As a child, one of my favourite things was visiting my dad at his office in Cabramatta (Sydney), going to the Asian supermarkets around the area and loading up on snacks.
These were a far cry from the potato chips and sticky-teethed Redskins I shared with my friends in the schoolyard. Often with ingredients listed in a language I couldn’t read and emblazoned with cartoon characters I didn’t recognise. My sisters and I would come out of the stores with our arms full of treats that we would share on the hour-long drive home.
These days, I don’t indulge too much in these snacks, particularly given that most of them aren’t vegan and a great many use palm oil – but looking back, so many of my childhood memories involve tasty, tasty, snacks. Here are some of my favourites. Any kid growing up as an Asian in Australia will surely recognise some of these moreish old friends.
These smooth little coffee-flavoured lollies gave me my first taste of caffeine as a child. Not sweet like other treats, they were nonetheless a staple in our supermarket visits – something for parents and kids alike to enjoy.
2. WHITE RABBIT CANDY
The best thing about these milky, chewy delights was the rice paper wrapping that was also meant to be eaten. Their novel, waxy texture was a departure from the Starbursts we were eating with our friends at school. And who doesn’t love a cute bunny?
3. HAW FLAKES
Growing up, I had no idea what “haw” was, but it didn’t stop my sisters and me from smashing tubes of these bad boys on the regular. The taste of haw flakes is hard to describe: a strange mixture of savoury and sweet, it confused and delighted us. Turns out that these small, coin-shaped wafers are made from the Chinese Hawthorn, and have been banned in many countries. Great to find out your favourite childhood snack is a health hazard.
4. HEART-SHAPED PANDAN WAFFLES
Not a supermarket item, but a crucial part of my childhood, these heart-shaped pandan and coconut waffles were a staple for every visit to Cabramatta. We’d get them piping hot from the street-side vendors, then carefully tear them into quarters to share. The green colour was a novelty, and the delicate, totally unique taste and smell of pandan burns bright in my memory of growing up. Best eaten with a sugarcane juice at hand.
5. YAN YAN
Forget Dunkaroos or Le Snak: for Asian kids, Yan Yan was the dipping snack of choice. With a variety of flavours to pair with your perfectly crunchy biscuit sticks, these were a must when hitting the supermarket – not to mention the extremely convenient container, with little sections for dip and bikkies. Yes please.
6. KOALA’S MARCH
Not dissimilar to the more popular Hello Panda, these Japanese biscuits contained creamy filling inside impossibly cute outers. The namesake koalas did everything from playing tennis, to reading, to making music so I always felt kind of bad for them when they made their inevitable journey into my belly. But not bad enough to keep buying, and eating, them.
7. KOH-KAE PEANUTS
Move over Pringles – once you pop, you can’t stop munching on these peanuts. From Thailand, this snack came in a cylindrical tin, and each peanut was coated in a strangely addictive, coconut-flavoured crunchy shell. Sounds weird, but is delicious.
8. NONG SHIM ONION RINGS
You might recognise Nong Shim’s name for their instant noodles, but far-and-away my favourite product from this South Korean brand was the onion rings. Light, crispy and salty, these were best eaten by the handful with no crumb left behind.
Have I missed any? What would you add?