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Spring Festival Treats: A Laowai’s Adventure

A Laowai makes their way through a mysterious bag of Spring Festival treats, results may vary

02·06·2016

As a self proclaimed foodie with a sweet tooth, I was excited when I arrived in Beijing  to try some of the delicious Chinese desserts like mooncakes and candied hawthorn berries that I had heard so much about. So when I found that an overly large bag of assorted Spring Festival candy was a thing here, I had to try it. So as a result I bring you a laowai’s minute by minute commentary as she eats through an assorted bag of Chinese New Year candy.

paper jell unwrapped 2

Candy 1. Paper-jelly things: I heard somewhere that these were the favorite candy of an emperor, well to each their own. It’s not necessarily an unpleasant treat, the best way to describe it is a paper jelly sandwich. It is literally two pieces of decorative rice paper with some hard fruit/lemon flavored gelatin in the middle. It tastes ok but its not very memorable and the sensation of biting into jelly and rice paper simultaneously will take some getting used to.

prunes

Candy 2. Prunes: While the orange wrapper was innocuous enough I leave it to your imagination why I had some misgivings after unwrapping this candy. They were sweetened prunes and despite appearances I thought they were rather good. Mind you since they are dried fruit I don’t count them as candy but they were good nonetheless.

pink square 1

Candy 3. Pink square thingie: This peanut/cardomom candy irritated me, I bit into and it turned into sand, no, actually sand has more moisture. Not only did the powder get all over the table I was eating on but I had to throw it out half way because it just crumbled into dust, honestly a waste of candy. It’s basically dry sand with a peanut taste.

mochi

Candy 4: Mochi ball: I unwrapped this thinking it was another thing of dried fruit but as I bit into it I was surprised not only by the cinnamon flavor but by the fact that its a mochi-like rice cake. I think the squishy texture and flavor was very nice there was even some red bean paste in the middle. But again not candy, wait I’m now looking at the bag all this stuff came in and it actually doesn’t have the character for candy on it, okay translated the bag says Bejing special products, I guess that I’ll just have to think of these as special Spring Festival treats.

index

Candy 5. Yellow Square: Whatever is in this package, it has a decent amount of weight so I have my fingers crossed for some compressed dried fruit or maybe an interesting jelly like thing. I open it and it looks like the peanut/cardamon dust from before. I try some, wondering if there’s at least a variation in flavor from the one before. Nope, same peanut sand from before, very disappointing.

hawthorn berrries

Candy 6. Candied Hawthorn berries: I didn’t realize what these were until after ate them and then translated the label. At first glance I thought they were some giant nut ball or worse a condensed version of peanut dust. Picking up the slightly sticky thing that resembles three tiny balls stick together I bite into it. There’s not a crunch like I thought there would be but instead my teeth slowly sink into the a sugar coated mass that initially tastes like seame seeds. a few second later a sweet/tart/ slightly fruity flavor comes through and I realize that I’m eating candied hawthorn berries. However in my opinon there is a significant difference between this candy and the candied hawthorns you find on the street (known as tanghulu, 糖葫芦). I like them both a lot, and I believe it is because in this form the hawthorns are dried/preserved in some way. Either way it makes the candy much smaller and denser but I think it works well with both the sesame flavor and sugar coating giving it a more complex flavoring. Best thing in the bag so far.

peanut dust 1

Candy 7. Blue  Square: I have high hopes for this candy it’s a larger square and seems more condensed than the peanut dust bricks. I unwrap it and groan, it is a peanut dust brick. I break it in half hoping that at least considering the size that there’s at least a filling of red-bean paste or something, but nope. I break off a piece, in a last ditch effort for a different flavor, nope. Okay I  want to know what person had a twisted enough sense of humor to put the same revolting candy in different colored packages in multiple shapes and sizes enabling a person to get their hopes up for something different in a large package of assorted goods.

Candy 8. Green square: This is the last effort I’m making in eating this bag of candy, I just had to eat another of the hawthorn berries to get over my disappointment from the last package of peanut dust and I’m starting to feel a little sick. I open the wrapper and…duh duh dummmm,  peanut dust.  Perhaps I’m looking at this wrong, maybe this is a really popular candy around Spring festival, maybe you’re supposed to eat it with something so that it’s less dry. Either way I end my exploration of Chinese New year sweets somewhat unsatisfied and in awe of those who would be able to eat an entire brick of peanut/cardamon dust in one sitting.

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