On Chinese New Year, families often share candies with children and guests. The sweetened goodies symbolize money and the sweetness of life. I remember coming home from school on Chinese New Year to trays of snacks that my mom picked up at the Asian grocery store. Much to her disapproval, I’d stealthily devour them before dinner.
It’s been a while since I’ve last eaten most of these treats, and I thought it’d be fun to revisit them with friends who had never even heard of such things before. Since Chinese New Year is coming up this Thursday, February 19, I decided to round up a few people, head out to the nearest ethnic grocery store and pick up some Chinese goodies for a taste test.
Besides me, taste testers included Nick, who enjoys vanilla frappuccinos and Panera bread and Ramya, an avid Cheez-It fan. We rated the sweets based on taste and texture.
1. Peanut/Sesame Seed Candy Brittles (Rating: 4.5/5)
Peanuts symbolize longetivity; sesame seeds represent fertility. These were my favorite snacks of the bunch. They’re lightly sweetened with syrup and crunchy without sticking to your teeth.
From left to right:
1. Ground Peanut Candy: it has the flavor of a peanut butter cookie – the ground peanuts yield a satisfyingly gritty texture throughout with a nice crunch.
2. Sweet Peanut Clusters: this tastes like peanut brittle, but less sweet with more peanuts.
3. Toasted White Sesame Seed Candy: crunchy, lightly sweetened.
4. Toasted Black Sesame Seed Sandy: the texture is the same as #3, but the black sesame seeds add a smokier aftertaste.
Nick: “It’s just like peanut brittle, but not as sweet. The smoky aftertaste of the black sesame one was sort of weird.”
2. Lychee Cake (Rating: 2/5)
Lychees are a symbol of romance, beauty and good luck. These cakes have a crumbly, buttery exterior, filled with a chewy sweet filling. They’re often eaten as a complement to tea. However, while we agreed that the texture was decent, the filling wasn’t sweet enough to balance against the acidity of lychee, which seems to be an acquired taste.
Nick: “I don’t think I’m a lychee person… I really don’t like the flavor.”
Ramya: “It’s like a Fig Newton with a thicker crust and not as sweet.”
3. Fruit Jellies (Rating: 4/5)
Here come the childhood sweets. These are basically little containers of jello, with fruit chunks inside. As a kid I remember slurping the entire thing all at once with my friends, almost like taking shots. The unique packaging makes it extra fun.
Nick: “They look like nipples!”
4. Rabbit Candy (Rating: 4/5)
One can’t list out Chinese candies without mentioning White Rabbit. I remember pulling my mom towards these candies whenever we headed to the Asian grocery store and sharing these with elementary school friends during lunch. They have a taffy-like texture flavored with creamy, sweetened milk. The candy-logs are wrapped around an edible translucent sheet of rice paper, which would greatly amuse me as a kid.
Ramya: “It’s like a vanilla Tootsie roll!”
5. Lucky Candy (Rating: 4.5/5)
These are the quintessential Chinese New Year candies. Red represents luck and these are red on the wrapper with a strawberry-flavored treat inside. It’s a creamy hard candy that becomes surprisingly chewy at the end.
Nick: “I feel like I’m tasting a strawberry smoothie… that makes it healthier, right?”