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Old Time Chinese Restaurant Sweet

In many Chinese Restaurants of my youth in New England, it was typical that at the end of the meal along with check and fortune cookies came a delectable sesame coated jelly candy. These fresh fruit (perhaps agar) 1" cubes were coated in toasted sesame seeds and devoured by the six kids in my clan. So much for distant memories of the Hong Fong (up one flight) on Pleasant Street in Downtown Worcester. Since then those candies have disappeared from the table. For a decade or so I could find them at Ho Yuen Bakery in Boston. Now I can only get mass market sort of petrified versions. Does anyone know what happened to these regional courtesy treats? Can someone make the folks at Ho Yuen fess up?

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  1. Oh, man - I haven't even thought about those sesame jelly candies in years, but they were indeed delicious! Hope you can track them down.

    4 Replies
    1. re: Allstonian

      Last year, I found something very very very close to it in Watertown. It was either at Arax, Sevan or the 3rd market close by(the name escapes me). I'm not sure which one it was but it was 1 of those 3. I got some for my brother who lives out of state. It really brought back memories of Cathay Village in Mattapan about 30-40yrs ago. I haven't seen it anywhere else.

        1. re: tatsu

          Nope, it's not halva. What EATTV and I remember is a soft, gummy candy in roughly half-inch cubes, coated with sesame seeds.

          1. re: Allstonian

            I sent email to the company (www.joyva.com) in Brooklyn that makes Halvah and other types of candy. I described the candy in detail. They make a sesame candy that is 'hard, and contains honey. They NEVER responded....so much for good customer relations !!

      1. re: justbeingpolite

        Nope, nope, and nope. The Vietnamese peanut sesame candy comes closest, but the candy we're recalling didn't have peanuts in it, and the pancake shape is all wrong.

        I did a LOT of Googling yesterday after this thread popped up, and couldn't find anything like what I remember.

      2. That candy's made with concentrated honey and Maltose (malt sugar) and then coated with the toasted seeds.

        If you're in Flushing, New York around the Chinese New Year it's easy to find them, in colorful mylar-style wrappers. But not after that time. And they're nothing like the home-made versions of days gone by in the restaurants.

        I'd hazard a guess that the *exact* candies you're looking for are Cantonese-style (not the Mandarin-style I'm familiar with). You'd need to go to lower Manhattan to find those.

        The folks who own Ho Yuen in Boston have long retired; the new owners don't have some of those traditional Cantonese recipes. You'd have to get ahold of one of the children of the original owners, to see if grandma's written down the recipe. Get a pic to us and we'll translate so you can make 'em at home.

        3 Replies
        1. re: shaogo

          Yes, it definitely would have been a Cantonese recipe. There may also be rice flour in the candy.

          This photo isn't much to go on, but it's the only one I could find that looks right. It's from a sweet shop in Penang, Malaysia, labeled only "soft candy."


          1. re: shaogo

            I'm of the belief that honey, brown rice syrup and either pectin or gelatine, not to mention sesame seeds (toasted) are the main ingredients. I now have to get the proper proportions.

            1. re: marine101

              Have you found the recipe. I love this candy. Every new Chinese Restaurant I go into i ask if they make it. They said the old timers use to make it fresh back in the 50's and 60's I use to get it at Braintree Five Corners Chinese Restaurant. They close years ago. I miss them. I would love to have the recipe or find the candy.


            1. re: bear

              Those are hard candy. What EATTV is looking for is a soft jelly coated with sesame seeds. You could stretch it out. It came in small pieces about 3/4" x 1/3" and you could squish it between your fingoers too.. It was my mom's favorite candy.

              1. re: catsmeow

                Thank you. Stretchy. That's all I'm sayin.

                1. re: catsmeow

                  A friend of mine found the candy. She found it in an Asian market in Portsmouth, NH.
                  It is from Viet Nam....the exact same candy. Trying to contact the importer, but without success.
                  The Brooklyn, NY company simply will not respond to my emails. Now trying some exporters in Viet Nam.

                  1. re: marine101

                    Got a name or photo or something? I'm sure everyone here will be happy to help find it.

              2. We recently had a conversation about these candies, which I vividly remember, with one of the owners of Great Chow in Quincy. He told us that this candy was mostly made in house, and as a result, it became too time consuming, and was slowly phased out. $$$.
                Too bad, I loved them and still crave them when we eat in certain Chinese restaurants. Not easy to find, if at all. If someone here finds them, notify this board at once!!! I'll be there.

                Great Chow
                17 Beale Street, Quincy, MA 02170

                3 Replies
                1. re: CocoDan

                  多謝。Excellent hounding. I did find a commercial version at Jin Mi foods on Walnut in Newtonville. If you microwave them for a second and close your eyes it is reminiscent. I must find a recipe and figure this out. Perhaps I will reach out to the children of Ho Yuen.

                  1. re: EATTV

                    Here's an answer I found:
                    The snack you describe is also known as "tea food". It is a simple Chinese dish that encompasses much of what Chinese food is really about. Chinese food, in general, is as much about the marriage of multiple elements as it is about taste. Yin yang, balance and all that. Hard, soft, sweet, sour and etc. In English the best description is simply "Sesame snack" In Chinese it can be called Sh uh, Joi dan and etc. Since there are so many variations, to name a single one, would prove a disservice to you.
                    Ought to know, I am a Chinese Specialty Chef in New York City.

                    1. re: EATTV

                      Okay Chef....what is your recipe for the soft version?

                2. I'm planning on trying to recreate this for my mom for Xmas. I'm going to take 1 cup malt sugar, and 1 cup water and boil it to the 'soft ball' stage of candymaking. (240 degrees). Then pour into a pan, let it cool, cut into cubes, then roll in toasted sesame seeds. It's the closest I could figure to what this stuff may have tasted like...

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: mcswain27

                    Please let me know how this works out.

                    1. re: mcswain27

                      No pectin or gelatine? How about brown rice syrup and honey??

                    2. Thought I'd bump this up again. Has anyone stumbled across this candy yet?

                      14 Replies
                      1. re: catsmeow

                        cat, if you phone Sun Sun in Chinatown and speak with Wilson, he might be able to help. He is very knowledgeable about all things Chinese, inCLUding candies. Very nice guy.

                        1. re: catsmeow

                          I had some of the flat (Vietnamese?) pancake shaped candies that were mentioned back in this thread. The ones I had were only sesame seeds (although there were peanut ones, too), and soft - close enough for my childhood memories! The problem is, I don't remember where I used to buy them - I go to as many Asian grocery stores as I can get to... would have been the Boston area, though, and it's worth checking out to see if they are still carried by any of the stores. Easy to figure out - they are obviously flexible (packaging was only plastic). Mmm - I'll do my part & take one for the team when I'm shopping in town.

                          I used to live in Lynn, and shopped on Western Ave - I rode by recently & was saddened because it looks like the store I where I used to shop is gone now! But I only bought veggies - they had a terrific selection - that perfect bahn mi bread, and, of course, bahn mi (til they ran out) there, so I know it wasn't there where I bought the candy.

                          Always sad to see a favorite small food business fold...

                          1. re: threedogs

                            A good food friend spotted something very close at Banh Mi Ba Le in Dorchester. Sesame gum? Still working on a recipe or a bakery that makes this Cantonese confection from scratch.

                            1. re: EATTV

                              The candy has been found! A dear High School friend of mine has been on the lookout for it since these blogs have started. The candy is exactly the same except for the shape.
                              I have been trying to contact the importer, who is from Brooklyn, NY. They have not replied as of my 2nd email to them. My friend found the candy in an Asian store near Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Will give more details as I gather more info.

                              1. re: marine101

                                Yay! Congrats! And good luck!

                                Keep the chow folks posted!

                                1. re: marine101

                                  Post a picture of the Chinese language label and then we can translate it correctly and Google for it.

                                  1. re: KWagle

                                    The label is in Vietnamese, and I did do a translation. It was something akin to Happy New Year. The ingredients were in English, and the name of the Importer.

                                    1. re: marine101

                                      I'm so glad to find this thread! I received some of this candy from my daughter last year for Christmas - she thought she had purchased a crunchy candy from our local Asian grocery. It turned out so much better than any crunchy candy I've ever had! The version I received was mostly sesame, with a couple of bits of peanut, and in a firm gelatin-type base. The store she purchased it from (Super Cao Nguyen in Oklahoma City) has not carried it since then...I'm hoping it returns for the holidays, but I'd really be interested in a recipe if anyone finds one. Thanks for the hope!

                                      1. re: Shankins123

                                        I will keep posting any results. The importer still has not responded to my requests for additional information on the product. One would think that if an astute business person received inquiries about an item, a prompt reply would follow.
                                        The store your daughter purchased the candy from was Vietnamese.

                                        1. re: marine101

                                          marine101 - Post the info - since my young years eating this stuff at Bob Loo's in Salem NH, I've grown up to become an importer of all sorts of consumer goods. I'll put one of my guys on the case who literally speaks the language, and post back here.

                              2. re: threedogs

                                The Vietnamese candy is called keo me xung in both pancake and square form, and it used to be easier to find downtown than it is now, but I usually still can. Plus, knowing the name of it means it's much easier to find importers. (It's my favorite quick-energy hiking snack.)

                                1. re: antimony

                                  The link that Shankins123 posted is for keo me xung. You are right - I used to have an easier time finding them. Recipe (there are lots others online, too) looks easy.

                                  1. re: threedogs

                                    They sell, or were selling keo me xung during the holidays at Hong Cuc market in Lowell. I posted on the Northern New England board on a similar thread.

                                    Got a not so good picture of it here.


                            2. What do you all think of this recipe? Would it gel and have the proper consistency?

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Shankins123

                                I regret I have a small piece of news. Jin Mi, which was on Walnut Street in Newtonville closed in the spring of 2012. There are Asian markets on Moody street and near Main street in Waltham.
                                A big loss.

                              2. Posharpstore.com in mass sells the pancake version of this candy.