Dragon Beard Candy Maker Sets Up Shop In Front of Hawaii Market in San Gabriel
Hooray! California once again has a source of fresh made dragon beard candy. Alex Goh, the same candymaker who had a booth at the 626 Night Market, is now stationed outside of Hawaii Market in San Gabriel on Saturday and Sunday. I believe he charges $5 per tray. In addition, the rest of the week you can buy the same candy packaged at Snack Inc., which is the boba/mui shop that recently opened up immediately adjacent to Hawaii Market, fronting on Valley Blvd. Address is 120 E. Valley Bl., #A.
I dropped by Mr. Goh's Dragon Whiskers (Beard) Candy stand today. He was M.I.A. for a bit while on a tea break but returned with a lot of enthusiasm, immediately offering to show his craft. Mr. Goh is quite friendly and approachable - he's from Malaysia and self-taught in this craft. His stand is located just a bit further down the walk from the Yi Gee cart.
The candy is made of honey, corn starch and what ever filling(s) one chooses - that's it. And the corn starch, while it does play a role in the flavor (tempering the honey's sweetness), is primarily for preventing the multiplying strands of honey from sticking together. The process is similar to pulling noodles, but the scale is much smaller and involves a lot of thumb/finger dexterity. He makes the process look deceptively simple but I know better...
The finished product is reminiscent of the beard or whiskers of the ceremonial dragons in the wu long performed at the various Chinese festivals. He currently has four different iterations on the fillings: peanut, coconut, peanut/sesame and all of the above. He was kind enough to offer samples of just the dragon beard/whiskers, then filled with the coconut - I think his favorite. One would think that with honey being one of the main components, that the candy would be cloyingly sweet. But between the corn starch coating each of the angel hair-thin threads and the actual amount of honey in each of the candies, the sweetness is just enough to create a nice balance with the fillings. Its texture is initially vaguely textile in nature but almost immediately melts in the mouth, giving way to the fillings. One will be tempted to take more than one bite from each portion, but Mr. Goh told us to put the whole thing in at once; otherwise, its fragile structure will fail you. We ended up getting all four and will enjoy them with tea some time soon.
It was one of those amazing experiences in 5 minutes!
We went to Hawaii Market on Saturday in search of dragon beard candy. Other than all the chatter over the years on this Chowhound board, I had never heard of dragon beard candy.
There he was, to the right of the main entrance, Alex Goh and his cart...just as Chandavkl (original poster here) had said. I was just about to purchase a box of his creations when Mr. Goh inquired if I had ever tried his candies. When I indicated that I was completely clueless (although I had watched a video online), he began his magical performance.
He took out a little square of honey that he had prepared and, after forming a loop and dipping it in cornstarch, he created in an instant a handful of more than 10,000 strands of honey, as fine as hair. He let us feel it and taste it...WOW!
We purchased the coconut flavored Dragon Whisker (his name) box; it was gone in a flash! It is so -- unlike anything else!
What amazes me the most is that Alex told us that he is one of three dragon beard candy makers in the country (Los Angeles, New York and somewhere else in the East), and that there are not too many makers left in China. I was witness to a dying art -- unless Alex keeps it going. He said when he has time he would like to teach; he also said that it takes a certain kind of person to want to learn to do this. He was not optimistic about finding the right students.
Thank you, Chandavkl, for posting on this. I am so glad that I experienced this! I am also glad to have met a Master...he was so friendly and so passionate about his craft.
Hi Liu, pretty cool stuff, right? Here's a a Wiki and an About on Dragon's Beard (Whisker) candy:
I've noticed that Mr. Goh's base for this treat is different from those mentioned in the article. He uses honey, while it seems that the standard base is sugar/maltose syrup. I don't know how many of these artisans are active today, but it seems to be a small exclusive group. So yes, witnessing Mr. Goh is a rare treat.
I was so glad to read of your similar experience...and, of course, your description is so interesting and informative. I love how you described the temptation to take a couple of bites with each piece, but that would be to miss the experience of the cloud-texture of this little morsel -- in one bite.
I agree with you that I expected a very sweet treat, once I knew that I was eating a cube of honey. As you mentioned, that was not the case; this little candy is not sticky-sweet. For me, it was mostly a textural sensation.
I had a visual experience with my box of dragon whiskers. I opened my box in the wind, and all the loose little whiskers were swept away. It was a very unexpected, yet poetic event! That little $5.00 box of delights touched all of my senses!
This afternoon...as delicious as ever!
If you haven't experienced this dragon whiskers candy, be sure to ask Mr. Goh for a demonstration and a taste. It is such a unique item...there is nothing like it!
Remember: if you are sharing, one box is not enough! He has three flavors -- sesame, peanut and coconut -- and he also sells mixed boxes of all three.
I have not seen Alex Goh in a very long time. I suspected that he did was not performing his Dragon Beard magic in the heat, but today again he was not in front of the Hawaii Market...although it was in the 90s.
Has anyone seen him lately?
I did find his Dragon Beard candies on Aisle 8 or 9 in the Hawaii Market. We were there around noon and there were about a dozen containers on the shelf at $5.00 each. I prefer to buy from him directly because he will often cut the price if one purchases several boxes.
last night i did a run to hawaii market and alex was back!
he told me he moves around now. he also gave me his card but the facebook address on it does not match up to him so i can't say exactly where he'll be next (as he suggested). there are too many alex goh's on fb unfortunately, not to mention facebook search never liked me.
he did mention that he was going to be in rowland heights next so if someone sees him, ya might wanna mention...
and finally, i bought a box and noticed the candies had changed again (i've been trying ever since this thread was first posted and he keeps changing). not sure if it was for that day or permanently, but the whiskers were light brown, not white. i noticed with the peanut flavor, it didn't taste as sweet. do note that it was "never" notably sweet, very subtle. the coconut flavor however, was sweet but tasted like coffee. still good. i happily ate them all.
Thanks for posting your delicious sighting, catbert.
I have not seen him in a long time. I know that during the warmer days, he is not around because he said that the honey is difficult to work with in the heat. Perhaps the rain chases him away as well.
I have purchased from him many times, so I know how these candies taste when fresh. I have also purchased from the shelves IN the Hawaii Market. It's pretty much hit or miss there; sometimes I have selected a fresh box and sometimes the contents tastes pretty stale. It is always better to purchase directly from Alex, if possible.
I do hope others will post their future sightings of Alex as well so that we can find him.