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May 30, 2010 12:01 PM

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 ( 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 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?