HOME > Chowhound > General Topics >


Asian snack food

Someone was looking in Manhattan for haw flakes and another poster responded about a few local Hong Kong snack shops ...

"Hong Kong snack shop Aji Ichiban in Chinatown sells an enormous variety of haw snacks. They have little bowls of the snacks so you can taste before you buy ... "

"As well as haw snacks, Aji Ichiban has various plum and sweet olive based snacks, all of them somewhat perplexing to my Western tastebuds although a friend of mine loves these plums which look as if they are coated in hay but actually it is tiny bits of licorice. The taste is dissonant yet makes you crave more."

That sounds interesting ... especially the part about being able to do taste tests.

I don't think we have anything like that in SF that allows tasting, so I'm looking for suggestions on what might be good in Asian markets.

About the only thing I've tried are dried plums. Anything else that would be interesting to look for and try?

P.S. I'd also appreciate links to any snack topics anyone might remember. I swear I've read Asian snack topics, but search wasn't turning up anything.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. There is an Aji Ichiban in Cupertino Village if you're looking for one in the SF area. However, Aji Ichiban isn't the best place for Chinese candies and snacks (both in Hong Kong and the SF bay area) as the stuff they have tends to be overpriced and/or lower quality.

    1. There's an Aji Ichiban in SF Chinatown, at 905 Grant Avenue, but I don't know if they give free samples. (NOTE: It's recognizable as "Munchies Paradise" but it's the same operation, known as Aji Ichiban Munchie's Paradise.) There also was, and may still be, an Aji Ichiban on Kearny St. near Chinatown, too.

      1. I love the red ginger (it's hot & salty)

        The preserved plums come in so many variations. My favs are the soft black seedless ones that are sometimes sold individually wrapped, and the super-salty/sour dried ones (my mouth is watering just thinking about them).

        The boiled peanutes are good too.

        I also like the salty plum pellets (look for small rabbit droppings) they are sometimes sold in a vial.

        And I like the agar candies that are wrapped in rice cellophane.

        Oh, and one more . . . the preserved lemons.

        3 Replies
        1. re: orangewasabi

          That's funny, my brother and I used to call the plum pellets, "rabbit food"!

          1. re: chowmeow

            The common name I've always heard referring to the plum pellets were "bei si," which is Cantonese for booger.

            1. re: dpan

              Literally "nose sh*t", n'est-ce pas?

        2. Dried squid, sometimes seasoned with sugar and soy, is fun to pull apart into thin fibrous strands and chew chew chew. A little bit satisfies a hunger need.

          1. I used to love haw chips and those sweet plum packages in the white paper wrappings when I was a kid, but lost all interest in all the overly sweet stuff now. At Hawaii people loved the le hing mui flavoring, which is how some of the plums are flavored. I am too sensitive to sourness to like it.

            I tend to go for the slightly sweet but savory snacks like the above mentioned squid/cuttlefish strands, jerkies, or better yet the seasoned tofu snacks. I am also partial to the shrimp chips (my coworkers called them fish baits).

            1. The problem with this question for me is that there are too many things to list and I know I'd forget some. Starters: peanuts in sesame coating, red bean jelly, dried olives (and variations of dried fruit), dried squid/cuttlefish, beef/pork all jerkies, raton caramel candy with that rice paper that melts in your mouth, pockys, baked shrimp chips, chestnuts in vacuum bags, wasabi peanuts, dried seaweed, mochi w/ red bean paste in the middle,... This is why I avoid the snack food aisle at the Chinese market.

              4 Replies
              1. re: chowser

                Yes, I know there are just so many ... and I appreciate all the tips. Might give those dried fish a shot. I've had pocky's of various flavors and shrimp chips. I used to work a block from Chinatown in SF and a coworker would bring back little snacks to sample but I wasn't paying close attention ... there is one great thing I had ... and I'm forgetting even the category, but a trip to the snack shop should refresh my memory if I see it ... I'll report back ... thanks again.

                1. re: rworange

                  re dried fish snacks: the bags of 1" dried anchovy/sardines: niboshi:

                  I once spent 2 days during the Japanese monsoon season on a camping trip marooned in a 4-man tent with 3 Japanese hikers and the only provisions that bolstered our spirits during the deluge were several kilos of the tiny dried fish and a few quarts of whiskey.

                  Musing back, I like to believe that it was the fish.

                  1. re: FoodFuser

                    Mmm, crunchy fish. I have an empty jar of Thai seasoned anchovies with sesame ("Shing Shang") sitting on my desk here. Wish it wasn't empty!

                    Also brings to mind the Korean-style caramelized anchovies served as banchan. Not quite as portable -- too sticky.

                    1. re: the_MU

                      My Japanese Great Aunt gave me a jar of Thai "Shing Shang" for Christmas. They're sweet and spicy, just barely fishy, and they look rather awful -- like bugs. She went to a lot of trouble to find them in Washington D.C., where she lives. She thought I'd like them, because I like spicy things. I...guess...I do. No one else in my family will touch them. Do other people like them?

              2. I like the japanese dried fish snacks at my local grocer (im in boston). I like the sesame and sugar coated tiny whole crabs (size of a quarter) and the minature fishes - not the anchovies. I forget what its called...but its sweet, delicious, and oh so crunchy.

                I'm also a big fan of whole dried squid or octopus and cuttlefish shreds with peanuts

                1. Now that it's closer to Chinese New Year, I noticed that my local Chinese Supermarket are stocking up on more varieties of snack food - a lot more on candied fruits and such.

                  How can I forget - one of the essential snacks are the watermelon or pumpkin seeds! Nowadays they come in strange flavors like green tea coated.

                  Another somewhat familar to American palate snack are the baked flour squares. They are like an Asian version of Rice Crispy Treats, but I think they are better.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: notmartha

                    I've seen these new-fangled mint-flavored dried plums.

                    There's also a whole new segment of ginger-type candy creations.

                  2. This brings up a question I have had forever. I will start a new topic if no one knows....My mother used to get these bags of ginger snacks from chinatown, they were kind of like crystallized ginger snacks, but they don't look like any ginger snacks I see these days on websites for asian snacks. They were dark reddish brown tiny strips and they kind of resembled little brown worms with crystallized sugar, I guess, for the lack of a better description. I see crystallized ginger online but its always whitish or yellowish and they are just not the same. In any event, I am not even sure the ginger was meant to be a snack but that is how my mom ate it and it would take a good while to finish the bag. Heck it may have taken years, only a little nibble every other day or so. It was really good though! I would love to buy some to remember the taste but I have gone on asian snack sites and can not find it. Any ideas?

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: HelloTiffy

                      Are they chewy, and sort of gummy-like? Do you mean Ting Ting Jahe?
                      It's a candy from Indonesia.


                    2. spicy dried squid (i think it is labeled as cuttlefish but is really squid)
                      "fruit flavored" Chinese beef jerky
                      dehydrated Chinese New Year fruit
                      salted dried plums
                      tamarind candy (it has the texture of fruit roll up and comes in a small plastic box)
                      peanut brittle
                      sesame brittle
                      those agar agar fruit jelly candies
                      prawn chips
                      Chinese brands of seeds like watermelon seeds, etc.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: luckyfatima

                        I so wish that Jimmy's Beef Jerky was still around. Boy do I miss their version of Chinese fruit flavored beef jerky. :(

                      2. Lychee jellys...I miss the old versions that use to cause people to choke. They tasted so much better.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: justagthing

                          Mango jellys.
                          Freshly made spicy pork jerky that you buy in specialty stores in HK
                          Mini shrimp rolls - they are like mini spring rolls with shrimp 'seeds' inside - spicy and addictive - and very fattening I'm sure