Here’s a list of top 10 snacks for you. Everything on this list tastes good, has plenty of nutritional value, is easy to prepare, cheap AND has a local twist. Keep this list handy, so next time you feel like reaching for something bad, you have help at hand!
1. Fresh fruits – watermelon, mango, peach, cherry, grape.. you name it. Eat fresh fruits when they are in season to get the maximum taste and nutritional value. Be brave and try some of the local offerings. Better still, get a juicer or mixer and start making creative mixed juices and smoothies.
2. Fresh veggies – such as sliced cucumber, carrot, celery sticks, cherry tomatoes. Again, eat fresh veggies in season. The veggies can be eaten alone or with different sauces and dips (see below).
3. Sesame sauce/paste – not to be confused with sesame oil. It’s also known as tahini sauce and probably as popular as hummus is in the west. The locals like to use it for dipping and salad dressing. Combined with soy sauce, vinegar, sugar and plenty of garlic, it’s simply delicious. Just refrain from kissing afterwards.
4. Yoghurt – most of the local varieties are sweetened and may not be as healthy as they should be. You can, however, get unsweetened yoghurt in Jenny Lou’s and April Gourmet stores. On the plus side, there are plenty of flavours to choose from the local varieties. For example, jujube-flavored yoghurt is very popular, as jujube is believed to ‘enrich the blood’ because of its red color.
5. Nuts and Seeds – go for the unsalted kind, just throw them in a ziplock bag and they’re ready to eat. Better still, mix them with dried fruits and throw in some rice crackers, too (see below).
6. Dried Fruits – apricot, mango, raisin, date, apple, banana.. again, you name it. Choose the unsweetened varieties, as fruit is sweet enough on its own. Many of you probably haven’t tried dried persimmon but it’s very nice. By the way, dried sweet potatoes are very popular in China so why not try it next time.
7. Rice crackers and crisps – they come in all shapes and flavors. In addition to rice, here in China you can also get crisps (guoba) made from millet, soy or potato. They are usually savory in taste and come in flavors of spicy, cumin, five spices, seaweed, and so on.
8. Homemade snack bars – this is an extension of the dried fruits/nuts concept – basically mix dried fruit and nuts in a mixer, then combine the mixture with something that would hold everything together e.g. honey. For a local twist, get your hands on some rice paper to wrap the snack bars for easy – and less messy – consumption.
9. Homemade cookies – not all of these fall under the nutritious category, but hey, if you took the time to bake them from scratch with your children… As for a local twist, well, how about eating them with a nice cup of green tea? Green tea is full of antioxidants and will make your guilty pleasure a little less guilty.
10. Dark chocolate – this choice needs little explanation. Apart from the many scientifically proven benefits, dark chocolate also tastes damn good. Try combining it with a local red wine for maximum pleasure and, yes, health.