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Travelling is all about discovering a country’s heritage and culture, and what better way to do so than through food?
From crispy caramelised waffles dating back to the 18th century to fluffy ice cream from the Soviet Era, bite into a slice of history with these 20 nostalgic snacks that have become icons in their own right today.
Note: Most of these snacks are available at grocery stores, mom-and-pop shops or sold by street vendors. For the ones that aren’t, we’ve highlighted a few places for you to check out.
Also known as chimney cake, Kürtőskalács is a popular Hungarian snack that resembles a doughnut – a sweet, sugar-coated dough roasted on a spit over charcoal (pictured above).
The first known recipe originated in Transylvania in the 1780s. In the 20th century, citrus juice and rum were added to the dough instead of egg to make cooking easier. But since the 21st century, Hungarians have made the recipe more flexible by using non-wheat flour for the dough.
Cuberdon is an extremely sweet Belgian candy with a soft jelly filling made from gum arabic, sugar and gelatin. Inspired by a bath of discarded medicinal syrup that turned hard on the outside but remained liquid on the inside, pharmacist De Vynck opened the first Cuberdon shop in 1973.
Due to its limited shelf life, this is one candy best savoured in Belgium itself. In Brussels, you’ll find cuberdon at literally every candy shop. Outside of the capital, Bobonne Cuberdon in Ghent is a popular shop for these sweet treats.
The craze for these crumbly cheese-flavoured crackers stems not only from its taste but also the fun way that people have been eating them. Given their unique shape, some people choose to loop the orange rings over their fingers before crunching on them one by one. Made of corn and rice, they were first introduced in 1971. Since then, they have been manufactured in other flavours such as pizza and barbecue.
The king of old-school biscuits in Singapore, these small, round biscuits are topped off with colourful, piped meringue gems. While it has grown to be synonymous with a Singaporean’s childhood, they were first made by Huntley and Palmer of Reading, Britain, in the 1850s.
The ones in Singapore today have a bright neon-coloured icing of green, pink, yellow and white, and can be found in original, chocolate and lemon flavours.
Before popcorn flooded theatres, kacang putih – 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 putih comes from Buntong, Perak, Malaysia. The demand for these snacks isn’t just from locals or tourists – they are also being shipped to countries such as Singapore and even Australia!
Wrapped in a 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 is equivalent to one cup of milk’.
A Spanish breakfast is never complete without Churros con Chocolate, a fried dough pastry-based snack. There are a few different theories regarding its 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).
A biscuit that found its way into school breaks, family tea-time gatherings and just about any snack break, Parle G began production in 1929. The biscuits were earlier packed in yellow wax paper before plastic was used for the same. As iconic as the biscuit is Parle G’s poster girl – a fan of the biscuit is a fan of hers!
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 among Koreans of all ages with its taste and affordable price.
An upgraded version of this cake, Dessert Choco Pie, was released in 2017 in 4 new flavours: original, caramel salt, cacao and red velvet. While the term ‘choco pie’ originated in the US, the namesake snack has gone on to become an indispensable part of South Korea’s tradition.
Castella is Taiwan’s favoured sponge cake and is made of eggs, flour, sugar and starch syrup. It’s also meatless, making it a preferred choice of snack for vegetarians. Introduced to Taiwan during the Japanese occupation in 1917, Honey Castella and Rock-baked Castella are the two variations that have gained popularity in the country.
Castella cake is commonly found at night markets in Taiwan. One popular place to try this is Banshin Castella Cake in Taichung City.
Comprising two thin layers of baked dough hiding a caramel syrup filling, stroopwafels were first made in the city of Gouda in the late 18th century. From their humble origins to being served as a breakfast snack on domestic flights, they’ve indeed come a long way!
If you’re in Amsterdam, Original Stroopwafels is a place you shouldn’t miss.
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.
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 – you can customise the amount of coconut, black sesame seeds or even candy to be added!
Keeping true to their tradition, they are still sold on the streets by bicycle vendors today. Just look out for the ones that have white boxes with ‘bo bia’ marked in red.
Introduced to Japan by the Chinese during the Tang Dynasty, they are presently made of toasted rice and are available in hundreds of flavours, shapes and colours.
Plombir is a variation of the Soviet Era ice cream that has remained one of the biggest attractions for children and adults alike. Originating from France, the Russians adopted it and used sweet condensed milk instead of plain white sugar. Given its heavy cream and yolk content, it stays fluffy and soft even just after taking it out from the freezer.
If you’re looking to satisfy your sweet tooth while in Moscow, devour some plombir at the ice cream stands around the fashionable Gorky Park.
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.
Commonly paired with a morning cappuccino for breakfast or an espresso macchiato as an afternoon snack, Mulino Bianco Galletti cookies have been a delicious Italian staple for many years.
Founded in Emilia-Romagna in 1974 at the Mulino Bianco mill, these treats are available in various forms and flavours ranging from the milk-and-honey Rigoli to the star-studded Pan di Stelle.
Be it at a birthday party or a school picnic, you’re likely to find vanilla-flavoured biscuits topped with white, animal-shaped icing ranging from lions to zebras and dolphins. Invented by JML Baumann who started making biscuits in South Africa in 1885, the ‘animals’ sit on another layer of coloured icing, which usually come in blue, pink, orange or green. So popular are they that they have even inspired jewellery and rubber stamps!
Locals will tell you that the best way to enjoy them is to lick off the icing animal, eat the biscuit around the edge, off the back and then finish off with the rest of the icing.
Available in over 30 different varieties ranging from yogurt flavoured filling to dark chocolate, Ritter Sport is arguably one of Germany’s most famous chocolate snack. First appearing on shelves in 1912, the company launched organic variations in 2008.
Every now and then, special edition flavours are released, like Marc de Champagne, containing a truffle-like centre with a champagne flavour, and Yogurt ai Frutti di Bosco, known for its punchy sour berry centre.
Hailing from the land of fish and chips is this addictive snack. Made of potatoes with a dash of sunflower oil, McCain Micro Chips has been a staple in UK households since 1986. Two years ago, they were rebranded as McCain Quick Chips.
Offered frozen, all it takes is a press of a button on the microwave and they’re ready to eat!
Reminiscing about more tasty treats from your childhood? If we missed out on your favourite snack, let us know in a comment below!