A nostalgic snack
Dragon’s Beard candy is getting a new lease of life and is now available all the time.
BY: Eleanor Yap
Many Singaporeans would have fond memories of the lady puling Dragon’s Beard candy at the People’s Park Complex in the 1980s. Whenever she hand-pulled this delicacy on the spot, turning a chunk of malt into candy thinner than hair within minutes like magic, she would attract a large crowd watching her “performance”.
The lady, Ho Lili or more affectionately known as Aunty Lili, is Singapore’s first female Dragon’s Beard candy master. Lili, who is in her 70s, is now retired after her stall was closed many years ago, but she has passed on her special Dragon’s Beard making skills and family recipes to the next generation, her cousins – brother and sister, Roger, 39, and Elaine Poon, 36, who are considered Dragon’s Beard food artists.
They have revived this traditional delicacy, now branded under Nanyang Flavours, and at the same time introducing their family’s other Oriental delicacies such as water chestnut cake, herbal kueh, gula melaka cupcake and golden yam crisp. Dragon’s Beard candy originally was a commoner’s food and eaten finger-long. It was recreated in the Palace in China as a royal delicacy wrapped with crushed peanuts and eaten by the Emperor. It was also thumb-size so the Emperor would be able to put it straight into his mouth. According to Roger, in different countries, there are different versions of Dragon’s Beard candy, but the common ingredient is the peanuts. The peanuts used here in Singapore comes from Aunty Lili’s grandfather who got the recipe from the Palace, he shared.
The Dragon’s Beard candy comes vacuum-packed and is made of pure malt, rather than corn syrup and sugar. It is kept fresh and has no preservatives. Besides the usual peanut version, it comes in two new flavours – coconut and black sesame. At Nanyang Flavours, they sell the three flavours in a “five-colour combo” – blue, pink, orange, green and the traditional, white beard in a porcelain-looking box of 12 pieces which currently retails at S$8 from the usual price of S$10.
Aunty Lili passed the Dragon’s Beard candy recipe to Roger, who has been making it for 10 years. He has taken the skill and modernised it further by inventing an innovative way of indulging in Dragon’s Beard candy – eating it after it is frozen, by dipping it in liquid nitrogen, and you can blow out “dragon’s breath” while enjoying the candy.
The Dragon Beard’ candy and other Oriental delicacies are available at Roxy Square 2 shop on Marine Parade Road. It is preferably that one orders online HERE especially for the candy and pick up at the store. And where is Aunty Lili? She is at Nanyang Flavours’ central kitchen in Bukit Merah (not open to the public) where she supervises everyone. Asked why she doesn’t come to the shop and make the candy, Roger laughed that if she did, he wouldn’t sell anything as her friends and others would watch her make it and he would be out of business.