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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?