In Korean, "halmae-ibmat," directly translates to "granny's taste," much like one would refer to someone who loves sweets as having a "sweet tooth." Although it might sound boring, people with halmae-ibmat know how to enjoy more "traditional" Korean flavors, which encompass nuttier qualities and a little less sweetness than other snacks. For instance, those who prefer milder flavors like mugwort, injeolmi, sweet potato, or black sesame are said to have halmae-ibmat. These flavors can be seen in all different kinds of food, from traditional rice cakes to frappuccinos. Is that enough to pique your interest? Here's a list of Korean snacks found in the US, by someone who proudly flaunts her halmae-ibmat:

1.  Injeolmi Snack Puffs

Injeolmi is a type of traditional Korean rice cake, composed of two components: the rice cake itself and a coating all-over of roasted soybean powder. The actual injeolmi flavor comes from this powder, which gives the rice cake its signature nutty, rich, not-too-sweet taste. People love this flavor so much, that it has been adapted to quite a variety of snacks, including the Injeolmi Snack puffs. These puffs have the texture of puffed Cheetos, but instead of cheese powder, come coated with injeolmi flavor. Light, airy, with just a hint of sweetness, these puffs have a melt-in-your-mouth quality that will have your tastebuds screaming for more. 

2. B.B.Big Ice Cream Bars

When it comes to halmae-ibmat, one thing that cannot be left out is B.B.Big ice cream bars. These are based on sweet bean paste, which originated in the Heian period of China, and have since widely spread in popularity and variation throughout East Asia. Unlike other ice cream flavors, like classic chocolate or vanilla, the red bean B.B.Big bars offer a nice contrast, with a subtle sweetness and slightly grainy texture from the beans scattered throughout. For those who love sweet bean paste, like the ones seen in bungeoppang, otherwise also known as taiyaki, these creamy ice bars will be perfect as a light dessert or mid-day pick-me-up.  

3. Yakgwa

Yakgwa, or sweet honey cookies, have been around since the Silla period of Korea with an original purpose in Buddhist rituals. As time passed on into the Goryeo and Joseon dynasties, yakgwa became more well-known and were also served in meals served to the king. Passed down many generations to the present day, these cookies are often enjoyed during large celebrations like Korean Thanksgiving, along with other more traditional snacks like rice cakes. However, yakgwa can still be purchased as a casual snack to serve with tea. Unlike chocolate chip cookies, yakgwa are actually deep-fried and soaked in honey to give it its sticky, slightly chewy texture. Despite the honey soak, these cookies are only subtly sweet, hence becoming a snack beloved by those with halmae-ibmat. Oftentimes, yakgwa come in the shapes of flowers, with a rippled outer rim, and are beautiful in presentation. 

4. Matdongsan

Not a fan of softer, chewy snacks? Matdongsan might be a cool alternative. Originally created in 1975 by the Haitai company, this nostalgic oldie (but goodie) never lost its popularity, as it can be found in Korean supermarkets to this day. With a crunchy exterior and light syrup coating, these peanut-flavored cookies are nutty, addictive, and perfect for satisfying someone with halmae-ibmat.

5. Misugaru Latte

Misugaru lattes are nutty, rich, and fulfilling for the stomach. Misugaru is made from a mix of dried beans and grains that are ground into a powdered form. These grains often include but are not limited to, barley, oats, soybean, millet, etc. When added to warm or cold milk with some sweetener, this mixture becomes a misugaru latte. This drink is often seen in Korean cafes or sold in powdered, individual packet bundles in Korean supermarkets. It is popular to drink when trying to lose weight since it consists of healthy ingredients and can make one feel satiated for longer. Nevertheless, it is also enjoyed on the regular for its amazingly rich, creamy flavor. 

6. Anything Black Sesame-Flavored

Black sesame is often seen in East Asian desserts, and are popular among those with halmae-ibmat for its nutty flavor and added grainy texture it adds to foods. It's no surprise how popular the black sesame flavor is, with desserts and snacks ranging from ice cream to rice cakes. One example that comes to mind is Black Sesame Almonds by HBAF. HBAF almonds come in a variety of fun flavors, including black sesame. Coated with a sweetened black sesame paste, these almonds have almost double the nutty flavor that is sure to attract halmae-ibmat foodies out there. 

Extra: Mugwort Frappuccino from Korea

According to the Korea Daily, mugwort is close to overtaking green tea's spot as the dominator of the dessert scene. Mugwort is a leafy plant deeply rooted in Korean history and is known to have many health benefits. Similar to injeolmi and black sesame mentioned above, mugwort has a nutty flavor but is more "grassy" or "leafy." In my other article detailing my trip in South Korea last year, I mentioned trying a mugwort cream frappuccino, specific to Jeju Island's Starbucks menu. Needless to say, with minimal sweetness, thick consistency, and most importantly, a strong nutty flavor, my tastebuds, and tummy were thoroughly satisfied. 

Mugwort Cream Frappuccino (Left) and Black Sesame Frappuccino (Right)

Amy Chun

All in all, having a halmae-ibmat comes down to preference in flavors and a balance of sweetness to those flavors. So when looking for a light treat or something different to satisfy your sweet tooth, these snacks will surely do the trick.