We tried all the mysterious East Asian snacks in LIDA
Is butter a carb?
Ever looked at the fascinating exports in LIDA, but were too uncertain and unfamiliar with Mandarin to try them out?
Looking through the snack section of this quaint nostalgic refuge for international students can be very daunting. When trying to pick something new and interesting out for a treat, you’re faced with countless queries, like what’s it made of? What are the flavour selections? Is it too spicy? Is butter a carb?
We decided to put them to the test.
Mi Ge Ma: Jia Xin Mi Guo Juan – Chinese
Described in English as “Corn Stick”, these are perfect little additions to a lunch box. They’re crumbly corn starch that resembles corn cereal, with a flavoured paste inside. These were roast beef flavour, and seemed a perfect unexpected mix of sweet and savoury.
Dan: “The character looks like the Cheesestring guy on MD. From the packet I feel like I should be opening a fruit lolly, not a beef stick. They’re so good though – I feel like they should be dipped in fondu, that would be a dream come true. Definite 9/10.”
Yas: “On the packet they look too much like Twinkies which put me off initially, but I was pleasantly proven wrong. They are quite addictive as snacks – it’s good they’ve got them separately packaged because I can see myself eating a lot in one go.”
Hao Duo Yu – Chinese
These are hollow barbeque flavoured fish-shaped biscuits. They reminded us a lot of the fish-shaped crackers you can get here, but they were hollow and had a more intense flavouring.
Dan: “This is my favourite packet ever. Look how happy the crab is, and that starfish wants to fuck some shit up. I imagine the story on the packaging is the best to have ever been told, if I understood it. If they had a more biscuity texture they’d be a 9 or a 10, but I have to give them an 8/10.”
Yas: “The packaging just gets me – I don’t understand why UK marketing can’t get cute animals right. They had a very nice flavour, although not particularly special. There’s quite a lot of them and it doesn’t look like I can easily reseal them. I’d give them a 7/10.”
Xiao Man Tou – Chinese
Despite their strange English label of “Hot-Kid Potato Cookie”, these were a dream. They’re little light biscuity balls with a perfectly balanced sweet fruity flavour. Their flavour and texture is like if an Ice Gem’s icing and biscuit merged into one entity.
Dan: “They’re actual sugar balls. The texture is biscuity but it falls into sugar in your mouth. These are amazing – I’ll give them a 7/10.”
Yasmin: “Again I want to complain that you can’t reseal these… There’s so many that it’s hard to eat them in one sitting, and I don’t want them to go soft. They’re very pleasantly sweet though, and I love the cute little boy character. It’s an 8/10 from me.”
Jiou Long Zhai Plum Juice – Chinese
This drink, suan mei tang, is made from smoked plums and sweetened with sugar. The taste is a strange combination of sweet, sour, smoky and salty – and is often drank chilled as a refreshment from heat.
Dan: “If you stuck a plum on a barbecue, that’s what it would taste like. I imagine there’s a market for it, but it’s not for me – 2/10.”
Yas: “It gives me a weird flash of nostalgia about food in Azerbaijan. It seems like another case of fancy delicacies that actually taste kind of unpleasant. It’s an acquired taste, which I haven’t acquired at all, but I’m sure people can grow to love it. It definitely seems like something you have to get used to or grow up with. 3/10.”
Morning Rice – Korean
This is a sweet drink with a starchy flavour. It reminded us of the starchy water you get when you boil rice, but a sweetened version.
Dan: “In a strange kind of way, I quite liked it actually. I never thought I’d drink rice before. I couldn’t drink the whole thing though, it’s quite strange. 6/10.”
Yas: “I really like this, it actually tastes quite refreshing and almost desserty. I wish it was distributed more in the UK cause I’d buy more of this stuff. 8/10”
Mochi – Japanese
Mochi are little Japanese dessert sweets made from glutinous rice. They have a very soft, doughy and almost gelatinous texture with a paste of flavoured filling on the inside. This packet had peanut, sesame and red bean flavours.
Dan: “It feels like if you left Haribo out in the heat for too long. They almost resemble a macaroon to look at. I wouldn’t choose to get these, but I certainly wouldn’t turn them away. I like the flavouring, particularly the red bean one, but I’m not a fan of the texture – I’d give them a 6/10.”
Yas: “I like how the flavours aren’t too overpowering or too sweet, and the taste of the rice comes through properly. I love how cute they look, but their really glutinous texture probably isn’t for everyone (including me). I’ll also give them a 6/10.”
Hei Dou Jiang – Taiwanese
This is soy milk made out of black soybeans. It has the same consistency as skimmed milk, but with the unique taste of soy – which is quite frankly hard to describe, but the closest we could get is milk thats absorbed the flavour of various cereal grains after being left in it for a while.
Dan: “I almost imagine that this is what a dirty puddle would taste like, It’s just about bearable but I can’t really find any positives about it – it’s a solid 2.5/10”
Yas: “Although they added sweetener to this drink, I feel it could do with more. You have to drink it immediately after its opened, but I don’t think I could go through the whole thing in one go. Like the plum juice, it’s probably a taste you have to get used to. 5/10.”
Tie Shan Zha – Chinese
You might instantly be thinking that these are Chinese fruit roll-ups. Well, you’re not wrong. These are basically dried fruit (in this case apples) that have been flattened out and rolled up into a healthy sweet that’s essentially a fusion of windups and school bars.
Dan: “They feel quite leathery and the taste is quite overwhelming at first, however I really do like them – probably great that they’re made of apples, just for when I eat a whole packet – I’ll give them a 7/10.”
Yas: “When I saw these I got incredibly excited because my grandma home-made this sort of thing all the time… It’s not as good as hers, but it’s definitely a good substitute. They’re not too sweet, but because they’re made from dried fruit they might not be for everyone. I’m also giving a 7/10.”
Yan Ban Shao: He Ban Jian Bing – Chinese
These are little sweet sesame flavoured crackers, and they come in covenient tiny little snack bags that’s perfect for controlling your intake. They also have 10/100g protein powder in them, so they’re clearly perfect for gainz.
Dan: “The actual biscuit tastes a lot like fortune cookies, and even the texture is similar – although a bit harder to bite into. The sesame flavour really makes them attractive, but after a while they would be too sweet. 6/10.”
Yas: “I think these are great – I really like their sweet and sesame-seedy taste. They’re a bit tougher than most crackers but they’re still very enjoyable to munch on. 8/10.”
Ri Shi Niu Nai Tang – Chinese
Described in English as “Rich Flavour Chewy Caramel”, these are little vanilla flavoured toffees.
Dan: “I reckon they could give these with the bill at Chinese restaurants. They smell and taste a bit like Worther’s Originals, but cheaper – almost like something your Gran might give you when you visit next . The taste reminds me of butterscotch, and carnation milk. 8/10.”
Yas: “I love these. Love the chewy texture and I am obsessed with the vanilla milk-bottle flavour. 8/10.”
Vamino – Thai
This is also a soybean drink but made with white soybeans. This one was significantly sweeter than the other, but still obviously had the same overarching taste and consistency.
Dan: ” Infinitely better than the black soy drink – probably down to the sweeteners. It’s still not something I would opt for, but definitely worth a try. 5/10
Yas: “I definitely enjoyed this a lot more than the black soybean one, though I’m not sure if its because of the different type of bean or different combinations of sweeteners. It still has that odd starchyish flavour, but I like it. 8/10.”
Xiao Xiao Su – Taiwanese
These are like mini slightly spicy rice crackers. It’s a bigger packet than your average crisps bag, but they’re addictive enough to get through the whole thing fairly quickly.
Dan: “These are really tasty. In fact, I loved them before I even tried them – I love seaweed. The only downside is the amount of fat in them, but even the ones from Holland and Barrett are the same. 9/10.”
Yas: “I probably wouldn’t pick these out against a packet of doritos, but they’re definitely great and if I had a packet I’d inhale them fairly quickly. 7/10.”
QQ Tang – Chinese
These are tiny little gelatine sweets with a slightly softer texture than Haribo, and we got lychee flavour.
Dan: “They smell quite strongly soap and look like giant ear buds, but they taste very good. The flavouring in the ingedients is apple juice though, why the fuck u lyin? 7/10.”
Yas: “These are really nicely soft and I like the unique flavour choice. I’m not a huge fan of lychees normally, but these were alright. 6/10.”