The Art of Drying Tangerines
Who would have thought that dried Tangerines preserved for over 50 years could cost in the thousands (of Hong Kong dollars)?
The dried tangerine peel is a popular Chinese herb and ingredient used in:
- desserts (or sweet soups)
- confinement recipes
My mother-in-law decided to make her own through the simple process of buying mandarins, peeling them to keep the skin as whole as possible and then stringing them together to air dry until the peels are completely dry, brown in color and very hard in texture. I thought it would be cool to show them here, how easy it is to do this. You can store these peels in a dry, cool and shaded place for years and years and years! Some people actually like the smell of the drying tangerine peels and even the fragrant of the peel after it’s brittle and dried. To each one’s own!
Dried tangerine peels are considered “warm” and have many uses. They are normally used from a soup perspective to relieve coughs and remove excess phlegm from the lungs. It also aids with digestion and has anti-viral and anti-fungal properties.
Have you tried to eat it as is? It is SUPER, DUPER bitter! It actually tastes horrible (from my perspective) and creates a very distinct taste to soups if you add too much – therefore the most I will add is usually a quarter of a quarter piece to a 2 L soup base – which is about the size of a Canadian nickel. If I add anymore, my children will immediately make comments and I will also taste it and that just kills the enjoyment of a sweeter soup.
For pregnant women, it’s great though! When I was going through my crazy morning sickness, the preserved tangerine peels (slightly salty and super sour) were excellent nibble snacks to curb the feeling that I want to throw up. Asians actually eat them on a regular basis, like I do with my unsalted nuts, as a snack! It is definitely not the most attractive looking ingredient, but it’s breathe of usage is pretty wide and impressive (goes to show you can’t judge an ingredient by its skin).
The extreme usage of these peels is when they are soaked in other ingredients (such as bitter snake bile) and then dried. This gives the peel a warming boost and makes the herb unique and even more expensive. In general though, the average dried tangerine peels don’t cost very much. The cost increases as the peels are aged and sold – so why not do it yourself?
What to look for in high quality tangerine peels?
- Light in weight (you’ll need to scrape off the inner side of the peel any way)
- Dark in color (the darker the better)
- A stark tangerine fragrance (even though they are dried, they should retain some of their orange-y fragrance)
- Non-moldy (the best are stored in cool, dried places)
- Large peels kept together
Here are some soups where you can find the dried tangerine peel. In fact, you could theoretically drop a small slice in most soups – but I prefer not to do that because I am not a fan of the taste and I like to keep things clean 🙂
- Chinese Red Bean Soup Dessert
- Lotus Root with Dried Octopus in Chicken Soup
- American Ginseng Heat Reducing Soup
- Luo Han Guo in Watercress Soup
- Bok Choy with Chinese Ham in Pork Broth
I have yet to try using the dried tangerine peel in stews or dishes. I have to find one that I really like, but I’m sure it will come along one day given the massive amount of tangerine peels drying at my mother-in-law’s house!