Nostalgic snacks that still tantalise the Korean palate

Nostalgic snacks that still tantalise the Korean palate
PHOTO: The Straits Times

Remember the honey butter chip craze? Potato chips flavored with honey and butter were inarguably the greatest hit in South Korea's confectionary market in 2015. People had lined up in supermarkets in the hope of buying just one pack and some even paid double or triple online just to have the latest snack product delivered home.

The honey butter chips phase, however, soon cooled off, as it made way for newcomers that tasted even more interesting and unconventional.

Despite these fads, there have always been snacks that Koreans return to. Snacks that have been around more than 30 years and are still dominating the market with their solid consumer base. Their taste and even their packaging design remains little changed to keep tradition going.

"They were my snacks from childhood," said Cho Young, a 39-year-old office worker in Seoul referring to her all-time favourite snack Saewookkang.

"And they taste as good as they were more than 30 years ago. I feel comfort while enjoying them. They are my soul food."

Here is a list of snacks that Koreans have craved for decades and are likely to continue to be their favorites in the future:

 

SaewookkangPhoto: Saewookkang

Saewookkang

Launched by Nongshim in 1971

Saewookkang has been one of the best-selling snacks in South Korea since it was launched. Saewoo is the Korean word for shrimp and every 90 grams of the product includes four raw shrimps. It is steamed and fried to offer a crunchy taste.

Salty and crisp, Saewookkang is considered one of the best snacks that match with beer or beverages that are sweet and carbonated. So far, more than 7.7 billion packs have been sold as of last year, according to reports.

 

Choco Pie

Launched by Orion in 1974

Orion's Choco Pie is a vanilla cream sandwich made with marshmallow and coated with chocolate. It is loved not only in Korea but also abroad.

Inspired by American moon pies, Choco Pie is exported to 60 countries including China and Russia. The product is marketed under the theme "sharing love," and it is often given as a token of affection and inspiration. It has even appeared as a motif of reconciliation in movies, such as "Joint Security Area" (2000), which depicted confrontation and friendship between the North and South Korean militaries.

 

Matdongsan

Launched by Haitai in 1975

Matdongsan consists of crunchy glazed wheat sticks covered with peanut sprinkles. In 2015, Haitai said it had sold a total of 2.8 billion packs since 1975, meaning that every Korean may have eaten 55 packs. Dubbed a rival to Nongshim's Saewookkang, Matdongsan is in an exclusive category -- it is sweet and crunchy at the same time.

Believe it or not, Haitai says its secret recipe is playing Korean traditional music while fermenting its stick dough for 20 hours. The process makes the stick crunchy outside and soft inside, according to local news reports that quoted Haitai officials.

 

Ojingeo Ttangkong

Launched by Orion in 1976

Ojingeo Ttangkong is a round snack that combines crispy peanuts and squid. Ojingeo and ttangkong refer to squid and peanuts, respectively. Also picked as a good snack to have with beer, Ojingeo Ttangkong has gained even more popularity in recent years, along with the growing number of Koreans who enjoy a drink alone at home. The recipe is a bit more complicated than it looks, as it is made by first applying 27 layers of batter to peanuts and then baking the mixture. The batter is also mixed in a strict order, with the squid being put at the very last minute to maximise the combination of flavors and crunchiness of the snack.

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