As the world shrinks, the selection of food we eat grows. Not long ago a shawarma was a foreign delicacy you’d only find in hidden away shops in cities with large Middle Eastern populations. Now you can find a shawarma at your local mall food court along with pho, hummus, and chicken tandoori. While our meals are evolving quickly today, our candy selection seems to be moving a little slower.
Sure you can pick up foreign candies in specialty candy shops, but some of the true foreign flavours of sweet treats have yet to really break out into the North American market (and some of our flavours haven't made it to the outside world either). Sometimes there’s a reason for that, some of these flavours are nothing like what we’re used to, but some of these flavours are just itching to make it onto our candy shelves and bulk bins.
Tamarind – This is a common flavour of candies in South Asia and the Middle East. It’s a sweet bean that on it’s own is a little strange, however as a flavour of gum or hard candy it can’t be beat. The biggest problem with tamarind is how it looks, a large ugly dried bean is not something most North Americans want to eat, particularly if it's associated with sweet instead of savoury. But get past the rough looking pod and you’re left with a unique sweet treat.
Sweet Potato – You’d have no problem covering your yams in sugar for
thanks giving, yet you would probably never want to cover your yams in
chocolate. In Eastern Asia yams are as much a sweet treat as dried
fruit or nuts. In some cases it’s covered in chocolate, sugar, or just
enjoyed for the sweetness it gives naturally. In Japan they even have
people going around neighbourhoods selling warm yams the same way ice
cream trucks do in North America, they even have a song that plays to
tell kids they’re around.
Sour Plum – Common in Japan and parts of the Far East, sour plums are just that, very sour pickled or dried out plums. They can also be a little salty as well, thus making them fairly off-putting for most North American candy fanatics. The only people that would probably enjoy sour plums are the same people that fell in love with the Harry Potter themed Bertie Botts jellybeans. This is an extreme flavour, but for many Asians it’s one they love.
Licorice – What’s this? Licorice is already a candy, there’s nothing strange about it. While licorice is an acquired taste in North America, in the Netherlands and Finland licorice is the ultimate candy treat. More importantly they’ve taken licorice and started to use it in other candy treats. How about milk chocolate bar, filled with licorice chunks. There’s also the famous Dutch “Double Zoot” salted licorice, a salty licorice flavour that you’ll either love, or loathe.
Marzipan – Most people consider marzipan to be a filling for chocolates, or occasionally found in that foreign bakery down the street. In Austria it’s an art and a celebration. There are shops dedicated to this sweet treat, and how they sculpt this treat into pieces of art is exceptional. You can get plates that look exactly like Vienna Sausages, fruit, and just about anything you’d find for dinner all made out of this almond paste. On new years it’s tradition to eat a pig made of Marzipan, for good luck.
Mastixa – Mastixa made of sap from a pine tree found on Chios island in Greece. To say that it's an acquired taste is putting it lightly. Many people would tell you that it tastes like awful cough medicine, others say that the strong flavoured sap is refreshing. You can actually just chew the sap in a slightly crystallized form, however most people prefer it as a flavouring agent. It's used to flavour ice cream, cookies, cakes and candies.
Rose – The smell of fresh roses brings memories of weddings, or Valentines Day, but in many Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cultures it brings up memories of cakes, cookies and candies. Some North American recipes might call for rose water, but it's still a bit of a novelty. However in Greek and Turkish desserts it's very regularly used. Greek Christmas cookies known as kourabiethes are sprayed with rose water when they're done, and Rose flavoured Turkish delight is one of the most common.
Peanut Butter – peanut butter?!! Everyone loves peanut butter, right? Nope, in many cultures peanut butter is just too strange. Many European countries don't have much of a taste for peanut butter at all. To them a peanut butter cup is a novelty, and too many a disgusting one at that. So remember that next time you're eating strong piece of Dutch licorice in the Netherlands, or a sugar coated sweet potato in Japan, and grimacing about how gross it is. They might feel the same way about your PB and J.