Haw flakes are a type of fruit-based confection that is a popular treat in many Asian countries. The thin, round candies are made from the berries produced by the hawthorn tree. The product itself has a sweet, slightly tart taste and is available at many Asian markets and through various online retailers.
The hawthorn tree, also known by its formal name, crataegus, is sometimes called a thornapple bush. It is actually a member of the rose family and, as its name suggests, does have prominent thorns. The tree grows in many locations including the U.S. and Asia. While it is quite broad, it doesn’t typically grow over 30 feet (9 meters) in height. As a result of its short stature, wide width, and lush green foliage, it is a popular landscaping plant.
Although many people in the U.S. use the hawthorn tree primarily as an ornamental shrub, it produces sweet, edible berries. The bushy tree blooms with fragrant white or pink flowers that later yield batches of red berries known as haws. Some people do harvest the berries to make jams or preserves, but most people in the U.S. leave them for the birds to enjoy. In quite a few Asian countries, and particularly in East Asian locations such as China, Korea, and Mongolia, people often harvest the berries in order to make the popular candy called haw flakes.
The main ingredients in haw flakes are haw berries and sugar. Makers of the candy mash the berries with a generous amount of white sugar and mold them into a distinctive shape. Commercial manufacturers might also add artificial dye to give the confections a more colorful appearance.
Sold in small rolls that look like coin wrappers, haw flakes are paper-thin wafers that are usually a little smaller than a poker chip. The candies are dark peach in color and have a mildly sweet yet tangy taste that some people liken to guava or apricot. Generally, haw flakes have a pliable, grainy texture, very much like fruit roll-type snacks popular in the U.S. While the wafers themselves are not sticky to the touch, when eaten, haw flakes can become very gooey, almost like a caramel candy.
Also known by their Cantonese name, sahn sah ban, haw flakes are a popular treat for many Asian children. Due to their shape, easy-to-eat size, and unique packaging, they are often considered something of a novelty by the young ones. Adults, for the most part, view them as a healthy treat because they are made from the nutritious haw berry.