Oct 22, 2022
One of the perks of travelling is to discover a country’s heritage and culture, and there’s no better way to do so than through its cuisine. Each country will have its own nostalgia when it comes to snacks and sweet treats, and we’ve rounded up 9 retro snacks and nostalgic treats from around the world that are icons in their own right. While some of these can be found at local supermarkets, we’ve also indicated a few great places to check out to get that authentic taste.
Wrapped in thin rice paper, White Rabbit Candy is a milk candy with a soft and chewy texture. In addition to the original vanilla flavour, it is also available in chocolate, coffee, peanut and butter-plum. Invented in 1943, these candies have also been positioned as a nutrition product, which explains its famous slogan; ‘seven White Rabbit candies are equivalent to one cup of milk’.
While the term ‘choco pie’ originated in the US, the namesake snack has become an indispensable part of South Korea’s tradition. South Korea’s ‘national snack’ consists of a marshmallow filling sandwiched between two small layers of cake that is then coated with chocolate. Having entered the market in the 1970s, Choco Pie became an instant hit with its taste and affordable price. An upgraded version of this cake, Dessert Choco Pie, was released in 2017 in four new flavours: original, caramel salt, cacao and red velvet.
The king of retro snacks in Singapore, these small, round biscuits are topped with colourful, piped meringue gems. While it has become synonymous with childhood on the Little Red Dot, iced gems were first made by Huntley and Palmer of Reading, Britain, in the 1850s. These days, iced gems have bright neon-coloured icing of green, pink, yellow and white, and can be found in original, chocolate and lemon flavours. Pick up a packet at supermarkets like NTUC FairPrice or Giant, and online at Nelly’s Retro Snacks or snacKING Retro Biscuits.
Before popcorn flooded theatres, kacang puteh – an assortment of nuts, legumes and crackers – was the go-to movie snack in 19th-century Malaysia. Its origins can be traced back to Indian migrants in the 19th century who started making and selling these snacks for a living. Today, the best kacang puteh comes from Buntong in Perak, Malaysia. The demand for these retro snacks isn’t just from locals – they are also being shipped to countries such as Singapore and even Australia! In Kuala Lumpur, vendors on push carts still sell bags of this retro snack on the street, with prices starting from RM10 to RM15.
A Spanish breakfast is never complete without Churros con Chocolate (above), a fried dough pastry-based snack. There are a few different theories regarding this retro snack’s origins: One suggests it was brought to Europe by the Portuguese, while the other claims it was invented by the Spanish themselves. Today, churros are commonly eaten by dipping it in dulche de leche (caramel), champurrado (chocolate-based atole) or cafe con leche (coffee with milk).
Prince de LU is one of the most famous biscuits in France. A cocoa cream filling sandwiched between two cracker-like biscuits, it’s also known for the iconic Prince figure that appears on the cover. While its origins can be traced back to as early as the 1600s, it wasn’t until the 1990s that new flavours such as vanilla, choco-milk and full chocolate began to appear. The biscuits can be found at any online grocery store or local supermarket.
Introduced to Japan by the Chinese during the Tang Dynasty, these retro Japanese snacks (above) are made of toasted rice and are available in hundreds of flavours, shapes and colours. Kikumi Senbei is one of Tokyo’s most famous outlets, while in Osaka, make sure to try out the Okonomiyaki Senbei from Takobee.
Making their first appearance in Ho Chi Minh City, these thin flour crepes are sprinkled with icing sugar and desiccated coconut before being rolled and cut. Sellers can even prepare the roll according to your taste – customise the amount of coconut, black sesame seeds or even candy to be added. Keeping true to their tradition, coconut sugar rolls are still sold on the streets by bicycle vendors today; look out for the ones that have white boxes with ‘bo bia’ marked in red.
A popular dry fruit, dried bananas used to be made from smaller bananas called ma-li-ong by villagers by peeling and drying them in the sun. While this method is not outdated, many manufacturers now use a microwave instead. This crunchy snack is available both packaged and loose and is sometimes coated with sugar or honey. The next time you visit northern Thailand, drop by Sunisa Shop in Phitsanulok for a serving of its organic, sun-dried bananas. Other retro snacks to try include the sweet or spicy banana chips, stuffed bananas and fried sliced bananas.