By: Jacklyn Tran – Ethnic Seattle

October 26, 2015

Ask people about their favorite ethnic candy and not only will most have an answer, but summoning a response brings to mind a bit of nostalgia, a wave of warm memories from earlier years. For those of us born to first-generation immigrants, our first experience with confections likely weren’t bites of chocolate covered candies, like many Americans. Instead, trips to the market often meant going to the local Asian store where sticky preserved plums are individually wrapped or candy discs of Chinese hawthorn fruit, Haw Flakes, provide a tangy and fun treat.

A National Confectioners Association survey predicted the retail sales of Halloween candy to reach $2.6 billion in 2015. Between costume parties strewn with ghostly décor and sweets and the yearly ritual of children collecting bags of candy from neighborhoods and malls, the same predictable candies we’ve come to find time and again is expected.

Whether you’re planning the ultimate costume social or staying home to hand out goodies to trick-or-treaters this year, why not shake things up a bit, incorporating some ethnic alternatives into the mix of traditional American confectioneries. After all, Asian food is now the fastest growing food in the world, according to The Washington Post with ethnic food trends becoming more visible on market shelves and on restaurant menus everywhere.

KTM_premium_red_li_hing_muiAt the Hawaii General Store in Wallingford, li hing mui, a Chinese dried plum; comes in a sweet, salty or sour variety. The distinctly strong flavor of which, manages to twist our faces up with every tart nibble or lick, making it an acquired taste for those unfamiliar with the little rounds. Li hing mui powder, however, is a different form of the dried plum, ground up for a more approachable and striking addition to familiar delights. Store manager Kiapu shared her favorite use of the powder, “for the rim of a margarita glass! But people love it on fruit, on candy or sprinkled over popcorn.” In store, large glass jars reveal li hing dusted mango, guava, ginger and much more for those who like to try before they buy.

At Maruta Shoten in Georgetown, sushi, bento boxes, Chinese take-out and deli foods have been bringing customers in for years. An added bonus however, is their vast section of candies and snacks. Hi-Chew, a soft, sweet and fruity indulgence dates back to the 1930s in Japan. Wanting to combine the qualities of gum and caramel (a chewy candy like gum but a creamy and smooth texture like caramel) a candy maker of the time did just that. In 1931 the candies were first introduced as Chewlets. More than 100 different flavors of Hi-Chew have been created since and multiple flavors can be found at this cozy, Japanese market.


Candy selection at Tienda Mi Ranchito

Tienda Mi Ranchito, a little corner store in South Seattle, boasts a large selection of candies from Mexico. The Vero Mango lollipop, a mango shape and flavored candy covered with chili powder starts off with a sour and spicy kick. As you work your way into the middle passed the grainy coating, the mango flavor is upped a notch and sweet meets salty in a satisfyingly addictive way. Ask the friendly staff what the favorites are from their assortment of treats and they’ll tell you, “anything tamarind!” Or, for a last minute solution, pick up a party size bag of the “Piñata Surprise” for an assorted pack that will last through a night of trick-or-treaters.

Ever popular Asian specialty supermarket, Uwajimaya, has been serving the local Northwest community since 1928. From grocery to gifts, exploring the store always results in something delicious or original being added to the basket. Here, many Green Tea Kit Kat fanatics first realized that this sought after delight of crisp wafers covered in creamy white chocolate mixed with matcha was available in the U.S. Each bag holds mini size individual packs perfect for handing out. Also on shelves, the classic White Rabbit Creamy Candy should not be missed. Wrapped in an edible rice paper, the paper and candy both melt on the tongue into a milky wonder.


Sweet moments create sweet memories. And ethnic candies sometimes take us on a ride that we don’t always expect. Sweet can sometimes meet salty or sour in a way that tingles the taste buds. Whether it’s a taste of yesteryear or something new, consider bringing back an old favorite or adding an ethnic flair next time there’s a good candy sharing moment.





Store Guide:

Hawaii General Store and Gallery
258 NE 45th Street
Seattle, WA 98105
(206) 633-5233

Maruta Shoten
1024 S Bailey Street
Seattle, WA 98108
(206) 767-5002

Tienda Mi Ranchito
7636 Rainier Avenue S
Seattle, WA 98118
(206) 725-9582

600 5th Avenue S
Seattle, WA 98104
(206) 624-6248

Suggested Read: Asian food: The fastest growing food in the world