THERE ARE NO FEWER than 19 flavors of packaged Chex mix currently available, and I’ve made variations of the 1952 savory classic and the peanut-butter-chocolate riff known as Puppy Chow or Muddy Buddies for most of my life, yet the snack still can offer novelty. Thanks to friends on Beacon Hill who shared a bag of a new-to-me recipe during the otherwise-dull 2020 holidays, my snacking heart now belongs to extra-crispy, savory-sweet and entirely perfect Hawaiian Chex Mix.
Like other homemade party mixes, making it is a straightforward process. This version starts with buttery soy-caramel coating a combination of cereals, chips and crackers, and finishes with one of the simplest furikake blends: a tabletop seasoning that combines seaweed and sesame seeds. Usually used on rice, it balances the caramel with abundant umami.
One of the shortest recipes I’ve found for it is in Pat Tanumihardja’s “The Asian Grandmothers Cookbook” (Sasquatch, 2009). A mixture of butter, oil, sugar, corn syrup and soy sauce is used to coat a single box of rice cereal, then seasoned so generously with furikake that the snack is evenly deep green from nori.
At Uwajimaya, furikake brands and flavors fill most of a bay, even when supply chain issues have reduced the options. In addition to sesame seeds and seaweed, some include bonito, shrimp, salmon, egg, wasabi or shiso. If one of these is your ride-or-die flavor, give it a shot here; otherwise, start with the basic, variously labeled nori goma or aji nori, with black and white sesame seeds and at least one type of seaweed.
Your grocery store might have just one furikake, in the Asian food aisle or near the spices; any brand is fine. If you have options, Tanumihardja recommends avoiding MSG. “When I was growing up, my mum had a container of MSG right next to the salt and sugar in the kitchen,” she says. “I try to buy foods without MSG because … I try to stay away from additives and preservatives, and don’t really find a difference in taste with the addition of MSG. I used to buy Nori Komi, but they changed their formulation a few years ago. Now I buy either Mishima (has hydrolyzed soy protein) or Trader Joe’s (no additives).”
My choice is a local brand available near my house. Packed by Ballard-based Stocked, Everything on Everything furikake is sold at Sam Choy’s Poke to the Max (samchoyspoke.com). Additives include hydrolyzed vegetable protein, yeast extract and I+G (industry shorthand for two forms of disodium that together function much like MSG), but they don’t trouble me, given that it’s going on chips and cereal.
As with all party mixes, make substitutions to your heart’s content. Hate Goldfish crackers? Swap in peanuts or bagel chips. Avoiding gluten? Keep the Chex, but replace the Honeycomb, Bugles and Goldfish with equivalent weights of snacks such as Glutino pretzels and Fritos, and use gluten-free tamari. If corn syrup makes you wince, opt for Lyle’s Golden Syrup. Lean into the umami by using up to twice my suggested amount of furikake.
Hawaiian Chex Mix
If you don’t have a large roasting pan, you can use two sheet pans, but prepare for things to go flying as you stir.
½ box (6 ounces) Rice Chex
½ box (6 ounces) Corn Chex
½ box (6.25 ounces) Honeycomb cereal
1 (7.5-ounce) bag Bugles corn chips
1 (6.6-ounce) bag cheddar Goldfish crackers
1 (8-ounce) bag pretzel Goldfish crackers
1 stick (4 ounces) butter
½ cup vegetable oil
½ cup light corn syrup
½ cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
½ cup furikake (or to taste)
1. Preheat oven to 275° F. In a deep, 16-inch roasting pan, layer Rice Chex, Corn Chex, Honeycomb, Bugles, cheddar Goldfish and pretzel Goldfish. Set aside.
2. In a small saucepan set over medium heat, combine butter, oil, corn syrup, sugar and soy sauce. Stir until butter is melted and sugar is dissolved.
3. Slowly drizzle syrup mixture over dry ingredients, stirring gently with a broad spatula to coat every piece evenly, with minimal breakage. Once mixture is well-coated, sprinkle on furikake. Try to get at least a little on every piece of cereal, but it’s good if some pieces have a thicker layer.
4. Bake for 1 hour, stirring gently every 15 minutes. The coating will lose stickiness and become a tight, crispy layer. Remove from oven, and stir occasionally while it cools. Once it’s completely cool, store in an airtight container for up to 1 month.