Let’s talk snacks.
Geolocation wise, we’re going to take a trip down the snacks aisle of the Asian grocery store. You know the aisle of which I speak. Somehow, it’s shinier than the others, beckoning to you with row after row of shiny, packaged, salty, colorful, junky goodness in a seemingly endless array–calling at you to abandon all good sense and healthiness in favor of indulging in salty, crunchy, crispy, sweet Asian snacky goodness.
My experience in this aisle is not to be trifled with. Of everyone in our family, each person has turned their nose at the various offerings of my favorite aisle at the Asian grocery. Sarah’s apathetic; my mom is horrified by the artifice of it all and is a whole peanut/sunflower seed/pumpkin seed-nibbling purist; and my dad would sooner go for a bag of potato chips than weird off-brand Asian chips. I, however, have never faltered in my devotion to ambling through this aisle with every trip to the store, regardless of whether I actually decide to pluck something off the shelf.
But if you’re an Asian snacks enthusiast like me, I’ve highlighted some of my all-time favorites to improve what may be your Russian roulette, pick-anything-and-see-how-it-goes approach to selecting Asian snacks.
Lychee coconut jellies
Okay, these were the holy grail of any Chinese childhood. These little jellies were like gold nuggets for me, Sarah, and our cousins. Subtly sweet, with a perfect jello-y texture, you squeeze the little plastic cup and they’d gently slide out and jiggle in place. Snack + pre-Internet toy all in one! If you didn’t successfully squeeze it out in one perfect form, tsk tsk.
Gotta work on your jello game.
In the old days we liked the rainbow assortment which had different flavors like strawberry and pineapple, but now that it’s officially the 21st century, consider skipping the Red 40 and Yellow 5 and going for the purist version–clear jellies flavored with sweet lychee and a hint of coconut.
The granddad and probably most visible of the Asian snacks lexicon–Pocky. Go classic or our new favorite, the version studded with chopped almonds. Both are delightfully mindless snacking enablers. Thank God they come in pre-portioned packages. Built-in self-control.
Sarah actually tried to make these from scratch a couple of months ago for the blog. Long story short–save yourself the trouble and go buy a box.
Koala bites? Koala crackers? Koala chocolate-y delicious things that I yearned for above all else when I was five years-old?
Whatever they’re called (I think the technical term is Koala chocolate crème-filled cookies), the combination of the insanely cute packaging, the imposing and recognizable hexagonal box, and the promise of crunchy chocolate cookie things was completely overwhelming to my tiny kindergarten mind. They have a delicate crunch and are filled with milk chocolate; the resulting experience is kind of like eating a very thin/delicate animal cracker that has a heart of chocolate-chippy goodness. Plus. There are adorable koalas printed on the outside. Huge, huge plus.
These were a very rare win for me (They’re kind of pricy relative to other options, and my parents, being sensible people, were always quick to give the no/ignore when I even started to raise my arm to point.), but when I had them, ooooh was life good.
Chinese “rice krispie” treats
These were always a regular fixture at family gatherings, mostly supplied by a grandma on either side. They’re satisfyingly thick and chewy, with a mellow sweetness compared to their American snap, crackle, pop counterpart. To be honest, my interest in them has waxed and waned over the years. Somehow though, I can never really pass one up–especially at the average Asian gathering where the only other “dessert” to speak of was humongous peeled Chinatown apples. Or humongous Chinatown grapes with seeds. Grim alternatives, I know.
I should also note that this is my dad’s favorite on the entire list. Read: they’ve been around for a looong time. I could probably get away with calling them tried and true.
Try them next time you see them!
These are without a doubt, my #1 go-to on this entire list. I know what you’re thinking. Shrimp chips. EW. Shrimp + chip sounds like some horrible Lay’s marketing ploy gone wrong, right? WRONG.
These are not only delicious, they have a perfectly subtle Asian-y, Old Bay type of seasoning with a texture that’s a cross between a cheese puff and those new-fangled air-popped veggie sticks.
In short, they are completely addictive and have been my favorite through childhood, high school, and nostalgia-ridden trips to Chinatown during my college years.
These are, in a word, indispensable. If you don’t already love them, try them.
Spicy “ma la” peanuts
These are a relatively new product, and have come along with the also relatively recent craze for all things Szechuan, spicy, and “ma la” in China. If you just can’t get enough of spicy, numbing Szechuan peppercorns, now they are in peanut form–complete with dried shreds of red pepper, that, yes, you may accidentally bite down on as you blindly fish for peanuts…I don’t need to go into details on the results.
Suffice it to say that these peanuts are not for the faint of heart nor are they for spice rookies.
They are, however, completely delicious and satisfying! If you’re looking for a snack that actually will help you stay within the bounds of serving sizes, this is your man.
And last but not least, is a snack we discovered this delightful innovation in Qingdao, at the Tsingtao beer factory, where they serve up free samples of beer and completely addictive beer nuts that are roasted, and toasted (fried? who knows) with a crunchy exterior of spiced deliciousness. Perfect with a cold one, and great for munching.
While, these, unfortunately are not official Tsingtao beer nuts, they do have the same general concept, and are also very good!
If you’re ever in Qingdao, go to the beer factory, and buy copious amounts of the peanuts in the gift shop!