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Tony Boey johorkaki@gmail ๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡ฌ Dairy of Singapore active senior. Best years of food, travel, lifestyle

Chenpi Cantonese Dried Tangerine Peel Worth More than Gold ๐ŸŠ ๆ–ฐไผš้™ˆ็šฎ

Chenpi_Dried_Tangerine_Peel_ๆ–ฐไผš้™ˆ็šฎ

Dried tangerine peel or chenpi ้™ˆ็šฎ is an important ingredient in Cantonese Chinese cuisine and traditional medicine. It is ubiquitous in Cantonese recipes. Because of its wide applications, Chenpi are often gifted among Cantonese as an expression of love and care. Chenpi thus have a special place among Cantonese Chinese beyond food and medicine.


Chenpi or dried tangerine peel is made from tangerine duh..... . (Image credit Wikipedia.)

Chenpi is one of the Three Treasures of Guangdong ๅนฟไธœไธ‰ๅฎ. The other two are aged ginger ่€ๅงœ and hay ็ฆพๆ†่‰.

The best chenpi are made with ่ŒถๆžๆŸ‘ tangerine from Xinhui ๆ–ฐไผš district of China's Guangdong province. Xinhui district is well irrigated as it is located at the confluence of Tanjiang River, Sanjiangkou River and Xijiang River. The soil is especially rich with minerals. The sunny and dry climate is also good for drying tangerine peels. (Image courtesy of Wikipedia.)


The process of making chenpi is a millennium old art.

When the tangerine trees fruit, some of the fruits on the tree are harvested while they are still green. This allows the remaining fruits to receive more nutrients. The fruits are partially harvested again as they turn orange colour. Finally, the best fruits are allowed to ripen to a reddish colour which received the most nutrients.

Nothing is wasted as green and orange fruits are used to make lower grade chenpi while red fruits are for premium red chenpi.

There are three types of chenpi made with tangerines at different stages of ripeness when they are harvested - green ้’ๆŸ‘, orange ไบŒ็บขๆŸ‘ and red ๅคง็บขๆŸ‘ being the premium.


The fruit skin is cut and removed in a one piece peel like a 3 petal flower. The tangerine skin rich with oil sacs and moisture is about 1mm thick at this stage.

The tangerine peel is sun dried for 5 - 6 days.

The sun dried peels are packed into air tight containers, kept in a cool, dry place and brought out for sunning once a year. Even the lowest grade chenpi requires at least 3 years of storage and sunning. The older the peels, the better, so peels kept for more than 50 years are not unheard of.

Image credit: Wikipedia

Chenpi aged 3 years still have a citrus fragrance ๆžœ้ฆ™.

Chenpi aged 10 years have an aged wood fragrance ้™ˆ้ฆ™.

Chenpi aged 30 years have a medicinal fragrance ่ฏ้ฆ™.

Only red chenpi improves with age beyond 10 years - green and orange chenpi don't. The skin of red chenpi is hard, very thin, becoming thinner with age. There is a slight oily sheen as drying break the oil sacs. It is fragrant. The longer red chenpi is kept, the more fragrant it becomes.

It takes 20 kilos of fresh tangerines to make 1 kilo of chenpi.

Chenpi_Dried_Tangerine_Peel_ๆ–ฐไผš้™ˆ็šฎ

An ounce of top red chenpi is worth more than an ounce of gold.

As red chenpi is precious, do be extra cautious about fake red chenpi in the market. To make young chenpi look older, sellers are known to soak tangerine peels in Chinese black tea before drying. For the uninitiated, it is difficult to tell the different grades of chenpi apart. Some unscrupulous sellers take advantage of buyers' ignorance.

Chenpi is very versatile and is used in many Cantonese dishes, desserts and beverages. Records of Chenpi use in medicine and cuisine date back to the Song dynasty (960–1279).

In traditional Chinese medicine, red chenpi is used with other herbs in concoctions to support blood circulation, respiratory system, appetite, digestion, reproductive health, etc. It has no known side effects.


Chenpi is used in Cantonese style steamed fish, stews, soups etc where it imparts a layer of signature ็”˜็”œ kum sweet flavour and ็”˜้ฆ™ kum sweet aroma to the dish.

The same ็”˜็”œ็”˜้ฆ™ kum sweet flavour and aroma infuse Cantonese style red bean soup and other desserts when chenpi is used.

Family heirloom red chenpi are gifted to brides. It is used in post-natal dishes to support the nursing mother's recovery.

Chenpi can also simply be used as a hot beverage such as chenpi tea or in a blend with Chinese black tea.


Translated by Tony Boey on 11 Feb 2021

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