12 Chinese Supermarket Snacks to Keep You Energised at Camp
Summer camp in China was full of new experiences, activities, opportunities to try new food, and learn more about Chinese culture.
But I also found it to be tiring, energetic and demanding (in a fun and rewarding sort of way!). So being able to visit the local supermarket on a weekly basis was a welcome break for me and my other co-counselors – a time when we were able to buy snacks, drinks, and anything else we needed to help us feel energetic enough to give our best as counselors.
While the food on offer at camp is plentiful, flavoursome, and satisfyingly oriental – think noodles and vegetables for breakfast and red bean ‘cakes’ – sometimes you’ll be craving a particular treat, or even just something familiar that you’ll be able to pick up on a supermarket trip. Here are some of my recommendations:
Possibly one of my favourite sweet snacks, White Rabbits are a milky-flavoured chewy treat wrapped in rice paper that dissolves in your mouth as you eat them. Individually wrapped and a great pick-me-up for those long hot days, they seem to offer a childlike comfort which will satisfy both you and your co-counselors. Because they’re individually wrapped, you can also hand them out as treats to your campers – both for when they’re feeling low, or when they deserve a reward.
If there is a snack that is appropriate for every occasion, it would be sunflower seeds. This snack is eaten by all the locals and comes in a multitude of different flavours, from caramel to green tea (and everything between!). They’re also at a very affordable price, which means it’s incredibly popular with everyone. It’s actually hard to miss them in China, as you’ll see their shells everywhere you look. You’ll often find this snack served on trains, in bars and in most convenience stores.
Bubble tea can be found almost everywhere in China, from mall food courts to street food vendors. For those unfamiliar with this drink, the original recipe contains an ice tea base, milk, chewy tapioca pearls at the bottom of the cup and sugar. Most milk tea shops now offer a variety of flavours. Delight your taste buds with tangy and refreshing fruit tea including the likes of passionfruit and lychee. You can even choose how sweet or salty you want your tea.
These Sichuan spicy peanuts can be found in hotpots and an assortment of other dishes. Due to the spices and flavourings, these peanuts create a weird sensation whilst you’re eating, which is almost akin to a light tingling. These mouth-numbing peanuts can often be found as a snack in bars along (alongside a nice cold beer!).
This sweet treat could easily be mistaken for a rice crispy cake, but don’t let this fried dough fool you, it’s actually incredibly soft and fluffy. It can be a great idea for breakfast on the go when you have a busy camp day ahead! They’re normally found in multi-packs, however, large supermarkets will sell them individually in a pick n mix with other various snacks and treats.
If you love spicy food and cannot wait until dinner time, then fear not, Latiao is a hot spicy strip of wheat flour which will satisfy your taste buds. This chewy protein stick is very popular in China it can be found in most convenience stores and on many roadside stalls.
Milk tea is definitely one to keep in mind for visiting cafes in Asia, but for a quick fix, you can always buy bottled milk tea in supermarkets. While it might sound odd and unappealing, and definitely not something to replace your usual English breakfast tea, the sweet but milky taste of this drink can offer a comforting afternoon pick me up. It is also a good one to keep in mind while on day trips and when you need something in between meals. These are definitely best served cold though, so be mindful of a potential lack of fridge space at camp before investing in too many.
This Japanese treat is fun and cute but doesn’t feel too naughty. Thin biscuity sticks coated in chocolate, matcha, strawberry, or a number of other tasty flavours, Pocky sticks can satisfy sweet cravings and are also great for sharing. They come in convenient boxes, often with colourful, kitsch cartoon designs on. The kind of treat you can share with your campers, co-counselors, and take with you on day trips away from camp.
If you’re worried about missing out on your fix of Walkers crisps, you shouldn’t be, Lays crisps are owned by the same company. Plus, because it’s Asia, there’s a whole bunch of weird and wonderful flavours such as Chipotle Ranch, Cucumber, Lemon and even Wasabi, as well as your classic favourites.
Another home comfort treat, iced coffee became a bit of a daily saviour for me. Despite being a bit of a coffee snob in my normal life, I craved a caffeine hit enough to opt for a variety of flavoured pre-packaged drinks. I tried hazelnut, caramel, mocha, and original – and while not being the healthiest of drink options, they certainly provided a boost of energy for the afternoon. I could also buy them in packs of three or six, so I could stock up for a few days at a time before the next supermarket trip.
Orion Choco Pies
Think wagon wheels without the biscuit. Orion choco pies are cakey, marshmallow-filled, and chocolate-covered bundles of goodness. They’re individually wrapped too, so they’re good for stashing away and dipping into throughout the week when you need a little sugar hit. Choco Pies are also American, so this is definitely the kind of snack which will feel familiar and recognisable, despite being a bit hit across Asia. If you’d like something a little more adventurous than the original chocolate flavour, there is also custard, matcha, red velvet, and a number of others that will keep you satisfied in between the tasty Chinese meals.
Oreos & Kit Kats
Sometimes you’ll just want to taste something that reminds you of home. And, luckily for you, some of the snacks you know and love from home will also be available in Chinese supermarkets. Oreos are particularly popular in China, and you’ll often find whole supermarket sections dedicated to various flavours of Oreo – from Wasabi and Hot Chicken Wings to Red Bean Cake. As well as the original Oreo flavour, of course. Kit Kats will also offer you a familiar chocolate hit, while being available in a variety of types from milk tea to matcha.
Yoghurt is one thing I didn’t think I would miss too much while away from home. But the lack of dairy in many Chinese meals – and sometimes the spice – often meant I would have a craving for a smooth, yoghurty treat. And, luckily for me, many Chinese supermarkets stock plenty of drinkable yoghurts so you can enjoy them on the go. Definitely the kind of treat to keep in mind after a sizzling hot pot, you’ll thank me for this little tip when you’re trying to compete with the Chinese locals on spice levels.
You can probably tell I have a bit of a sweet tooth after reading this list, but I’m sure fellow counselors can also attest to the amount of enjoyable savoury snacks on offer – from spicy meat sticks to rice crackers. And of course, for those feeling particularly adventurous, you can always try the more unusual options like pea flavoured ice cream or even dried bugs!
For the foodies amongst us, if you're interested in learning about more foods in China, you can check out my other food article, 7 Unusual Foods You'll Onlly Find in China. If you open yourself to these new delicacies (and opportunities) you’ll come back from summer camp in China with many more stories to tell.