Chinese Candy 101 – An Introduction to Chinese New Year Candies
The Follow Me Foodie Version of Unwrapped: Chinese New Year Candies
So what is Chinese New Year all about?!
What else is Chinese New Year about?
But for me, Chinese New Year is about this!
I’ll take you to the candy shop! Ew! No! Not the way 50 Cent would! And I’m not talking about that rapper, I’m talking about this wrapper! I’m going to take you to the candy shop through my computer screen! Well I’m not actually going to take you, but hopefully my post will be enough so that you will want to take yourself to the candy shop. A Chinese Candy Shop! I’ll take you to the Kwong Leung Hing! Hmmm… that doesn’t have quite the ring I was looking for…
So I was invited by the lovely Tourism Richmond to partake on a Chinese New Year tour around the largest Asian mall in Richmond, BC, Aberdeen Centre. It’s very accessible by Canada Line so downtowners, or “I don’t drive-ers”, or “non-Richmond-ers”, there is really no excuse. I should add that Aberdeen Centre will be hosting a Chinese New Year fair with festivities January 28 – February 3, so it would be a great time to visit whether it’s your first time or not. For more details see here. (Actually between us, I might as well tell you here… but guess what? CBC Radio asked me to go on air with them to talk about food on Feb. 3 at Aberdeen Centre! ;))
So after our visit to the Chinese tea shop (see my Part 1 – Chinese Tea 101 post), we were taken upstairs to Kwong Leung Hing for some candy! This isn’t the only Chinese candy shop out there and there are many throughout Metro Vancouver and even in Aberdeen Centre, so I’m more or less just introducing you to what you can expect, not where to go per say. (Side note: There’s also a candy shop in Aberdeen Centre called Fairyland and they offer Asian candies catered to more Western tastes, like a huge variety of Pocky etc.). You could probably buy Chinese candies cheaper at T&T Supermarket, but they won’t have the wide variety and you might not want to be stuck with a pack if you just wanted to try one. That’s when places like this come in handy… or candy!
Kwong Leung Hing is pretty much the Asian version of The Sweet Factory. Since Chinese people aren’t really big on desserts and overly sweet things (actually typical of most Asian cultures), most of the Chinese candy shops will also sell dried fruit and savoury snacks along side various candies from China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan and even parts of South East Asia. Have no fear though! I know… it can be kind of freaky not being able to read the ingredients or guess whether or not they’re safe, but no worries… I’m here to help! Well to be honest, I can’t read them either, but I did try a whole bunch just so I could report back! See, I’ll even rot my teeth for you!
So I was literally a kid in a candy shop! It works just like The Sweet Factory where they give you a clear bag and you can load up. They’re not handmade candies or anything fancy like that. Most, if not all of these are imported. If you’re curious about any of the Chinese dried fruits the staff here are more than happy to give you a sample. The good thing about Kwong Leung Hing is that all the bins are labeled with English as well as Chinese. They list the main ingredients in English as well as all the prices, so you can browse around at ease.
So I’ve had my fair share of Chinese candies, however I can’t say that I’m familiar with all the new ones out there nowadays. I mean I’ve had the traditional White Rabbit chewy nougat candies with the edible rice paper wrapper, the shiny red wrapper “Red Envelope Candies” and of course the typical “Haw Flakes”, but I haven’t really ventured beyond. That and also because Chinese sweets usually don’t do anything for me, so I never bothered to put it as a priority. Luckily I was given this opportunity because I actually found a few things that I really enjoyed!
1: Poor 2: OK 3: Good 4: Very good 5: Excellent 6: Tres Excellent!! KF: Kid friendly **:Recommended
On the table:
- These are made with geese. LOL! Just kidding! These are just made of sugar, dried longan and red date flavour. They look like red gummy berries but coated with a dusting of sugar crystals. They’re not as soft and chewy, but they’re almost gelatin like and break apart as gelatin, and not really like how the gummies you’re used to would.
- They’re okay, but kids will like them. They taste like artificial watermelon gummies more so than longan.
- Longan is also called “Dragon Eye”, it’s similar to lychee, but not as sweet).
**Soft Coconut Candy (Bottom right) - 3/6 KF
- Coconut, sugar, milk powder.
- You should try these just because they’re the old school traditional ones. The white paper gets stuck to them so it’s a bit hard to eat.
- They look like chewy caramels, but they’re actually hard as a rock.
- It tastes like caramelized coconut milk or condensed milk candy.
- They’re not my favourite, but pretty good and still worth trying.
Red Envelope Candies aka “Lai See Tong” (Top left with shiny red wrapper) – 3/6 KF
- These vary with the brand and these ones were white, and I’m used to them being a light brown colour.
- This is the most traditional candy and it’s the lucky one, so you have to try one!
- They’re hard candies, but they taste creamy, sweet, and caramel like.
**Snack (Top left) – 5/6
- Sorry, but that is a really lame name! Wait until I show you the size of these…
- Well if it helps, these individually packages of crackers come 2 in a pack. I’d need 300 to be full. It’s really a waste of packaging too.
- Okay so at first glance I thought they were going to be some crappy Premium Plus crackers, but they were so miniature and cute I had to grab a few. Thank god I did!
- These were delicious! Small things can come in small packages!
- They were salty at first and then spicy, but the spiciness disappears quickly. They taste like a salty rice cracker meets a wasabi pea with sesame seeds and then the after taste of seaweed. I loved them! These are Japanese, not Chinese snacks.
- These are made of sugar and lychee flavour. They’re hard candies and they’re incredibly sweet, but they really do taste like lychee/litchi.
- It was too sweet for me and made me purse my lips, but kids would like them and they do taste just like what they are.
Taiwan Macadamia Nuts Soft Candy – Green Tea (small green square ones at the bottom) – 1/6
- 1lb $32.00 1/2lb $16 4oz $8
- I feel like these were expired. The Macadamia nuts just tasted old and I couldn’t taste any green tea flavour.
Guava Flavoured Candy (Middle left, smaller shiny green wrapper) – 3/6 KF
- I love guava and these taste exactly like them.
- They’re hard candies and they’re really sweet, but they tasted like what they were supposed to be.
**Taiwan Macadamia Nuts Nougat Candy – Green Tea (Middle, clear packaging) – 3.5/6
- 1lb $32 1/2lb $16 4oz $8
- These are not your European style nougat. These are hard, but not crunchy and they’re not soft and chewy either.
- This one taste like nutty green tea ice cream and it was almost milky. It was great!
- I love the combination of nuts and green tea and this worked really well.
- Yes, I have a thing for green tea and I loved these! I’ve never had one and it was so yummy!
- They weren’t hard, but they were crunchy and really flaky and crumbly. It was almost like layers of flaky candy and it was very crispy and nutty with lots of ground peanuts.
- I couldn’t taste the green tea flavour but there is matcha powder in it.
- It was like a Chinese peanut brittle with finely ground sesame and peanut layers.
- 1lb $16.80 1/2lb $8.40 4oz $4.20
- I’m not going to lie… I really really really did not like this.
- It’s one of those super Asian desserts that any Asian over 50 would enjoy. It’s just too “traditional tasting” for me.
- It had this edible rice paper wrapping around it that tastes SO much better on the traditional White Rabbit candies.
- It was like a oily jelly with big pieces of walnuts throughout. It didn’t even taste sweet. It taste like nothing, but a bit bitter and reminiscent of old oil.
- I think it’s made with pig’s oil… it reminded me of this Spanish dessert I had in Spain that looked like flaky flat sheets of pastry and they ended up being made out of pig skin… not my favouite.
- However if you give it to an older generation Chinese person, I bet you they’ll like it…
- Thailand Coconut Candy with Peanut(Pink wrapper/left)
- I liked this! It was similar to the Chinese coconut caramels I mentioned above, but these ones were better.
- They’re hard again and it tastes like a coconut caramel and it’s really milky with peanut pieces throughout.
- Thailand Coconut Candy with Ginger(Green wrapper/middle)
- I really liked these! If you like ginger you’ll love this!
- It’s caramel like and sweet and the spicy ginger heat comes afterward and it’s very apparent.
- I wanted to eat it with a hot lemon tea. Mmmm hot ginger lemon tea. This is good!
- Thailand Coconut Candy(Yellow wrapper/right)
- This was the darkest in colour and for some reason the hardest of them all.
- It was sweetest too and it had a coffee taste. Maybe they over caramelized the coconut milk? I don’t know.
- These mochis were super soft and gummy!
- It tasted more like chocolate than chestnut and it had a malted nutty flavour.
- The filling is a chestnut paste filling and the mochi has a lightly powdered exterior to keep it from sticking to the wrapper.
- They’re pretty good and sweet, but not too sweet.
Green Tea Mochi - 3.5/6
- You can tell it’s green tea flavour, and it’s not too sweet, but it wasn’t extremely delicious or anything.
Black Sesame Mochi – 3/6
- The black sesame filling was a little more gritty in texture and not as pasty, but nutty and semi sweet in flavour. When eaten with the super soft mochi I wasn’t really feeling the grittiness.
**Taro Mochi - 4/6 KF
- I loved this flavour the best! It was the only one where I could just open the package and already smell the flavour.
- It tasted like a taro bubble tea, but in incredibly soft squishy mochi form.
- These are larger and a bit pricier.
- These were different than the ones above. This was a Taiwanese style mochi as opposed to the ones above which are more Japanese style.
- The mochi in these ones are wrapped around a soft cake! They’re awesome.
- I’ve had them before, so it wasn’t a big deal for me, but the first time I tried them I did love them.
- It’s like a super soft and tender cookie meets a pound cake, but with an even softer and almost powdery crumb.
- The cake just melts in your mouth and then you’re hit with this chewy texture which is the mochi stuffed in the middle. It’s great!
**Cake Style Mochi – Taro - 5/6 KF
- The taro flavour is even better and stronger in flavour. It’s sweeter and tastes like shortbread. It’s like a taro bubble tea-shortbread-cookie-cake!
- This is new! To me at least! It was like a new generation gourmet Haw Biscuit. I’m used to the traditional round coin shaped ones that come in tubes.
- These ones were like layered Haw Biscuit jellies.
- It was an original haw biscuit alternating with layers of sugar crystallized haw jelly made into a small rectangular soft gummy bar.
- It’s soft and semi chewy and part gelatin like and sweeter than the standard round ones.
- It’s fruity yet tangy and a bit paste like and it is very similar to Sun Rype fruit leather.
- They’re pretty good, but I wouldn’t go reaching for one. Just wanted to try it.
- I’ve never seen these before! They were so cute!!
- They’re savoury snacks and they’re actually quite spicy and very crispy. They certainly have a kick, but they’re addicting.
- There’s no preserved meat or veggie stuffing inside, it’s just a prawn cracker turned into a spring roll with some spice.
- Yeah that’s another thing, they list the main ingredients, but not all of them.
- These would be cute to use as garnish on some fun appetizer as well… I have a friend that would like to hold them to pretend he’s a giant…
- I took a bag of these and they’re dangerously addictive!
- They taste like tempura batter fried peanuts! Or Asian popcorn!
- It’s a deep fried peanut wrapped around a very thin and crispy puffy layer of prawn cracker.
- They’re savoury, nutty and would be great with beer.
Well that about wraps it up! I hope you had fun today… I sort of feel like Mr. Rogers. Anyways, go explore Chinese candies or get them as gifts for your Asian friends. C’mon we live in Vancouver, don’t tell me you don’t have at least ONE!
I had all these candies after dinner, as to not spoil my appetite before heading to _____________ for a formal Chinese New Year dinner! My post for it tomorrow