We know, with the recession and all, times are tight. Luckily, nearly every store has a five-mao candy section, and that's exactly where we headed for our haul. One day it'll be time to tell the grandkids, "I remember when a candy bar cost five cents!"
KacCi Strawberry-Flavored Wafer Chocolate
Package claims: "To give China's youth strength to grow" (loose translation). Upon opening it, an artificial "strawberry" flavor oozes out of the package. We step back. The "white chocolate" is slapped onto a decaying wafer. We close our eyes and give it a nibble.
Verdict: "It's like, 'We have some old oil from the hotpot, and now let's make candy out of it.' You know those blocks of oil they put in the hot pot? They're white. It's the same color."
Zhenqiao Original Maize Cocoa
Nice presentation—a perfectly square, nine-section tile of chocolate with bits of crispy rice inside, laid out on a grid system. We like that.
Verdict: "This is fake chocolate. But the taste is not bad."
Zhenqiao Chocolate Coin
There's just something about chocolate that's been pressed into a coin shape, embossed, and wrapped in gold foil that makes it taste a lot better than a bar.
Verdict: Same mediocrity, in a more appealing package.
Zhenqiao Qiansui Chocolate-Covered Biscuit
Our first reactions, we confess, were not flattering: "Too much air." "The chocolate is minimal." "Poostick." On second bite, they somehow changed: "But the taste is not that bad." "Mmm!" "The combination of chocolate and cookie is good."
Verdict: If the chocolate offered the biscuit complete coverage, this would be quite all right.
Zhenqiao Original Flavor Chocolate
This time Guangzhou-based, cheap-chocolate monopolizers Zhenqiao went too far. Their "original flavor" variety appears to use the same chocolate as the company's other varieties, but the low-grade chocolate really needs puffed rice to distract you from how nasty it really is.
Verdict: Bu hao chi.
Berich Kernel Chocolate ("Ultraman")
比丽奇 果仁巧克力 15g
On the package, Ultraman endorses the chocolate, claiming "Can make me stronger!"
Verdict: Hm. After tasting it, we agree. And that's not complimentary.
Mini Mentos, green apple flavor
Recalling the storekeeper's enthusiastic recommendation, we chose "the freshmaker" as a welcome half-time break after the chocolate to clear our palates for the upcoming onslaught of gummies. We are pleased to discover that Mentos maintains its standards worldwide. Unfortunately, 10 grams of Mini Mentos is only five of the disc-shaped candies. One mao per Mento.
Verdict: A competent candy.
Fruit-tella Dinosaur Jelly Candy
(Perfetti Melle) 9g
Psychedelic-colored blob vaguely reminiscent of a dinosaur shape.
Verdict: Flavor is kind of blah, texture is kind of airy.
Trolli Mini Burger
Two puffy buns sandwiching strips of green, yellow, and red served in its own tray. The burger can be separated into its components, which, on closer inspection we notice are individually molded—the bun with sesame seeds, the lettuce with leaf veins, and the meat with grill marks. Disappointingly, all of the components have the same generic-fruit-gummy taste.
Verdict: Craftsmanship clearly went into making this candy; plus, it might well be Chengdu's only vegetarian burger.
Trolli Milk Gummy
Package claims: "Candynamic Chosen Quality Product"
Quasi-cow-shaped, milk-flavored, gummy candy. Is there something disturbing about this?
Verdict: We had initial misgivings about combining milk candy with gummy candy, but the yellow and brown cow tastes kind of like a lemon meringue pie.
Trolli Gummy Cola Bottle
Package claims: "100% natural coloring"
Each bag contains eight or nine white or brown tiny cola bottles.
Verdict: Gummy Bears, more or less. In miniature.
Alpenliebe Orange and Cream Lollipop
After admiring this perfectly round, smooth marble of a candy, we were also pleased by its flavor: tones of orange muted by sweet cream.
Verdict: "Civilized flavor."
Fruit-tella Chupa Chup Foot Lollipop
Lemon-flavored, foot-shaped lollipop.
Verdict: Definitely the best foot we've ever licked.
Within the wu-mao budget, it's better to go straight to the hard candies, with gummy being second choice. If you really must, go for the chocolate bar that promises the least chocolate. Those fillers—biscuits, crisp rice, etc. do a lot to mask the crap chocolate. Also, don't fall for flashy packages: Ultraman looked cool, but it was the worst of everything we tried. And KacCi, with its obvious Kit Kat design rip-off—bleh! We thought what was inside might also attempt to pay homage to Kit Kat, but clearly we were wrong.
An earlier version of this review was published in CHENGDOO citylife, issue 22, "China."