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Shanghai Street Food #19 Cotton Candy: Miánhuā Táng 棉 花 糖

Cotton candy? A Chinese street food? You’d better believe it, Chinese people love cotton candy (miánhuā táng, or fairy floss, as we call it in Australia) and you can find cotton candy vendors anywhere in Shanghai there’s a large happy crowd gathered. Outside temples are favourite spots, and many Chinese temples have a perpetual festival atmosphere where the shopping and snacking are as important as the worshipping. 

I found this fellow just outside Shanghai’s Confucius Temple (Wen Miao) and he was drawing a big crowd of teenagers queueing for his pink, blue or green cotton candy.The benefit of having your cotton candy machine on the back of your bicycle is that you can just cycle to where the action is, get your little cotton candy machine cranked up, line up your colostrum powder tins(!) of coloured sugar and make some money. Five yuan a stick.

To make cotton candy you really only need two things – a big tin drum with a heated central well, and some means of spinning the well. You put the sugar into the well where it is heated and melts, then the spinning head extrudes the melted sugar through tiny holes in the central well by centripetal force, which form into gossamer strands as they cool. The bowl serves to contain the threads and make them easier to spin onto a stick. The head can be heated by battery, as it is here on the back of the bike, or by gas.

This cotton candy machine looks totally homemade, and proably is. I love how he has clipped the finished sticks to the edge of the tin bowl!

For more street food:

The Shanghai Street Food Series

Number 1   Roast Sweet Potatoes
Number 2   Snack-on-a-stick 
Number 3   Liangpi – a spicy cold noodle dish
Number 4   Langzhou Lamian – hand-pulled noodles
Number 5   Cong You Bing – fried shallot pancakes
Number 6   Baozi – steamed buns, Shanghai style
Number 7   Jian Bing – the famous egg pancake
Number 8   Dan Gao – street cakes
Number 9   Shao mai – sticky rice treats
Number 10  Summer on a Stick – fresh fruits

Number 11  You Tiao – deep-fried breadsticks
Number 12  Dan Juan – egg rolls
Number 13  Shao Kao – street barbecue
Number 14  Bao Mi Hua – exploding rice flowers
Number 15  Chou Doufu – stinky tofu
Number 16  Bing Tang Shan Zha – crystal sugar hawthorns
Number 17  Mutton Polo
Number 18  Yumi Bang – puffed corn sticks
Number 19  Mian Hua Tang – cotton candy
Number 20  You Dunzi – fried radish cakes

Number 21  Suzhou Shi Yue Bing – homestyle mooncakes 
Number 22  Gui Hua Lian’ou – honeyed lotus root stuffed with sticky rice
Number 23  Cong You Ban Mian – scallion oil noodles
Number 24  Guotie – potsticker dumplings
Number 25  Nuomi Cai Tou – fried clover pancakes
Number 26  Da Bing, Shao Bing – sesame breakfast pastries
Number 27  Ci Fan – sticky rice breakfast balls
Number 28  Gui Hua Gao – steamed osmanthus cake
Number 29  Zongzi – bamboo leaf wrapped sticky rice
Number 30  Shengjianbao – pan-fried dumplings

Number 31  Mala Tang – DIY spicy soup

  • Louise

    Yes I was quite surprised to see fairy floss pop up here. It seems such a commercial, western product. I bet this tastes better than the awful packaged stuff from the Royal Easter Show.

  • frances t

    Colostrum powder in a tin???
    Fairy floss for nursing mothers??


  • casinoviembre

    I have never seen that in Beijing. I would love to try ! 🙂

  • Fiona

    To Louise – I think it has a slightly more molasses taste here – a bit more 'rustic' tasting.

    To Frances – very funny – mind boggling really, I mean, what is colostrum powder usually used for? Have I already eaten it without knowing??

    To casinoviembre – good luck finding it, I know it will be there somewhere in Beijing!

  • shaz

    Colostrum powder??? How much do you need to fill a tin? Really mind boggling stuff here. Ooh, I wonder if I could MacGuyver up a home-made fairy floss machine like this?

  • Robyn

    The fairy floss is yum!
    Colostrum powder, usually from cows in NZ and imported to China, contains immunoglobulins which supposedly boosts your immune system. It is quite expensive in China, unlike Melamine so you are unlikely to consume it without knowing. I have used it….doesn't seem to work 😉 Think Fairy Floss Guy just using tin as utensil holder!

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