Dining: Eat This City: Snacks Without Borders
The joyous intensity of Mexican candy
Halloween and Day of the Dead share a connection to the Catholic tradition of All Hallows’ Eve — a time for fond remembrance of those who have passed on. Both holidays also involve costumes, parties, and, of course, sweets. Thus it’s little surprise that the connection got us thinking about candy — Mexican candy in particular. To be sure, American sweets have their extreme variations — think Warheads, Sour Punch Straws; even the modern classic Nerds come in a sour variety these days. But Mexican candy, often informed by culinary traditions involving spices and pickling, presents a different experience. Fruits such as mango and plum, and the sticky, tart-sweet tamarind, are transformed into complex confections that are very literally mouth-watering.
Here are highlights and notes from a recent sampling we bought at Christy Candy Shop in the Boulevard Mall ( christycandyshop.com) and Cardenas (various locations, cardenasmarkets.com). We tasted a range from mild to wild, from crumbly, melt-in-your-mouth marzipan treats to pucker-inducing plums. So, however bold or timid your palate, you’re sure to find a new favorite flavor.
De la Rosa peanut candy
These crumbly pucks of peanut and sugar literally melt in your mouth. Nibbling might be advised — whole-puck contact with tongue is a potent blast of ubersweet paste.
Pulparindo tamarind pulp candy
Often an all- purpose candy ingredient, tamarind takes center stage in this chewy mini-bar. A dusting of salt and chili level it up.
Enchilokas mango candy
If you have trouble wrapping your tongue around the idea of chili in
candy, this chili-infused tamarind gummy is your starter treat. It’ll jolt your mouth without five-alarm heat. A gateway to the Hola plums across the page.
Don Pancho milk candy
Studded with chewy pecans, this bar of milk fudge has a mealy, crumbly texture and a tooth-rattling, sugar-forward flavor.
Tinajita mango chili lollipop
Made to look like the fresh mangos served at Mexican markets, the mango chili lollilpop explodes with vibrant flavor that says, YES!
Gorditas hada cookies
Modestly sweet and crackerlike, these cookies taste somewhat like Nilla Wafers. They made a nice base for spreading DuvalÍn on.
Chamoy isn’t a fruit; rather it’s a complex flavor profile — simultaneously sweet, tart and spicy — usually based on pickled fruits such as apricot, mango, or plum. The umami-meets-Willy Wonka flavor explosion is an intense, whole-mouth experience.
Sandias watermelon chili lollipop
Sweet and spicy are a common combo in Mexican candy, but the watermelon chili lollipop is perhaps its most satisfying execution. Better yet, the chili here isn’t just a surface coating; it’s infused in the hard watermelon candy for a lasting sweet/spicy kick.
Addictively crunchy thanks to a carapace of wheat flour and soy, they are nicely salty, but depart with the slightest adios of sweetness.
Coconut candy roll
More subtle than you might expect, the coconut roll has a waxy texture and pleasing coconut flavor with slight medicinal undertones.
An easygoing tamarind delight — its mild intensity is enhanced by the tactile sensation of the candy dissolving on your tongue.
Hola Sour lemon flavored salted plum
“Hola” is the brand name, and a fitting one. These powerfully tart dried plums shout “Hola” continuously into your saliva glands. For fans of extreme sour and tart flavors, these plums should be a novel treat.
Duvalín hazenut and vanilla spread
Sold in mini-cups complete with snap-off plastic spoons, Duvalín is similar to Nutella, with the vanilla kicking the sweet factor up a few notches. You can eat it alone or spread on fruit or crackers.