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Candy Review: Montreal Dragon’s Beard Candy

Categories: Candy,Candy Reviews,Foreign (non-US) Candy,Oddly-Named Candy

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Dragon’s Beard Candy

I recently took a week off from my regular job to visit the beautiful city of Montreal, Quebec. But that doesn’t mean I also neglected my duties as staff writer for Candy Addict. No, I made sure to keep my eyes peeled for a truly Quebec-specific sweet. But at first, I found only the same overpriced gift-shop candy you can find anywhere in Canada: cheap chocolate-covered almonds packaged as “moose droppings” and hard candies “made with real maple syrup” (read: 90% regular sugar and 10% of the good stuff). But then, while exploring Montreal’s Chinatown, in a hole-in-the-wall storefront, I discovered something truly unique at last.

(Later, once I’d had time to do more shopping in areas that weren’t 90% tacky tourist gift shops, I also found some great candy stores and artisan chocolatiers. But that’s a subject for another review.)

The white, wispy objects in the photo above, believe it or not, are candy. They’re called Dragon’s Beard Candy, and they were apparently a favorite sweet in China’s Imperial Court, making them over 2000 years old. Dragon’s Beard Candy consists of fine, hairlike filaments of sugar surrounding a center of (according to the stall’s owner) peanuts, coconut, sesame, brown sugar and chocolate.

We’ve actually reviewed them once already. But those were expensive and had to be shipped all the way from China, and these were cheap and freshly hand-made – the stall prominently featured a bin of nutty filling and a big lump of brown rock sugar. How could I resist?

Dragon’s Beard Candy Stall

Up close, they resemble balls of fine thread or fresh rice vermicelli noodles more closely than they do cotton candy, which I guess would be the nearest North American equivalent. Pulling one free felt like pulling a cotton ball in half, and it felt like putting a cotton ball in my mouth as well. It was pretty apparent that they weren’t made of spun sugar like the ones we reviewed before, but rather a soft, very finely spun dough that wasn’t actually all that sweet. (Whether that means I’m not getting the authentic article, I couldn’t say.)

Once in my mouth, the cottony exterior quickly softened into a sort of very delicate dough. The dough didn’t have much flavor, and it quickly gave way to the crunchy, brown sugar-crisp filling. Despite the stall’s long list of filling ingredients, I was only able to detect peanuts and crunchy bits of brown sugar. Once you really got chewing, the brown sugar and dough mingled into something very like a peanut-studded caramel – it actually tasted disconcertingly like the inside of a Snickers bar. Despite being called a candy, they reminded me more of those baklava pastries made with shredded phyllo dough and filled with honeyed nuts, only less crisp.

As an experience, they were interesting. Would I go out of my way to buy them again? Well, probably not. But that being said, I recommend giving them a try if you’re ever in the Montreal area. After all, how often do you get to taste a candy fit for an emperor?

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5 Responses to “Candy Review: Montreal Dragon’s Beard Candy”

  1. 1
    amypaige says:

    i love trying things you’ve never seen before. when i lived in san francisco, i used to go to chinatown and try things they were selling from little stalls or from the kitchens behind restaurants. sometimes they were fantastic finds, other times…not so much. but it was always a thrill. despite your review, i would totally seek these out just for the experience.

  2. 2
    alanna says:

    You probably didn’t get the real taste. Those sweets differ across countries by a lot.

    That said, I really like your reviews. Especially those of the more exotic confectionery! :)

  3. 3
    Michaela says:

    I visited South Korea about a year ago and discovered a very similar candy in a traditional village. They were called “Jewel Sweets”, I believe, and they were a traditional candy in the court of the emperor.

    The dough that the Korean version was made of was actually a very sweet honey mixed with a tad of cornstarch. The mas at the stall made the candy right in front of our eyes, creating a ring out of the honey-dough mixture and looping it hundreds of times around his hands as fast as possible. In the end he had a handful of threadlike honey-dough. This he wrapped around a mixture of 7 nuts and seeds(no chocolate or coconut) into bite-size pieces.

    He then froze boxes of it which you could buy
    The end result was sweet and aromatic, like a sweeter and more delicious baklava. The finely chopped nuts created the perfect texture, and the honey dough melted around them in your mouth.

    Definitely one of the best candies I have ever had. I have never located it in the States, which is infinitely sad.

  4. 4
    Strange, Exotic Dragon Beard Candy Stall, Montreal says:

    [...] saw an article on Candy Addict about finding strange Dragon Beard Candy at a stall in Montreal’s Chinatown and made a mental [...]

  5. 5
    Julie Mitchell says:

    I work a close 2 minute walk to this place and have tried it. LOVED it. I may take a little stroll over and get one this week. They are very inexpensive and can be purchased individually. The lady makes them fresh right in front out you.

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