… Well, I grew up with my mum saying, ‘no, no snacking now, you are going to have your main meal later’ – of course, she said in Chinese with mum’s ‘strict’ tone. But today, I am talking about those snacks I grew up with, with all the ‘growing up’ memories.
Now, whenever I go back home and go shopping to the supermarket with my mum, she would keep on picking up all my favorite snacks and putting them in the shopping trolley (-yes, a whole trolley of snacks, not a basket – this is the mum who tried to be strict with me on not having snacks, but now, she wants to buy the whole world for me – she misses me all these years.) After bringing all the snacks home, she would say, ‘I used to disapprove your snack habit, but where you still got this habit from…’ – This is my lovely mom.
Snacks in China
Before all these varieties of snacks could be found on the shelves of the supermarket, Chinese snacks were not really considered as ‘junk food’. They were mainly made from fruit – all sorts of dried fruit, or dried meat or fish; biscuits or cakes – very little sugar, cream or butter.
Fruit-based Chinese snacks
Fruit-based snacks have always played a big part in my snack habit, and it was my main intake of sugar (now I take lots of other sweet things :) ). It was not only dried fruits, but also in different forms. For example, my ‘cannot live without’ :) snacks are made from ‘Haw’, I have mentioned many times. :)
If you have these haw-made snacks before meals, it helps opening up your appetite, or you have it after meals, it helps digestion, or just as snacks, it satisfies my stomach, and doesn’t give me worries of putting on much weight.
Dried meat and fish
Having meat and fish as snack may sound very strange, especially nowadays they are packed like ‘sweets’ in small portions, and we normally buy them as ‘gifts from China’, but my friends would unwrap one, put it in the mouth, expecting sweet taste, it comes out – very unexpected – they are savory meat, and very ‘chewable’. Dried meat normally is dried beef or pork meat, with different spices, it is very similar to beef jerky.
Dried fish is another one of my favorite snacks. In the past, dried fish was only sold in seaside cities, in which they were made directly from fresh fish. So my mum used to buy packs and packs of dried fish snacks, and stored them in the ‘snack’ part of the cupboard.
I used to go there take two or three packs as one go. Eventually, one day, I felt that I could smell too much of fish, and that stopped me for years, then now, not only me embarking on dried fish, my (Spanish) husband too. Nowadays it comes with different flavor, some of the original tastes are very similar to Spanish dried cod, but of course, Spanish dried cod is way more salty, and used for cooking.
Chinese biscuits and cakes
As for biscuit and cakes, well, probably I should say ‘flour’ based snacks – there are too many, and they are too different to western snacks, actually, flour-based snacks in Northern China are different to southern China. In general, traditional Chinese flour based snacks do not contain many diary products, and they are not very sweet.
A friend, who really loves sweet things, once told me, ‘sorry, don’t take this as an offense, but I don’t like Chinese cakes, they are just not sweet enough for me.’ – Ha… No, no offense, it is exactly why I like Chinese cakes, they are more ‘spongy’ and quite plain, many of them are quite similar to Spanish bizcocho, but this kind of snacks in Northeast China are called ‘Dim sim’, as you can see, it is completely different concept to Cantonese ‘Dim sim’.
In Mandarin, it is pronounced as ‘Dian Xin’. — Well, it seems I just touched a big area, I have to stop now, and continue another time with all the details, and hope I will have learned enough to talk about how to make them. :)