Revisiting China via Candy

When my girlfriend and I visited Beijing back in May of ’05, our hotel was near Wangfujing – a big commercial thoroughfare that is closed to cars and is always packed with people. Though a bit touristy, (Wangfujing is home to a Western-style mall, a McDonalds, and a back-alley full of cheap trinkets) the area maintains some authenticity through its delicious food and mix of both outdoor and indoor markets. We had some of the best noodles we ate during the entire trip for less than a dollar at a stand in Wangfujing, and held lively conversation with a young guy at the street vendor market, Donghuamen, who happened to speak a few words of Korean and was trying to convince us to try the thumb-sized silkworm.

One of the things we found most interesting about Wangfujing was the plethora of stores selling traditional (and rather strange) Chinese candies – there were jellies flavored with black and green tea, chewy fruit and rice cakes, hard candies of every flavor and a very odd yarn-like sugar candy that was almost impossible to chew. We bought as many different things as we could and tried them until we felt sick, and saved the strangest kinds to give to our friends back home.

Last night, we had a throwback to our Beijing trip. After reading an article about Li Hing Mui candy in Giant Robot – an Asian-American pop culture magazine that we love – we both had a craving to try some new Chinese candy, and ran out in the low temperatures to our local Asian Foods market.

I knew I had tried Li Hing Mui somewhere, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t in China. The dried plum snack has a distinct flavor; GR describes it as being “sweet, sour, and salty at once.” After trying it again last night, I would add another descriptor – pungent. While very strangely addictive, the candy has the quality of a fruity/salty foot kicking you in the mouth. I remembered after tasting it where I had first tried the candy – it was somewhat of a practical joke from a Chinese-American friend of mine who wanted to try it out my white-boy tongue.

My girlfriend found some Haw Flakes, which she had heard people raving about on the GR forums, but while we enjoyed the coin-sized dried plum cakes, we didn’t really see what all the fuss was about. As for drinks, she found some Milo – a chocolate drink made by Nestle in Malaysia similar to Ovaltine – which she wasn’t too impressed with, and I got some Pearl Milk Tea made by Chiao Kuo – a sweet, milky black tea drink that I’m enjoying right now, thinking back to early summer nights sipping drinks on Wangfujing.


1 Response to “Revisiting China via Candy”

  1. 1 Day 5: Tea Garden, Richmond « The Daily Transit Trackback on April 6, 2007 at 8:08 pm
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