Sweet somethings from far, far away
Frequent travelers know that one of the simple pleasures of being in a new place is standing in a market entirely dumbfounded by all the totally unexpected treats.
Many of the confections that used to be foreign to Americans now have become standard fare here. Germany, for example, gave us the gummi bear, and England bestowed upon us the Cadbury Creme Egg.
This fact got us wondering what other sugar-filled goodies are here and abroad, just awaiting our discovery. Some of our favorites.
BOTAN RICE CANDY
Where it’s from: Japan
Why it’s worth trying: Each piece of candy in the box is individually wrapped -- but you’re supposed to eat the translucent “paper,” which is made of rice and dissolves in your mouth. Also inside every box: a sticker or temporary tattoo.
What it’s made of: Sugar, sweet rice, water, food coloring and lemon and orange flavorings.
Where to get it: Throughout Japan and in most Asian grocery stores for about $1 per box.
(also called Kinder Egg)
Where it’s from: It originated in Italy but is prevalent in Germany, England and elsewhere in Western Europe.
Why it’s worth trying: It’s a thin, hollow “eggshell” with milk chocolate on the outside and white chocolate on the inside. The hollow space holds a small plastic capsule, inside which is an assembly-required novelty toy such as a mini-gorilla or a Viking figurine.
What it’s made of: Cocoa solids and milk solids. The toys are usually plastic.
Where to get it: Throughout Europe, or at www.malincho.com (12 for about $16 plus shipping); buy in bulk and they come in an egg carton.
IDAHO SPUD BAR
Where it’s from: Boise, Idaho
Why it’s worth trying: This candy bar is semi-potato-shaped, though it tastes nothing like a potato, nor do its ingredients include potato. Instead, this concoction, made by the family-run Idaho Candy Co., is a tribute to the state’s famous tuber rather than a faithful representation.
What it’s made of: A marshmallow center with a soft chocolate coating, all covered in shredded coconut.
Where to get it: Throughout the Northwest or from www.idaho spud.com; $18 for a 24-bar box, plus shipping. (At the same site, you can also get the peanutty-chocolaty-marshmallowy Old Faithful bar, named after the Yellowstone geyser.)
Where it’s from: Scandinavia
Why it’s worth trying: Salted licorice is popular throughout the Scandinavian countries and is branded under different names, such as Djungelvral in Sweden. You must be an intrepid taster to try this one. It’s not for everyone. But those who are fans are exuberant.
What it’s made of: Sugar, corn syrup, starch, molasses, ammonium chloride, wheat flour, gelatin, licorice extract, artificial color, vegetable oil and beeswax.
Where to get it: Throughout Scandinavia and at www.licoriceinternational.com for about $9 a pound, plus shipping.
Where it’s from: South Africa
Why it’s worth trying: These tongue-tingling, bright-colored toffees come in flavors such as cream soda and strawberry.
What it’s made of: Toffee with sodium bicarbonate and
Where to get it: In South Africa or from www.biltong2u.co.uk for an unbelieveable $32 per piece, including shipping.
Where it’s from: Chicago
Why it’s worth trying: Handmade by a company called Whimsical Candy, owned by pastry chef Chris Kadow-Dougherty, these spiraling chewies aren’t overly sweet, come in adorable packaging and reflect Chicago’s happy-go-lucky orientation.
What it’s made of: Sea-salt caramel, nougat and fair-trade dark chocolate.
Where to get it: At many Chicago retailers and wine stores, as well as from and www.pastoralartisan.com; for $6 per three-piece box, plus shipping.
Where it’s from: New York City
Why it’s worth trying: A company called Alison Nelson’s Chocolate Bar enlisted the help of 10 old-school graffiti artists to design the “rappings” for her candy bars, giving them the look of New York City street art. Some of the profits go toward the All Stars Project, a performing-arts organization for underprivileged youth. And the chocolate’s delicious.
What it’s made of: Chocolate, in flavors such as almond, caramel, cookies-n-cream, s’mores, strawberry, toffee crunch, banana and rum.
Where to get it: At Chocolate Bar locations in N.Y. and New Jersey or at www.chocolatebarnyc.com. A 2.25-ounce bar goes for $4; for $40, you can get a limited-edition box that contains 10 bars and an authentic graffiti stencil; shipping additional.
MONTELIMAR NOUGAT BAR
(Sometimes called Nougat de Montelimar Tendre)
Where it’s from: France
Why it’s worth trying: Looks uninspiring, but one bite will make most foodies gasp with pleasure. It’s slow-cooked and double-boiled in copper caldrons by a Provencal company called Arnaud Soubeyran. The addition of lavender honey makes this taste unforgettable.
What it’s made of: Sugar, almonds, lavender honey, pistachios, egg white and natural vanilla aroma.
Where to get it: In Provence, or at www.artisansweets.com for $7.50 per bar, plus shipping.
Where it’s from: Canada
Why it’s worth trying: From Ganong’s, Canada’s oldest candy company (founded in 1873), this bar has been made the same way since 1920. It tastes like a Reese’s cup but is sweeter and harder, with bits of coconut.
What it’s made of: Chocolate, peanuts, coconut and some additional flavor enhancers.
Where to get it: In stores throughout Canada and at www.ganong.com, where you can order a box of 36 for about $33, plus shipping.
SALT WATER TAFFY
Where it’s from: Atlantic City, N.J.
Why it’s worth trying: The story goes that in the 1880s, on the Atlantic City Boardwalk, a candy merchant’s goods were soaked by a particularly high tide one night. In the morning, a young customer requested taffy; the merchant replied, “You mean saltwater taffy.” The name stuck, despite the fact that saltwater isn’t at all used in the production process.
What it’s made of: Corn syrup, sugar, confectionary coating and other ingredients.
Where to get it: Boardwalks nationwide (including the one in Atlantic City) or from www.fralingers.com, which sells nostalgic tins of the stuff for $13 and up, plus shipping.