of course, it is much health­i­er to con­sume the hawthorn berry itself, which has less sug­ar and arti­fi­cial colour­ing. But do be warned that it is also much tang­i­er and tart when tak­en in raw form!

In the spir­it of bring­ing back some­thing old to some­thing new, peo­ple have been incor­po­rat­ing hawthorn berries into recipes, as oth­er ways to have these deli­cious and nutri­tious gems.

Straw­ber­ry Haw Flakes Lay­ered Cake

A tangy and sweet treat, this straw­ber­ry haw flakes lay­ered cake is like the kueh lapis we know, but with bursts of berry flavour. The straw­ber­ry jam gives the cake its sweet­ness and the haw flakes, there­fore, pairs very well and cuts through the sweet­ness with its tart­ness. A con­coc­tion by Wendy, you can find her recipe here on her blog.

Haw Flake Hon­ey Gar­lic Meat­balls

If you are look­ing for a unique flavour to your savoury dish­es, you can try crush­ing up a tube of Haw Flakes and add them to your Hon­ey Gar­lic Meat­balls. It may sound weird, but the tangy hawthorn will com­ple­ment the slight­ly sweet hon­ey. Think of it like sweet and sour pork!

Find the recipe here.

Instead of Cran­ber­ries…

Instead of using cran­ber­ry sauce for your turkey or ham, you can crush up some hawthorn berries as a sub­sti­tute. They have a sim­i­lar taste pro­file but hawthorn has the abil­i­ty to pre­vent food stag­na­tion! Alter­na­tive­ly, you could mix them both togeth­er into a sauce like in this recipe.

Hawthorn and Pork Ribs Soup

These fruits can also be used like you would dates — in soups! Chi­nese soups are known to use dates and wolf­ber­ries to sweet­en their soups. Try using hawthorn fruits as an alter­na­tive, espe­cial­ly after a full meal, as these hawthorns can aid in diges­tion. Find the recipe here.

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