We’ll take a stroll through the Asian grocery store’s snack section. You’re familiar with the aisle I’m referring to. With rows of glittering, pre-packaged snacks in a limitless assortment, it begs you to give up all good sense and healthiness in favor of savoring the salty, crispy and sweet Asian snacky pleasure that it offers.
Several terrible events have occurred in this aisle. When it comes to my favorite aisle at the Asian grocery store, every family member has snubbed it at some point or another. Neither Sarah nor my mother or father are interested in the deception of it all, and my father would rather eat a bag of potato chips than a bag of bizarre off-brand Asian chips. Even if I don’t buy anything, I’ve never wavered in my devotion to strolling along this aisle every time I visit the supermarket.
For those of us who love Asian snacks as much as I do, I’ve listed some of my all-time faves hoping that they’ll help you avoid a Russian roulette, “choose anything and see how it goes” approach.
LYCHEE COCONUT JELLIES
Any Chinese child’s dream come true, these were. In my cousins’ eyes, Sarah and I were like precious jewels. They’d gently glide out and bounce in place when you squeeze the little plastic cup. They were subtly sweet and had a lovely jello-y texture. Isn’t this the best of both worlds? The tsk tsk if you couldn’t fit it into a single ideal form.
You need to improve your jello skills.
Instead of the rainbow assortment that includes tastes like strawberry and pineapple, this year, opt for the purest form of lychee-flavored jellies—transparent jellies with a hint of coconut flavor.
Pocky, the great-grandfather of all Asian snacks, is undoubtedly the most well-known. Choose between the classic and our current favorite, the almond-studded version. Both are a wonderful excuse for a mindless eating session. It’s a good thing they’re pre-portioned—self-discipline built-in.
Koala bites? Is this a thing? When I was five, the only thing I wanted more than anything else was a koala chocolate treat.
The combination of the ridiculously adorable packaging, the imposing and recognizable hexagonal box, and the promise of crunchy chocolate cookie things, whatever they’re called (I believe the technical term is Koala chocolate crème-filled cookies), was entirely overwhelming for my tiny kindergarten mind. It’s crunchy and filled with milk chocolate; it’s like eating a very thin/delicate animal cracker with a heart of chocolate-chippy bliss inside. Plus. The outside is printed with cute koalas. That’s a tremendous plus right there.
While they’re expensive relative to other options and my parents were quick to give the no/ignore when I even started to raise my arm to point, when I had them, oh, was life good.
CHINESE “RICE KRISPIE” TREATS
A grandmother almost always provided these at family gatherings on either side. They’re more enjoyable to eat with a more subtle sweetness than their American counterparts than their American snap, crackle, pop counterparts. Honestly, my interest in them has fluctuated over the years. The only other “dessert” on the menu at most Asian gatherings was huge peeled Chinatown apples, which I could never pass up. Big Chinatown grapes, perhaps? I realize these are depressing alternatives.
As a side note, my father’s favorite is this one. In other words, they’ve been around a long time. There is a good chance I could call them tried and tested.
Next time you see them, give one a go.
On this list, these objects are the most often purchased. You’re thinking it, too. A snack of shrimp. EW. The combination of shrimp and chips seems like a bad Lay’s marketing attempt gone awry. WRONG.
In addition to being incredibly flavorful, these snacks include an Asian-y, Old Bay-like taste and a cross between a cheese puff and air-popped veggie sticks.
They’ve been my go-to snack since I was a kid, and they’ve stayed that way throughout my adolescence and college travels to Chinatown.
In short, these are essential.
SPICY “MA LA” PEANUTS
Szechuan and spicy foods have become increasingly popular in China in the last several years, and these “ma la” snacks are a new addition to the market. Even if you can’t get enough of Szechuan peppercorns’ fiery, numbing flavor, you can now have them in peanut form, complete with dried red pepper shreds… Detailed results aren’t necessary.
Spice-challenged eaters should steer clear of these peanuts.
Even though they’re delicious and pleasant, there are few snacks out there that can help you keep within recommended serving sizes while satisfying your cravings.
In Qingdao, at the Tsingtao beer brewery, they provide complimentary beer samples and roasted, toasted (fried? Who knows) with a crunchy crust of spiced bliss. Perfect for enjoying with a cool beverage and as a snack.
Although these aren’t authentic Tsingtao beer nuts, they have the same fundamental concept and are pretty delicious!
Visit the beer plant in Qingdao and stock up on peanuts in the gift store!