Chinese kids didn’t celebrate Halloween when I grew up (most of them still don’t), so God realized we needed some other excuse to eat candy. My frugal parents, and their parents before them, saved all their candy boxes to store sewing supplies, ensuring that the memories associated with those candies would last many generations.
Back in the 70s, chocolate was a luxury. I still remember what my dad told me: my grandmother brought home a box of chocolate candy that her cousin from Taiwan had brought her during a recent visit, so my dad and his brother pledged to each other that they would only take one candy each week. The pledge was broken, as you might expect, and you can imagine my grandmother’s dismay when she opened the box and saw the bare bottom.
Flash forward forty years: kids today are spoiled in so many different ways, while the parents are on the march against tooth decay and picky eaters. My house never had a snack box, though many of my classmates houses did, so I began to cherish all of the snacks I could lay my hands on. The snacks listed below are enjoyed universally: I have yet to encounter anyone who doesn’t have a big life story behind these candies. They also have something in common: kids have a good excuse to eat them!
Excuse to enjoy: good for your health
Taste: tangy, sweet, toothsome, with the texture and look of twizzlers except they don’t taste like wax.
Best for: Best enjoyed with tea or after a meal. Kids and the elderly love it.
Made from hawthorn fruit and wrapped in colorful plastic or paper packagings with big characters on it. this snack reminds me of the small firecracker I used to throw into a coal bonfire on Lantern Festival. Did you know it also helps with indigestion?
The taste, like the firecracker, crackles on your tongue and infuses your life with sweetness. It’s best for whetting your appetite for party foods and getting a little kick in your life before the “main course,” whatever this means to you. I consider it a snack with personality, cheap, available in the most obscure street-corner grocery store next to schools.
Sachima Soft Flour Cakes
Excuse to enjoy: eat them for breakfast
Taste: soft, fluffy, luscious, sticky
Best for: Again, kids and the elderly love the texture.
These cakes originated from Manchuria. In Manchu, saqimi means sliced rice cake. Consisting of deep-fried egg noodles mixed with a syrup made from refined sugar, honey and cream, the traditional snack is a huge delight and my guilty pleasure.
Sachima was my to-go snack for short day trips. It fills you up in an unobtrusive way, and even the pre-packaged ones have that wonderful baked goods smell.
White Rabbit Candy
Excuse to enjoy: Adults love them too.
Taste: creamy, hard to chew
Best for: kids and nostalgic adults
A symbol of snacking for a whole nation since 1943, this taffy treat brings back childhood memories more than anything else. Note that the glutinous rice wrappers are edible. For some reason, my mom didn’t object to me eating too much white rabbit candy. Maybe it’s because she liked it too? One day I found out why, in a painful way: my baby front tooth fell off when I bit into a white rabbit candy.
I can’t write anymore because I’m drooling all over my laptop. A super sweet thing about all those candies is that they are all available on Amazon. Before my next order arrives, I will keep munching on my Twizzlers and Werther’s Original.