Before western confectionery brands like Hershey’s, Cadbury’s and Haribo arrived in the city, Hongkongers in the Sixties and Seventies would head to small, family-owned grocery stores—known in Cantonese as see dor—when a hankering for treats hit. Alongside newspapers and household essentials, these shops specialised in distinctively Asian snacks not only designed to satisfy a sweet tooth but also to treat a variety of medical complaints.
While celebrating Halloween this year, why not go all out with a Hong Kong theme? You can’t go wrong with these corner-shop mainstays.
1. White Rabbit
This iconic Shanghainese confection is older than the People’s Republic of China. In 1943, a Chinese merchant travelling through Europe tried a milk-flavoured sweet and liked it enough to formulate his own version upon his return home. Those early confections were called Mickey Mouse sweets owing to the use of Disney’s cartoon character on the wrapper.
However, after the Cultural Revolution, when western iconography fell out of favour, the mascot was changed to a white rabbit. White Rabbit sweets are known for the edible rice paper around a milky chew made with sugar, cream, milk and cornflour.
The snacks’ instantly recognisable and undeniably retro red and blue design has inspired a raft of modern incarnations—from cake, bubble tea and ice cream to streetwear, accessories and beauty products. In 1972, the bunny even made it to the news when US President Nixon was given White Rabbit by China’s first premier, Zhou Enlai, during Nixon’s landmark visit to Beijing.