There are lots of things I love about being Asian American, one of which is the exposure to a wide variety of foods growing up. From munching on sweet rice crackers after swim practice to sharing Pocky with my siblings on road trips, eating — specifically snacking — has always been a huge part of my life.
So when I found out an H Mart branch — a fancied-up District H, no less — was opening next to The Seattle Times office, I gasped.
A former colleague (hi, Vernal Coleman!) once referred to me as the newsroom’s “queen of snacks,” and I have never taken that title for granted. So I’ve made it my duty to bring the joy of the H Mart snack aisle back to the office — and now to you, our readers.
In this glorious modern age, many Asian treats (like Hello Panda and ChocoPies) have entered the mainstream, so I’ve recommended some less well-known but equally tasty snacks in case you’ve already had the basics and want to branch out.
These are some of my favorites from growing up; by no means is this a definitive list. If you have any other good suggestions, drop them in the comments below.
Otherwise, I wish you all happy snacking.
If you like Pocky, try … Yan Yan or Pretz
Pocky are the handheld, stick-shaped snacks that are covered in chocolate (or other fun flavors!) and oh-so-munchable. A pretty similar snack is Yan Yan. The main difference is that Yan Yans are not predipped; you are given stick-shaped biscuits to dip into small cups of assorted frostings. As a child, there’s nothing more joyous than getting to dip sugar into other forms of sugar, but it also forces you to learn how to ration, otherwise you’ll run out of frosting too quickly.
Pretz are a savory alternative to Pocky; they have the same shape and texture, but are not frosted. Pretz come in a variety of flavors, dusted with seasonings ranging from the classic tomato to a more zesty pizza flavor.
If you like Hello Panda, try … Choco Boy
Frosting-filled Hello Panda crackers are one of the most ubiquitous Asian snacks; I’ve seen them sold everywhere from Safeway to Costco. Although Choco Boys only come in one flavor (chocolate), the mushroom-shaped, cookie-like snacks have the same biscuit-to-frosting ratio.
If you like Hi-Chew, try … these other candies
Hi-Chew: These treats — the fruitier, juicier, superior counterpart to Starbursts — were truly a groundbreaking moment for the world of candy. Hi-Chew is the perfect combination of creamy outer layer and flavorful center that tastes more natural than most artificial flavors, with an almost marshmallow-y consistency. So if you’re looking for more chewable treats, try one of these:
- White Rabbit: Covered in a thin layer of edible rice paper that melts in your mouth, the candy is about the size and texture of a Tootsie Roll. They taste like a milkshake: creamy and sweet, but not overwhelmingly sugary.
- Haw Flakes: Shaped like communion wafers, these candies are made from hawthorn berries, which have a unique flavor combination of sweet, sour and a little salty. They taste fairly similar to fruit leather, but with a drier, less-sticky texture. I must admit, I struggle to recommend these because I hated eating them as a child. They’re basically the “this is the only candy your grandma has left in her purse, so you begrudgingly eat it because you are a child starved for any morsel of sugar” kind of candy. But as a refined adult, I will acknowledge that haw flakes play a crucial role in the overall Asian snack universe.
- Yuzu Gummy Candy: They’re fruity, aromatic and gummy, but they’re more bouncy than sticky-chewy, so they won’t get stuck in your teeth. The gummy has a strong yuzu flavor, with nuanced citrus tones that are more sweet than sour. Yuzu candies have become a Seattle Times newsroom favorite; all afternoon, I had co-workers swooping in like seagulls to see if I had any left.
If you like Shrimp Chips, try … Postick Snack
If you like the crunchy, saltiness of Shrimp Chips, but are averse to the shrimp-y smell and seafood flavor, try Postick Snacks. They hold the same size and crunch, but they are potato-based and covered in a powder I would most closely associate with Pringles.
If you like Danish cookies, try … French biscuits
As you can imagine, Danish-style cookies did not develop in Asia. But ask almost any Asian person and they will tell you their grandma always had a tin of these on their dining-room table and/or an empty tin holding their sewing supplies. For a different type of cookie, try these French biscuits, comprising two light, airy wafer-style cookies, sandwiched with a whipped chocolate frosting.