There was once a time when Cheetos and Doritos were enough to sustain our most peckish Netflix binges. Now that we're a little older and wiser, we know that there’s endless snackage to be had when one finds the moral courage to abandon radioactive cheese product.
Adventurous eats await ardent snackers who have the stamina to peruse the long, vast and highly assorted snack aisles of DFW's Asian grocery stores. There will be colors. There will be hokey mascots. There will be things that initially puzzle you — like squid-flavored seaweed — but there will also be things that make perfect sense, like honey butter potato chips. It's all worth a taste or two.
But before you hop over to Chinatown, it's important to remember we created this list through the lens of an American consumer. We hesitate to call any of these snacks “weird,” “crazy” or even “wacky” because these chips, crackers and candies are well within the norm for many other people. So enjoy yourself — there are choices galore at H Mart, 99 Ranch and Daiso Japan, which we visited to curate this list, and you'll likely walk away with something fun.
Calbee Cuttlefish Baked Corn Snack (99 Ranch)
Cuttlefish are a lot like squid, and whatever differences the two have boil down to their order in the animal kingdom. Cuttlefish are in the order Sepiida; squid are part of the order Teuthida. But for the purposes of consumption, their flavors are effectively identical when concentrated and processed into snack powder. These cuttlefish corn puffs start off a little sweet on the tongue, like a teriyaki sauce, and you’ll find that the essence of deep-sea mollusk is a slow burn. It settles with a slightly bitter aftertaste, but not so much so that we’d pass on it. Definitely worth a few bites.
Calbee Honey Butter Potato Chip (99 Ranch)
We expect the honey butter chips to be the fan favorite because the flavor combination makes total sense to the American palate, and frankly, it's surprising these haven't showed up on every American shack shelf by now. Have you ever had a Whataburger honey butter chicken biscuit? You know, that syrupy, unctuous late-night, post-debauchery pick-me-up? These chips taste exactly like that — if you also jammed some fries in between the biscuit buns. Stockpile these.
Calbee Jagabee Butter Soy Sauce Fries (99 Ranch)
If you grew up with butter and soy sauce on white rice as a culinary staple, this snack is for you. It’s a hard one to describe, but these salty fry chips are a trip.
Every Burger Chocolate Cookies (Daiso)
Someone out there thought that regular chocolate chip cookies needed a facelift — and made them look like cheeseburgers instead. And really, who’s complaining? They’re delectable bite-sized desserts with a creamy milk chocolate burger patty sandwiched between two sweet, crispy cookie buns. Each burger is petite, like a mini Oreo, and before you realize it, you will have eaten an entire box. That’s about 340 calories of guiltless indulgence. But their greatest selling point? They’re cute.
Popin’ Cookin’ Tanoshii Ramen Gummy Candy (Daiso)
At the heart of many Japanese snacks is the ability to make them look like opposite things. It’s a fun, cute and novel idea to turn cookies into hamburgers, but are we toeing the line with ramen and gyoza gummies? It all tastes pretty good, albeit a tad confusing for the brain. But realistically, as a DIY candy for kids, it seems the Popin’ Cookin’ line is more about process than product. It takes about 10-20 minutes to create this full ramen dinner, which includes two gyoza, two spring rolls, a bowl of ramen (complete with soft-boiled egg and fish cake) and mango pudding for dessert. The translucent gyoza and spring roll skins are tasteless, but the SweeTart-esque sprinkles folded into their centers quickly rectify that. And if you’re wondering: What could possibly constitute the ramen soup base? It’s cola. Other box sets you can find at Daiso include doughnuts, bento boxes (with panda-shaped rice and fried chicken nuggets), waffles and sushi.
Chitato Mi Goreng Indomie Potato Chips (99 Ranch)
Mi Goreng is a pan-fried noodle dish popular in Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore. It’s customarily made with thin yellow noodles tossed in cooking oil, garlic, onions, fried prawns, chicken, beef, chilies, cabbage, tomatoes, egg and a host of other vegetables. For the instant version, all of that deep, complex flavor is parsed down into a dry seasoning powder and three condiments: a garlic oil, a sticky sweet brown sauce and a spicy chili paste. Now imagine all the piquant umami sprinkled onto crunchy, wavy potato chips. It’s pretty incredible. They definitely pack a spicy kick, but it’s nothing a veteran hot Cheetos eater couldn’t handle with grace.
DeDe Instant Boba Milk Tea (H Mart)
There is an insurmountable inventory of Asian beverages at H Mart, 99 Ranch and Daiso that you can sample from now until the end of time. This instant boba tea piqued our curiosity — especially after spending $3-$5 on milk tea from DFW's many bubble tea spots. For a fraction of the cost, you can make 12 right at home. And that’s about where the virtues of powdered boba tea end. First and foremost, there is no boba in the instant boba milk tea. You’ll have to make those on your own, which is a delicate and easily botched process. The tea itself is grotesquely sweet, but the American sweet tooth might disagree.
Calbee Takoyaki Puffs (99 Ranch)
First off, do we all know what takoyaki is? It’s a piece of octopus encased in a steamy, savory ball of dashi-flavored dough that’s cooked in a special spherical griddle, slathered in a sweet Worcestershire sauce and speckled with a generous handful of dried seaweed and fishy bonito flakes that twist and fold to the whims of the takoyaki’s searing heat. Takoyaki is a divine culinary genius, and the innovators at Calbee have compacted all that tasty goodness into a corn puff. If takoyaki is new to you and you want to sample it first, pay a visit to local izakayas, such as Ramen Hakata in Frisco, Wabi House off Lower Greenville or Yatai Ramen Izakaya in Plano.
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Triple-M Seaweed Sticks (99 Ranch)
This a pretty no-frills snack that hinges on good branding. If you’ve ever had dry seaweed (which has recently emerged as a Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods-approved hipster snack), then you’ll find nothing surprising about these roasted seaweed sticks. They’re just sheets of seaweed rolled up for hassle-free consumption. The marked difference here is that some come spicy and some come tasting a bit like imitation squid. But sometimes, what you want most in this world is adorable, nonsensical packaging — especially if said packaging features a buck-toothed beaver in a sweatband, giving you the thumbs up.
Ottogi Ppushu Ppushu Noodle Snack (99 Ranch)
As a kid with the munchies, before I was trusted with a stove, I’d rip open a bag of instant ramen, sprinkle soup powder on the block of dried noodles and eat that sucker raw. It was quite the custom among Asian tweens, and it only makes sense that food companies would capitalize on that kind of generational snack MacGyvering. Nowadays, Asian snack aisles are brimming with ramen packets marketed as snacks instead of meals, yet none of them try even in the slightest to sell anything more complex than “meat flavored.” Sure, it tastes good. But it’s also filled with MSG, so tasting good is kind of the bare minimum. Instead of wasting your money on these noodle snacks, just head to the instant noodle aisle and rejoice in the options. At the end of the day, it’s all dried noodles and seasoning powder anyways, so why not try a Curry Laksa instead? Or a Korean fire noodle? Or just about anything that isn’t a vague, uninspired flavor of meat?