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Growing up in Asia means having a world of flavors within reach. In a continent of almost 50 countries, you can expect an assortment of cuisines, each with distinct characters. This variety extends to Asian snacks, munchies that offer a unique taste and even trigger nostalgia.
This sheer diversity also makes supermarket trips (or online shopping) overwhelming. There are so many options, how do you know which ones to pick? Hopefully, this list of classic, sweet, savoury, kid-friendly, and unique snacks from Asia will help you trim down your choices.
That being said, this list is not definitive. Asia is the largest continent in the world, and there’s not enough space to mention all of the best Asian snacks. I just hope to inspire your shopping lists but this is in no way exhaustive.
Without further ado, let’s go and dig into this yummy list!
Best-selling and classic Asian snacks
No list of Asian snacks is complete without Glico Pocky Biscuit Sticks, one of the oldest and most popular Japanese snacks. Originally available in chocolate, these thin biscuits now come in various flavors: almond, strawberry, coconut, milk, honey, matcha, banana, and a lot more.
First sold in 1966, these addicting biscuits are a hit not just in Japan but also in other Asian countries. Increased importing and expansion of Asian supermarkets in Europe, the US, and other parts of the world made Pocky even more widespread.
Shrimp crackers are so popular across Asia, so much so that several countries have their versions. Famous brands of the puffed stripped variant include Japan’s Calbee Kappa Ebisen, Korea’s Nongshim, Malaysia’s Double Decker, and the Philippine’s Oishi Prawn Crackers.
Shrimp crackers also come in round and rectangular shapes like Malaysia’s keropok, Indonesia’s krupuk udang, the Philippine’s kropek, and Vietnam’s banh phong tom. All of these typically use shrimp and tapioca flour.
Although this is a list of Asian snacks, this hugely popular Japanese drink deserves a spot. It is, after all, the most popular probiotic drink in Asia. Each small bottle of Yakult is full of gut-friendly lactobacilli. So it’s not just yummy, it’s also healthy.
While Yakult is an institution in Japan, it also has huge markets in other Asian countries. Koreans often drink it to cap off a meal. In Singapore, it comes in different flavours like grape, orange, and apple. And different countries have different bottle sizes.
Dumpling is a general term for bite-sized treats typically filled with meat, veggies, or a combination of both, wrapped in a thin layer of dough. And it’s prominent not just in Asian cuisine but in other parts of the world, too.
Available in so many countries and types, dumplings are one of the most familiar Asian snacks, Some of the well-known variations include China’s guotie, Kathmandu and Nepal’s momo dumplings, Japan’s gyoza, and Korea’s mandu.
Originating from China, White Rabbit candies are sweet, creamy taffies that are known for their second layer of edible rice paper wrapping. It’s been around since the 1930s and is so popular that it was even given by Premier Zhou Enlai to U.S. President Richard Nixon during their 1972 meeting. It is now available in over 50 countries.
6. Haw Flakes
Chinese haw flakes are one of those nostalgia-inducing Asian snacks that have made their way to Europe and the Americas. Made from hawthorn fruits, these dry fruit discs are slightly sweet, mildly sour, and healthy. It is also great as an ingredient for fruit salads, cakes, and ice cream.
It’s almost impossible to visit any Asian country and not bring home a box of pastries. Asia loves its pastries and you won’t run out of options. One of the most ubiquitous is the Chinese mooncake which usually uses red bean or lotus seed paste as filling.
Although mooncakes are available across Asia, other countries have also produced similar pastries: the Taiwanese sun cake and pineapple cake, Vietnam’s banh pia, Indonesia’s bakpia, the Philippines’ hopia, and Hong Kong’s wife cake.
One of the best and yummiest Asian snacks that have stood the test of time, baklava is a sweet pastry made of thin phyllo dough sheets, intertwined with chopped nuts, and poured over with sugar syrup or honey. It’s sweet, flaky, and luscious.
While the origins of pre-Ottoman baklava are unknown, modern baklava is said to be invented in Istanbul. Aside from Turkey, this pastry dessert is also popular in Western and Central Asia, as well as in the Balkans.
Sweet Asian snacks
9. Kopiko candy
Coffee candies are not new and neither are they endemic to Asia. But they sure are popular in these parts of the world. Indonesia’s Kopiko is one of the most popular coffee candy brands, and one of the most loved Asian snacks, too. It comes in two flavors: original, which is deep, dark, and robust; and cappuccino, which is creamier.
Korea’s answer to Pocky (although Lotte denies copying the Japanese snack), Pepero is a chocolate-dipped cookie stick that’s been around since 1983. Aside from the original plain milk chocolate flavor, it now comes in white chocolate, peanut butter, green tea, vanilla, strawberry, tiramisu cheese, and other flavors.
11. Sweet Corn
While most chips are on the savory, salty side, the Philippines’ Golden Sweet Corn are, well, sweet. These crunchy, bright yellow balls are coated in sweet corn powder flavoring. They’re quite addicting, too. Korea’s Kkokkalcorn and Turtle Chips use similar sweet corn flavoring but come in the form of chips and not round puffs.
One of the most iconic Asian snacks in the sweets department, Hi-Chew is a soft, taffy-like chewy candy that comes in different fruit flavors. You can think of it as an edible kind of chewing gum. First introduced in Japan in 1975, it is also common in other Asian countries like Taiwan, Thailand, and Singapore.
13. Sesame Balls
Sesame balls, or jian dui in Chinese, is one of the many Asian snacks that are not just delicious but also incredibly filling. This pastry is basically glutinous rice flour with fillings of red bean paste, mung bean paste, lotus paste, or shredded coconuts. The round balls are covered with sesame seeds.
Similar variations include Vietnam’s banh ran, the Philippines’ buchi, Cambodia’s num kroch, Japan’s goma dango, Korea’s gyeongdan, India and Sri Lanka’s ellu urundai, and Malaysia’s kuih bom.
14. Dried Fruits
Drying fruits is an old process that dates back to ancient Mesopotamia. Dried fruits are not just sweet and nutritious, they also have a long shelf life. You’ll have no trouble finding dried fruits in Asia. Plums, raisins, mangoes, jackfruit, durian, pineapple, berries – name it, Asia’s got it dried.
15. Tokyo Banana
Launched in 1991, Tokyo Banana are banana-shaped sponge cakes filled with delicious custard cream. These scrumptious treats are internationally famous but exclusively available in Tokyo. Or so we thought.
In late 2014, local versions were launched in Thailand (Siam Banana and CP Banana), spurring not just sales but also an online drama.
Hailed as the “king of fruits”, durian is known for its thorn-covered rind (similar to jackfruit’s) and its strong odor that some find repulsive. This tropical fruit-bearing custard-like, sweet flesh is native to Southeast Asia and grows in Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, and the Philippines.
Durian is present in so many Southeast Asian dishes, including snacks like ice creams, pastries, candies, and chips.
Savoury Asian snacks
17. Rice Crackers
Many Asian countries are rice-growers, so it’s not a surprise that several Asian snacks use rice as an ingredient. Rice crackers are one of these. Often savory, but sometimes sweet, these crispy treats use glutinous rice and wheat flour.
One of the oldest processed foods in the world, the origin of flatbreads is not certain. But traces of its production have been found in ancient sites in Mesopotamia, Egypt, and Indus Valley.
You can easily find flatbreads anywhere in the world, and they come in varying shapes, sizes, and types. In Asia alone, there are over a hundred kinds of flatbreads. The most popular types include chapati, lavash, pita, shaobing, paratha, roti, and naan. These types of bread are great for breakfast but also excellent as snacks.
19. Instant noodles
Asia is the biggest exporter and consumer of instant noodles. Not surprisingly, there are also a variety of noodle types here: soba, udon, chow mien, rice noodles, and more. And the flavors vary, too.
While Korea has kimchi and other spicy noodles, Thailand has tom yam flavored and even basil stir-fried noodles. Japan has tonkatsu flavored noodles, Indonesia has mi goreng, and India has masala noodles.
20. Cracker Nuts
Some Asian snacks have roots in the Americas. Cracker nuts, also known as Japanese peanuts, are one such snack. These crunchy peanuts coated in wheat flour dough are said to have come from 1940s Mexico where a Japanese immigrant invented the snack.
Japanese cracker nuts come in different colors. In the Philippines, Nagaraya is a popular brand of cracker nuts and is one of the oldest snacks in the country. It comes in flavors like butter, adobo, barbecue, garlic, and spicy.
21. Egg rolls
Not to be confused with the deep-fried appetizers served in American-Chinese restaurants, egg rolls are sweet, buttery thin wafer cookies rolled into a hollow cylinder. These crumbly rolls come with different fillings like peanut butter, pork floss, and chocolate.
Popular in China and elsewhere in Asia and around the world (especially where there are Chinatowns), the Chinese often share egg rolls around during the Lunar New Year.
Popular in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Sri Lanka, papadum is a thin and crispy seasoned flatbread typically made from black gram bean flour, fried, toasted, or microwaved until crunchy. Some makers also use flour from lentils, chickpeas, or rice.
These versatile thin rounds are great as a side dish or as an appetizer, but it is also good as a standalone snack. It’s best paired with chutney or pickles.
23. Noodle Snacks
As if all our instant noodles are not enough, crispy, no-cook noodle snacks also cropped up in supermarkets. These Asian snacks essentially consist of dry noodles and powder seasoning.
Pour the seasoning, crush the noodles, shake the bag, and eat it straight out of the bag. I can’t say it’s nutritious but it’s delicious and much more fun to nibble on than run-off-the-mill potato chips.
Just like instant noodles, noodle snacks also hail from different countries and you’ve got plenty of brand choices. Popular ones include Taiwan’s Science Noodles and Little Prince Noodles, Korea’s Ppushu Ppushu, Malaysia’s Mamee Monster, Japan’s Oyatsu Baby Star, and Indonesia’s Enaak.
24. Chive Rice Cakes
Chive rice cakes, or nom ka chai, are well-known street foods in Cambodia that is inspired by a Chinese dish. Typical recipes involve glutinous rice flour, tapioca flour, and chives but you can also add other ingredients like garlic.
These flavorsome chive cakes often come with a sweet and spicy fish sauce. A similar dish known as kanom gui chai tod is popular in Thailand.
Asian snacks for kids
25. Yan Yan
Launched in Japan in 1979, Yan Yan is a childhood favorite not just in Japan but elsewhere in the world.
One of the famous Asian snacks made by Meiji, Yan Yan comes in a packaging with two compartments. One compartment contains crunchy biscuits with pictures of various animals on them and quotes relating to that animal. The other has chocolate, strawberry, vanilla, or yogurt-flavored frosting for dipping.
26. Fruit Jellies
This one doesn’t need much explanation. Sweet and colorful fruit jellies are commonplace in Asia. They sometimes come in small peel-off cups, pouches, or straws.
These chewy treats are available in different flavors: grape, green apple, lychee, pineapple, plum, strawberry, and more. They’re probably not as healthy as some would like to believe but their popularity among kids has not changed over the years.
27. Wafer Sticks
A favourite of Filipino kids (and kids-at-heart), wafer sticks are two to three layers of flaky wafers that resemble a big straw, with a chocolate filling inside. Newer variations include fillings of ube, strawberry, vanilla, and coconut. In the Philippines, Stik-O is very popular but there are plenty of other brands. Indonesia’s Cho Cho is also worth trying.
Hailing from Indonesia, Choki Choki chocolate sticks are creamy milk chocolate inside small stick-like packets. You simply squeeze the chocolate paste out to enjoy it. A similar product called Choko Choko is available in the Philippines.
If you want a trip down memory lane, one of the best Asian snacks you can buy online are the colourful iced gem biscuits. Although not originally from Asia (it was first created in Britain), these sweet biscuits are a hit in Asian countries like Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines, and China.
Ingredients include flour, unsalted butter, eggs, sugar, syrup, and salt. A dollop of hardened icing is made using meringue powder and icing sugar.
Milk tablet candies are exactly what their name suggests – candies made from milk. Loved by kids and adults alike, these Asian snacks are sweet, creamy, and calcium-rich because of their milk component.
These tablets taste a bit similar to White Rabbit candies but melt so much faster. Thailand has several brands of these candies and the Philippines has the iconic HawHaw brand.
Ovaltine Malt Candies, also known as Ovaltinees, are like milk tablet candies, except they’re made of malt chocolate instead of milk. Sweet and highly addicting, these compact tablets of hardened Ovaltine powder are popular in Southeast Asia, particularly in the Philippines and Thailand.
32. Hello Panda
Released the same year as Yan Yan’s, Meiji’s Hello Panda are bite-sized shortbread pillows filled with creamy chocolate. Its hexagonal packaging is easily identifiable and features cartoon pandas doing various sports activities like fencing and archery.
These Japanese treats are also available in flavors like vanilla, strawberry, double chocolate, coconut, and matcha. Its popularity extends to other parts of Asia and the world.
Asian snacks with unique flavours
33. Matcha KitKat
Nestle’s KitKat is known the world over. But while the original chocolate-covered wafers are delicious and a hit across Asia, the Japanese have gone out of their way to put a unique twist on these classic snacks.
Matcha KitKat is a Japanese exclusive and one of the most popular Asian snacks in recent years. As if that’s not a feat in itself, they’ve even come up with 14 variants (as of writing) of Matcha KitKat, including the Otona no Amasa variant, Deep Matcha, and Uji Matcha.
Korea’s Honey Butter Chips may not seem like much but it was a sensational hit back in 2014 to 2015. One of the bestselling Asian snacks in recent history, these crispy, thin potato chips are sweet, salty, and tangy. The honey butter trend even spurred other honey butter-flavored snacks like almonds, fries, and Pringles.
35. Dried Seaweed
Dried or roasted seaweed sheets are not just ingredients in Asian cuisines. They’re also awesome as snacks! Commonly found in Japan, Korea, and China, dried seaweed sheets are crispy, slightly salted (but can also come in other flavours), savoury, and rich in nutrients.
36. Dried Squid
To the squeamish, dried squid may sound nasty. But really, it’s just like beef jerky. This chewy, salty (and sometimes spicy) snack is a favorite among many Asian countries. it’s healthy, packed with protein, and a great companion to a cold can of beer.
37. Salted Egg Chips
A salted egg craze soon spread not just in Singapore but in other Southeast Asian countries. And the boom isn’t really surprising, considering how toothsome these crunchy chips are.
38. Crispy Insects
We’ve mostly played it safe with these Asian snacks. But now it’s time to be adventurous. Edible insects, anyone?
Hugely famous in Thailand, ma laeng tod are deep-fried and crispy edible bugs that are low in calories and high in protein. They’re also surprisingly tasty. Rot duan (bamboo worms), nhon mai (silkworms), maeng da (giant water bugs), maeng pawng (scorpions), and tak ka tan (grasshopper) are common options.
39. Century Eggs
How about a centuries-old snack? I’m only half-kidding; century eggs don’t actually take hundreds of years to preserve but these savoury Chinese delights date back more than 500 years to the Ming Dynasty.
Century eggs are duck, chicken, or quail eggs preserved in a mixture of quicklime, clay, ash, salt, and rice hulls for several weeks to several months. The process results in opaque brown-black with a deliciously salty flavour and a mildly funky smell.
To cap off this list of Asian snacks, here’s a snack that was made in the U.S. but was given multiple Asian twists. Lay’s is a famous brand of potato chips, often with savory flavors like cheese, sour cream, onion, and barbecue. In Asia, bold and interesting flavors include India’s magic masala, Thailand’s green curry, Japan’s nori seaweed, and China’s cucumber.
What are your favourites from this list of yummy Asian snacks? Leave a comment below!