Remember the good old primary school days, when life was a constant sleep-eat-school-tuition-repeat cycle?
For those of you who are not familiar with this routine, try a minimum of seven hours at school (excluding co-curricular activities), followed by two to five consecutive hours of tuition classes.
We don’t know how we survived unscathed, but one thing is for sure—we could not have done it without these little tidbits and snacks to keep us
awake alert during classes.
1. Iced Gem
Most people don’t know the proper name for this sugary treat. Back in the days when they were still stored in huge glass jars in local provision shops, we would just point and tell the shopkeeper how much we wanted.
Cutesy 10-cent-sized brown biscuits topped with a dab of crunchy icing sugar in pink, white, green and yellow, iced gems (also called “belly-button biscuits”) can be enjoyed in various ways—biting off the biscuit first and saving the sugary goodness for later, or eating the whole biscuit (or several) in a mouthful.
But more often than not, you will be told that the best way to consume this little gem is to eat the sugary top first and
throw leave the biscuits for later.
2. Pig’s Ear Biscuit
The Malaysian version of Willy Wonka’s Gobstoppers, we would chow down on these until our jaws hurt just to feel that satisfying crunch resonating in our ears whenever we bit into a fresh biscuit.
Made from simple ingredients like flour, eggs and vegetable oil, these deep-fried yummies get their kick from a secret ingredient—fish sauce, which lends a unique, savory taste.
10 years down the road, these biscuits no longer impose a challenge on our tough, weathered jaws, but they still remain a firm favorite whenever we crave a tinge of nostalgia.
3. Roti Ice-cream
Now what brings back more school-day memories than roti ice-cream on a sweltering hot day?
We would wait eagerly under the scorching heat for this after-school treat as the roti man whipped out buns from the huge bag hanging from his motorcycle, sliced them open and tucked generous scoops of ice-cream into them, all in one swift movement.
Popular ice-cream flavors were biasa (vanilla, chocolate and strawberry), along with yam, pandan, corn, and my personal favourite—durian. We could also choose to have a combination of flavors for an extra charge of RM0.10-0.20.
The roti man can still be found hanging around outside schools or offices, although the ice-cream bun is no longer priced at a humble RM0.50 but a rather steep RM1.20-1.50 per piece.
4. Aiskrim Malaysia (Ice lollies)
The roti man’s ice box is not limited to just ice-cream!
Similar to the 7-11 Slurpee that the younger generation is used to, these flavored drinks froze in long plastic bags. Retailed at only RM0.10 each, they come in common flavors including sirap bandung, Ribena and assam boi (dry salted plums). Homemade Aiskrim Malaysia could also include more exotic flavors like bubur kacang hijau and bubur kacang merah (green and red mung beans cooked in coconut milk).
Back in the days when buying cold drinks was considered extravagant on our tight student budgets, slurping on ice lollies straight from the roti man’s ice box provided us with some degree of comfort in the stifling Malaysian heat.
The chill that spread throughout our bodies after that first suck? Definitely worth the brain-freeze!
5. White Rabbit Creamy Candy
Alright, confession time. Who has not tried peeling off the opaque wrapping that encloses the candy?
Chances are, everyone has.
This creamy taffy is wrapped in edible rice cellophane that dissolves in your mouth. Pretty fascinating for a seven-year-old! I distinctly remember trying to peel off the glutinous rice paper, only to have it melt into a sticky mess between my fingers.
Comprising only of corn starch syrup, cane sugar, butter and milk, it’s hard to go wrong where ingredients are concerned. Although these tootsie-roll-like candies have recently tested positive for melamine in the recent food scandal and have been taken off the shelves, they still remain a fond memory as a go-to whenever we needed to satisfy a dairy craving.
6. Nyam Nyam products
Kids nowadays might be familiar with Rocky, but what about the original Rocky—Nyam Nyam biscuits?
The predecessors of the hugely popular cream-coated biscuit sticks, these compartmentalized little tubs were all the rage during our childhood. They were the 90’s version of Rocky, with the added bonus of DIY chocolate flavor coating.
My personal favorite is the Nyam Nyam Rice Crispy, which comes with a mini spoon in the packaging. The best way to enjoy this treat is to scoop up some chocolate cream, then dip your chocolate-coated spoon in the pot of multi-colored rice crisps to coat before indulging.
7. Mamee Monster Noodle Snack
The name itself gives the impression of a terribly unhealthy snack, but which 90’s kid grew up without having tried this Malaysian-made tidbit?
Basically a small packet of uncooked instant noodles, Mamee Monster is designed to be eaten uncooked and comes with a small pack of seasoning. There are multiple ways to eat this pack of goodness—most pour in the seasoning and bite mouthfuls off the noodles.
However, experienced Mamee eaters will crush the noodles before opening the packaging, pour in the seasoning, hold the mouth of the packaging closed, and shake well to distribute the seasoning before downing it all in one go.
8. Wang Wang Rice Crackers
Translated as ‘Prosperity Rice Crackers’, these crunchy salty treats were definitely the highlight of our childhood.
Wang Wang Rice Crackers come in individual packs of two bean-shaped rice crackers covered in seasoning. As a kid, I remember getting excited whenever my mum bought these crackers in packs of 20, for with them came a strip of round foil stickers bearing the Wang Wang mascot.
Although now available in a variety of flavors including seaweed, the original rice crackers packaged in their signature orange wrappings still remain our firm favorite.
9. Haw Flakes
Sweet and chewy with a coarse, sandy texture, these pink candies come with a firework-like packaging, with 30 discs in a roll, each measuring about 25mm in diameter.
Short for Hawthorne Flakes, did you know that these candies are actually used in some weight-loss programmes? Hawthorne berries are said to emulsify fat and possess various health benefits.
Fresh hawthorne berries, yes. But hawthorne candies?
10. Dahfa Dried Cuttlefish Strips
Another tuition class staple, we would take turns bringing huge bags for everyone to munch on while the teacher droned on and on in the faraway distance. A proud Malaysian production, these yummies were usually grabbed from the bag by the fistful and passed on to the next person before being savored strip by strip. Although also sold in fillet form, strips proved far more popular as they were much easier to grab.
- Fun Fact #1
These strips are actually made from fresh cuttlefish—low in cholesterol and zero trans-fat! Now you know that all that snacking you did when you were younger probably didn’t do you much harm after all.
- Fun Fact #2
Did you know that the XXL bags are only available in Asia? Time to stock up, perhaps?
11. Tora and Ding Dang Chocolate Ball Biscuits
Costing a hefty RM0.50 per box, these chocolates were considered a luxury during our schooling days. But persuaded by advertisements, most of us saved every cent we could to afford these little boxes of happiness.
The main attraction was not the chocolate, but rather the toys that came along with it. We would eagerly rip open the boxes, race to assemble the “Toy of the Week” as advertised during commercial breaks of the Dragon Ball show.
12. Apollo Chocolate Wafer
These red, foil-packaged chocolate wafers were common goodies on Children’s Day, which was a mini Halloween when we received all sorts of sweets and snacks.
Chocolate cream sandwiched between paper-thin wafers and coated in milk chocolate? Priceless.
The milk chocolate melts very quickly in the searing heat, so once unwrapped, they have to be eaten quickly if we want to avoid smearing sweet sticky cream all over our faces!
13. Apollo Chocolate Wafer Cream
Reigning superior to its red-wrapped counterpart, this chocolate wafer offers a brilliantly simple solution to our climate-related problem. Instead of having the wafer covered in chocolate cream, this version has it’s sweet creamy chocolate filling encased inside the wafer (which is pretty genius in our opinion).
Not only does this cut down extensively on the mess, but this also gives us the option of finishing the pack in one go or saving a few sticks for the next sitting (although we highly recommend you down a whole pack at once. Or two. Or three.)
The same yummy chocolate cream filling with the added bonus of less mess? The Apollo Chocolate Wafer Cream definitely wins hands down as the best chocolate wafer. Ever.
We know this hardly sums up the vast variety of snacks that were popular in the 90’s, but we tried our best to compile a list of (somewhat) healthier ones.
Which ones were your favourites? Let us know in the comments below!