Favourite Asian Childhood Snacks

A while ago, I chanced upon Banana Lounge’s trip-down-memory-lane post on Asian childhood foods. Reading it literally made me drool as all Asian food items mentioned here resonate well with me – I ate all of them when I was a kid.

Asian grocery stores in Melbourne never fail to stock heaps of childhood favourite junk food. Photo: Mabel Kwong

Asian grocery stores in Melbourne never fail to stock heaps of childhood favourite junk food. Photo: Mabel Kwong

I was born in Australia and when I was seven, my dad moved the family to Asia. Most of my primary and secondary school days in the late 1990s and 2000s were spent in Singapore and Malaysia. Two Asian food-mad cities where people nibble on something roughly once every two hours of the day.

Whatever pocket money I had back then would usually go towards buying food from the school canteen or zinc-roofed sundry shops after school. There were always so many mouthwatering made-in-Asia tidbits to choose from. I could either have this, or that. No, wait, or even that.

Without further ado, here are some of my favourite Asian childhood snacks:

Mamee Monster (left) and Bin Bin crackers (right). Photo: Mabel Kwong

Mamee Monster (left) and Bin Bin crackers (right). Photo: Mabel Kwong

1.      Mamee Monster

This is probably my favourite snack of all time. I ate this noodle-cake snack (think a crispier version of your average instant noodle cake) many afternoons in Malaysia. My gleeful home-from-school self smushed the noodle-cake into bits and pieces and if I was feeling adventurous, I sprinkled the BBQ or chicken seasoning that comes with each packet. I had so much fun eating this snack, using my tiny hands to get mouthfuls of noodle snack into my mouth without dropping one on the floor.

2.      Bin Bin crackers

I consumed these airy rice crackers that came in twos per packet a lot during recess in Singapore. My mum calls these salty with a hint of sweetness crackers “pop pop biscuits” because of the incessantly loud, snappy sounds I made while chewing them.

Hello Panda (left) and some biscuit similar to Polar biscuit as I couldn't find the latter (right). Photo: Mabel Kwong

Hello Panda (left) and some biscuit similar to Polar biscuit as I couldn’t find the latter (right). Photo: Mabel Kwong

3.      Hello Panda

Chocolate filled biscuits for the price of roughly a dollar twenty in the school canteen. Chocolate filled. Enough said. Rarely did I share my Hello Panda with anyone in the playground.

4.      Polar biscuits

I ate these bite-sized savoury biscuits also during recess in Singapore. To be honest, I do not remember anything special about them. Made in Indonesia, they actually taste like the chicken-flavoured Arnotts Shapes biscuits. Nevertheless, one box was enough to keep my stomach quiet until the last class of the day.

Dried fish strips (left) and iced gems (right). Photo: Mabel Kwong

Dried fish strips (left) and iced gems (right). Photo: Mabel Kwong

5.      Dried fish strips

My mum could never fathom why I liked this snack so much. Maybe it is because the plain, barely salted, original-flavoured preserved fish strips were too bland for her liking and the chilli-flavoured one was not spicy enough for her (it really is not that spicy).

6.      Iced gems

These bite-sized biscuits topped with hard, coloured icing (or some sort of hardened sugar I presume) were a firm favourite with my family. Come Chinese New Year, my Malaysian relatives unfailingly passed these sweet treats around in their homes whenever I visited to collect ang pows.

Kong Guan assorted biscuits (left) and haw flakes (right). Photo: Mabel Kwong

Kong Guan assorted biscuits (left) and haw flakes (right). Photo: Mabel Kwong

7.      Kong Guan biscuits

Another Asian snack popular with everyone in my household. To usher in the new year, my family and grandparents often bought tins of assorted Kong Guan (KG) biscuits. The chocolate biscuit and lemon-cream one were my favourites – and everyone else’s as well and were gobbled up first. I also liked KG’s square cream crackers, which I ate plain for a quick snack. My mother was fond of eating them dipped with Lipton tea.

8.      Haw flakes

As a child, I had no idea what these flat, red 2cm flakes were. Neither did my parents, and perhaps that was why they were always reluctant to buy some. These sweets that came in stacks are actually made from the fruit of Chinese hawthorns. I have no recollection of how I was introduced to haw flakes, but I do remember constantly buying an obscene amount of 40-cent stacks from the school canteen and eating all of them at one go.

Fox candy (left) and Apollo layer cake (right). Photo: Mabel Kwong

Fox candy (left) and Apollo layer cake (right). Photo: Mabel Kwong

9.      Fox candy

Now this was some candy my parents never hesitated to buy, mainly because my mum liked them as much as I did. Often dubbed as “crystal sweets” due to their resemblance to clear crystal stones (when put under light, they actually gleam), I sucked on these hard candies in hour-long, traffic congested trips home from school in Malaysia. Never got bored of eating them because they came in so many flavours, with orange and grape being my favorites.

10.  Apollo layer cake

Commonly known as “kek lapis” in Malaysia, this green coloured layered cake was always incredibly soft when I removed it out of its packet. Who doesn’t like spongy cake, even though processed?

What is your favourite childhood snack?

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10 thoughts on “Favourite Asian Childhood Snacks

  1. You wrote it! Excellent! Had a lot of fun reading this – and laughed when I saw the iced gems. We used to have big packets of these, and we’d gnaw the icing off all the biscuit bases + not eat the rest. When I think back on how shocking some of my childhood eating habits are (and how our tastes/passions calibrate as we get older), I take all the “thou must feed your child only sanctified HEALTHY food” with a huge, tasty grain of salt… 😉

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    • About time I took up your challenge! Oh dear, I am the same as you – I used to bite off the colourful icings and putting all the base biscuit aside in one pile when I was a kid. Today when I get the chance to eat them (once a year when I’m in Malaysia), I start off still by eating the icings. It’s funny how as we grow older, we tend to drift away from eating and thinking of our childhood foods. While walking through QV’s Laguna to look at all the Asian snacks on offer, I kept thinking, “Aaaah! I used to eat that! Can’t believe I ate that! And I can still it that today!!!” 🙂

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  2. I love this!!! Food is such a big part of culture. I keep meaning to write about it myself… I love that you shared with us your favorite snacks. I love Hello Panda, and I fell in love with Hi-Chews, too, when I was abroad. I’m not so sure about the Bin Bin crackers, though. Haha. To me, those just taste like air. 😀 Also, I’m kind of glad you didn’t mention dried seaweed — kidding! But I *really* don’t like that stuff! My students all loved it, though!

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    • You strike me as a health nut. I think it’s because of your recent post about running and you always seem to be wandering around on foot (in your stories). I am quite surprised you identify with these Asian snacks. Traveling has done you good and introduced you to new foods! I actually like dried seaweed and bought it all the time for 20 cents per flat piece in the school canteen. How can you not like seaweed? Does that mean you don’t like sushi? 😯 I’m going out to buy Mamee Monster tomorrow and I think I might just pick up some Hi-Chews. And when I swipe some packets off the Asian grocery shelf, I will think of you 🙂

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  3. Loved this post…a bit nostalgic when seeing my childhood snacks on the shelves, can’t help but make me smile. Great writing, entertaining and fun…best snack growing up were the chocolate/marshmallow moon-pies (and when mom wasn’t around, zap them in the microwave for a couple seconds and watch them come close to exploding).

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    • Thanks for the nice words dalo2013. As a kid, I always saw the choco moon pies (Orion Choco-pie) on the shelf too. Mum never bought them for me unfortunately and til this day, I have yet to try one. I suppose when you microwave it, the moon pies all come out chocolatey-gooey. Yum.

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  4. My all time favourites are Bin-Bin crackers, Haw flakes and Hello Panda – brings back a lot of good memories in childhood. Still eat them now 🙂

    Great article again! And thanks for sharing this with us!

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  5. Ahaha! I love Hw Flakes too – even though I never had a clue what they were made of, I think at some point I auto-decided they were made of durian 🙂 Now I know I was wrong!

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    • Hahaha! Haw flakes made of durian! Come to think of it, I rarely see durian flavoured Asian snacks anywhere, and many Asians love durian. Unfortunately I am not one of these durian-lovers but I like the colour of the fruit 🙂

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