Internet sensation candy that is out of this world
The social media platform TikTok has been flooded with videos of young people biting into crunchy crystal candies of all different shapes and colors. The trend may be new to some, but crystal candies are inspired by Vietnamese Lunar New Year traditions that go back thousands of years.
Crystal candies look like jewels in color and shape, but it is the texture that makes them unusual; they have a slightly crunchy exterior and a soft, jelly-like interior.
Traditionally made from agar, a nutrient-dense sea moss, crystal candies are found in many Asian countries. The Vietnamese candies are known as mứt rau câu. The Japanese candy is called kohakutou, while in Indonesia it is agar agar kering. The Thai version is called kanom woon grop and the Korean version is called hobakdang.
Crystal candies require four ingredients: sugar, agar, water and a flavoring of choice. Food coloring is swirled into the set mixture to create gradients that resemble gemstones. After carving the candy into these shapes, the candies sit out to dry for up to a week, which allows the crust to form.
Adding edible gold leaf is one popular option that creates more of a shiny, jewel-like look. Sometimes, the crystal candies are made into other shapes, such as roses, hearts or even Disney princesses.
In addition to a stand-alone candy, the treats are used to decorate cakes, cupcakes and cocktails. Prices vary from about $8 for one piece to $40 and up for sets. Online, the flavors are endless: honeydew peridot, blue raspberry, kiwi lychee, cookies & creme, pineapple, banana, peach moonstone and pickle – yes, pickle – are just a few of the choices. Of course, homemade candies can be flavored with the chef’s choice. Silky Gem also makes handmade vegan and gluten-free crystal candies.
The Silky Gem website states that the crystal candies were created to serve with tea or rice wine to guests and “are known to bring health, wealth and good fortune” throughout the year. The owner of Silky Gems, Gia Huynh, shares on the website that the treats were a rare luxury growing up in Vietnam. For more information, visit www.silkygem.com.
By Lisa Nicklanovich; photos by Terri Wiebold