10 Asian Supermarket Finds That Make Great Office Snacks
Staring down the bagged snacks aisle at my local Korean supermarket on a recent Sunday, I weighed which would be worth taking home for tasty WFH sustenance, or flaunting at my desk during in-office days. I spent a surprising amount of time contemplating which would be “work appropriate” given my office’s implicit etiquette of a clean and somewhat sparse desk. I also still possess some anxiety around bringing food from home into work. Growing up Chinese-American, I learned early on that some food types are easier to just keep out of the lunchbox—acquired tastes, “unusual” (read: non-Western) ingredients, and pungent smells.
But now that everyone’s either a low-key or bonafide foodie, I suspect that the more foreign the snack, the more heads it will turn at the office, in a good way. So here are 10 Asian supermarket snacks I’ve discovered recently—as well as some rediscoveries from childhood—that not only pass the taste test, but are also fun to eat. (Note: The Asian foodscape offers plenty of health-conscious options, but these aren’t them.) Spice up your rotation of bland go-tos, ignore the bowl of waxy apples in the office kitchen, and put the Takis down (briefly) to take these packaged flavor escapes for a spin.
Back in 2015, these chips were so popular that they gave rise to their own black market and about a bazillion competitor spin-offs. Thankfully the hype has died down, and the original, much-sought-after Calbee iteration is well-stocked on grocers’ shelves. I personally don’t get much honey nor butter flavor from these, but an almost cheesy sensation. Imagine potato gratin as a chip. Plain Lay’s? Don’t know her.
Imagine a chocolate-covered almond. Now imagine replacing the chocolate with a magical casing that’s a stunning facsimile for milk tea instead. Boba fiends take note: These taste exactly as promised. Frankly, I’d hide them in a drawer; there’s a high chance these treat-yourself nuts will disappear from your desk.
Run, don’t walk, to grab these if you’re a fan of Pirate’s Booty. These are, in a word, a bougier version. You still get a puff dusted with satisfying cheese dust, except that dust is gorgonzola (supposedly). I also find the irregularly shaped puffs to be—stay with me—a cleaner, more work-friendly eating experience. No idea if it’s the shape or the powder recipe, but you can eat a few without a coating of flavor stuck to your fingers/keyboard. (Tip: Chopsticks work too.)
Tteokbokki is a savory Korean rice cake dish simmered in a gochujang sauce. You’ve probably seen these red logs at a KBBQ group dinner, or on virtually every Korean restaurant’s takeout menu. These chips are a fun take on the real deal. Each bite is equal parts crunchy, sweet-savory, and spicy. (They’re made with actual Korean hot pepper powder.) Given they’re a relatively loud snack, pop a bag of these to break up an hours-long stretch of sitting at your bedroom desk.
If you still want to try a chip designed to taste like a real dish, but without the spice, the honey-butter masterminds at Calbee have also concocted a puffed corn chip designed to taste like takoyaki (octopus-filled, savory Japanese doughnuts). I found their “dust” recipe of seaweed, onion, garlic, and paprika powders to be surprisingly convincing and definitely addictive, if not entirely accurate.
I love the sinus burn of wasabi. And this classic snack does not disappoint. Whether you like to eat small, crunchy things by the handful or one-by-one, the burn will sneak up on you, so be prepared to brush off an unexpected sneeze if you’re eating these in the office. On the other hand, they’re a handy wake-up aid when you’re about to doze off mid-meeting.
Once all of the assorted bags were opened, I found myself reaching back for these crunchy twists the most.
If the wasabi peas were a level 8 burn, these would be a 3. The kick actually takes a couple chews to sneak up on you. Upon first bite, the flavor profile also leans much more toward roasted seaweed, in a tasty sweet-savory way. Once all of the assorted bags on this list were opened (such a brave assignment), I found myself reaching back for these crunchy twists the most.
The nutty, roasted rice flavor of these crackers is pure nostalgia for me. Toasty, seaweed-y, and very, very crunchy, I suggest washing these down with some green (or oolong if you’re feeling fancy) tea for an afternoon pick-me-up. They do really pack a crunch, so consider munching on these to drown out a webinar or a rambling coworker.
Growing up, it took me a while to wrap my head around sweet beans as a dessert, but once I did, I would beg my mom to buy me these chewy, sweet morsels of deliciousness every week at the Chinese supermarket. The packaging makes it tough to casually open these without fielding a litany of questions, so plan to bring a second package to share around.
As far as Asian-imported chips are concerned, these are, without question, the GOAT. They’re crunchy in a light, airy way. They’re shrimpy in a fun, salty way. And they’re impossible not to become obsessed with. Try rolling up the bag and putting them away, only to dive back in a few minutes later. Proceed with caution. Or throw it to the wind. They do smell seafood-y (not as strongly as say, microwaved salmon, but seat-mates will definitely catch a whiff), so snack with whatever discretion that calls for to you.