The majority of us may have been the first generation children in our families. We grew up frequenting our local Asian market, exposed to cultural differences between American and Chinese culture. We ate different foods and celebrated different things.
Being in college now, I miss my childhood. I miss celebrating the Chinese New Year and spending time with my cousins. Most of my memories came with the sharing of food, these are the 23 things I remembered as Chinese-American child.
1. “Lucky Candy”
Lucky Candy is red and gold to signify good luck and good fortune. Commonly eaten during Chinese New Year, this candy is strawberry flavored and an iconic throwback to our childhood.
2. Haw Flakes
My brother and I never knew what these were and I still don’t know exactly. They seemed inedible but we still ate it happily.
3. Bin Bin Rice Crackers
Everyone knew of this rice cracker, it was the best thing I ever ate (and still to this day). It’s salty, crunchy, and savory. This is something you brought to school for a snack.
4. Botan Rice Candy
This candy is wrapped in rice paper that everyone assumes isn’t edible but actually is. After the rice paper dissolves, you’ll be greeted by a soft chewiness of the candy. It also comes with a sticker!
5. Jelly Sticks/Jelly Cups
In stick form or cup, nothing is more exciting than buying a large jar of these wonderfully fruity jellos. Our biggest fear was getting squirted by the juice of the jelly when we ripped open the top. Personally, my favorite was the lychee-flavored jello.
6. Yan Yan
The hardest struggle was trying to portion the icing to biscuit ratio.
7. Yeo’s Drinks
Part of every lunch bag. Yeo’s had many juices like sugar cane, soy-milk, chrysanthemum, lychee, green tea, and iced tea. My favorite of all is the chrysanthemum tea.
8. Shrimp Chips
Instead of Lays or Hot Cheetos, we were blessed with shrimp chips. We always ended up eating more than we expected because the only size was family size.
9. Danish Butter Cookies
Your parents come home from the market. You eye the tin of Danish Butter Cookies on the counter and your excitement to eat that one swirly cookie with sugar on top is only discouraged because all you see inside are sewing supplies…
10. White Bunny
The only candy that could end the unreasonable rambunctious noises of a child because of the incredible task of chewing this. Seriously, you could be there for years.
11. Dim sum
My parents made me get up early for this. But it’s okay, it’s all worth it because you can eat all the shumai and egg tarts you want.
These dense little guys are best with a freshly brewed kettle of your favorite tea. My favorite part of eating these were the salted egg yolks located in the center (sorry, no yolk porn).
A staple of our childhood snacks. We always pretended to smoke from these (which is bad) but nothing is better than some good ol’ Pocky.
15. Pop-Pop Firecracker
My cousins and I would be violently throwing these little poppers to the ground and pray that our feet wouldn’t get hit. At the end of the mayhem we would step on all the poppers in hopes of finding one that failed to pop on the floor.
The childhood version of shots. After a hot day at school I would chug these little guys because they were so cooling. It’s a perfect tart probiotic drink.
#SpoonTip: Freeze them for a refreshing, icy-cold drink.
17. Ramen Noodles
No, not cup noodles. The bagged ones like MAMA, where we crushed the dry noodles, sprinkled a little bit of the seasoning and ate the noodles like chips. It all changed when real dry noodle snacks started production and we didn’t need to eat raw instant ramen.
18. Tray of Togetherness
Every Chinese New Year the markets are filled with stacks of these trays of candy. I didn’t know they were called the “Tray of Togetherness” but it does make sense, when guests are over this is what your parents would offer with hot tea. It brings everyone together to enjoy the coming of the New Year.
19. Red Envelopes
Speaking of relatives and the New Year, you’re showered with tons of Red Envelopes from your relatives. At school you would boast about how much you got. Now that we’re older we don’t seem to get as many as we used to before.
20. The Lion Dance
Chinese New Year parades would showcase the Lion Dance. Our eyes would light up as we watched how amazing the dancers were, imitating the movement of a Lion. It is an art form that beautifully embodies the Chinese culture.
21. Eagle Brand Oil
This was the believed cure-all oil. Coughing? Rub this on your chest and lymph nodes. Headache? Rub some on your temples. Just don’t get any in your eyes.
22. Plastic Stools
We all had plastic stools for some reason. It was great for hosting family parties.
After the pounding crackles of the firecrackers we were left with a great deal of debris to clean up. It’s all part of the festivities for Chinese New Year.