When I was in Hong Kong I went to a shop called Aji Ichiban to pick up some sweets for the office.
I really wanted to pick up some duck kidneys but UK customs forbid importing meat from outside the EU. So, I had to make do with some other weird-looking “treats”, and they turned out to be almost as off-putting.
Usually whenever an email goes out about free food, there is a stampede and very quickly nothing is left. You’d think my colleagues never got fed. This time though, a few hovered around my desk, poking the sweets curiously and only a brave few were tempted to try one, with some trepidation.
It turns out that these sweets are more bizarre and disgusting than most of the food I tried while I was in Hong Kong. “Highlights” of my particular bag of delights were:
- Liquorice Wampee – this didn't taste at all of liquorice. You know when you're visiting a stately home and there's that kind of musty, old-fashioned smell? These sweets taste like that. It's like eating Henry VIII’s duvet.
- Ginseng Candy – “like sucking on an incense stick”, said one of my colleagues. I think it was more like licking a school hall floor - kind of woody.
- Honey Plum – “sweets aren’t supposed to be salty are they?” said a co-worker, before spitting out the enormous seed into a nearby bin.
- A salty plum stone in a bland boiled sweet which looked like an eyeball – “the worst thing I’ve ever tasted” was one comment, which wasn't far off the mark. Bizarre and disgusting.
- Lemon tea – this was actually quite pleasant. It was odd to have a sweet that tasted of tea, but it did a great job of refreshing the palate after eating one of the other ones.
- Preserved strawberries – these were OK. They were just dried-out strawberries, so no unpleasant surprises there.
- Preserved spiced olive – this sounded like it would be hideous, but it was surprisingly nice - not much of an olive flavour thankfully, just an interestingly tasty mix of sweetness and spice with a hint of savoury.
- Hawthorne Cake – a sugary wafer, not too bad.
- Iced hawthorne – just like a sheet of fruit gum.
There were some great grimaces as people munched on what has to be the most unpopular office treat we’ve seen for some time. Mission accomplished!
Here are the leftovers…