And the Oscar for your favorite snack goes to …
Popcorn is the greatest movie snack, but it isn’t the only option.
In the month to come, many blockbuster films will be hitting the screens in China — “Pokémon Detective Pikachu,” “Godzilla: King of Monsters,” “X-Men: Dark Phoenix” and “Men in Black International.” And while rejoicing in these feasts for the eyes, many people like to bring snacks and drinks to the movie theater to fill the stomach or for fun.
This week, we’ll help you strategize snacking at the movies.
Some ground rules
Just as “Avengers: Endgame” hits the screens in China, a movie with three-hour runtime that definitely calls for snacks to stop the hunger, Chinese movie buffs were involved in online discussions about the most disturbing behavior in movie theaters, with eating food with a strong smell on top of the list.
So, when picking what snacks to sneak into the movies, the general idea is to use those already being sold in movie theaters as a guideline, such as popcorn, chips, crackers and sodas. Look for snacks with the same or less smell than popcorn, produce minimum trash, make not too much noise while eating and most importantly, are tasty.
For convenience, the snacks should be easy to pack and able to be eaten in the dark without looking.
First things first, here are some snacks that need to be crossed out: fried foods (chicken, fish and anything with fried meat in it), hot soups, boxed meals, sausages and nuts with shells on.
Potato chips are classics because they are crunchy, flavorful and easy to eat without looking. If you are tired of traditional chips, there are several alternatives to consider.
Thin chips made of taro or yam are becoming very popular in China. They are less oily than regular chips and the flavor is also not as intense.
Some versions of taro chips are baked instead of fried, and a top selling flavor is peppercorn salt that balances the sweetness and saltiness nicely.
Guoba, or rice crust, is a traditional Chinese snack made with rice, glutinous rice, millet or mixed cereals. It’s a crunchy chip snack in the shape of small squares, which is made by deep-frying thin pieces of flour with glutinous rice or millet dough. They come in various flavors including hot and spicy, cumin and Thirteen Spice.
If you are looking for something more fulfilling, brown rice rolls are a good idea, as the puffy snack comes in egg, cream or fruit flavors.
Cakes are delicious snacks yet they are messy to eat. If you wish to enjoy some cake, the ones that come in boxes are easier as they can be eaten with a spoon and won’t fall apart. Boxed cakes often involve layers of sponge cake, whipped cream, cookie crumbles and fruit. They can be found at dessert shops like GRACEmini, a franchise with multiple locations across the city that specializes in small portion-sized desserts.
Meat snacks are popular foods for leisure eating, but foods like fried chicken and glazed meat pack heavy aromas that are not friendly to other viewers in the movie theater.
Dried pork slices known as zhuroufu are a major category of pork snack, the soft jerky is not entirely dehydrated and has a sweet and salty taste. The pork is marinated and barbequed to gain its rich flavor, but fresh zhuroufu may be very fragrant. The individually packed ones are easy to carry and eat without sending out too much smell.
Rouzhi, which literally translates as meat paper, is an ideal meat snack for movies that originated in Taiwan. It’s dry in texture so your hands won’t be greasy from eating it. It also has little smell so people around you won’t be bothered.
The sweet and savory meat paper comes in different flavors like spicy, black pepper or shrimp, it’s as thin as a piece of paper and you can almost see through it. Nuts and sesame seeds are often added into the meat paper to boost flavor and improve texture, and some products combine the meat paper with crunchy and thin nori chips. The snack is baked dry and relatively healthy.
Rouzao, or meat jujube, is a Chinese mini sausage made with both lean and fatty pork. The bite-sized snack is sweet in taste and easy to eat.
Hand-pulled beef jerky from the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region is a chewy, dry meat snack originally created as a food for Genghis Khan’s Mongolian cavalry. Fresh beef is hanged in a ventilated environment for four to five months to get rid of the fat and moisture, and then the meat is marinated and baked dry.
As for beverage, sodas, coffee and milk teas are the three most popular options. This season, several zero-calorie drinks are gaining a loyal following.
The Yuanqisenlin brand has launched soda waters that have no sugar, fat or calories. There are three flavors, cucumber, peach and lemon, and all of them taste mildly sweet and very bubbly.
S.Pellegrino Essenza is a product line of fruit-flavored sparkling water containing zero sugar or calories that was recently launched in China. The three flavors are tangerine and wild strawberry, dark morello cherry and pomegranate and lemon and lemon zest. It’s packed in sleek cans.
Despite the satisfaction one gains from snacks during movies, the nutritional facts of popular movie snacks are brutal.
A tub of popcorn can easily pack hundreds of calories and quite a large amount of saturated fat because the corn kernels are popped in oil (possibly unhealthy oil) and flavored with sugar among other additives.
So, for those who want to snack in a healthy way, here are some foods to consider.
Raw vegetables such as celery sticks and carrot, fruits like apple slices and strawberries, as well as homemade spiced nuts and fiber-rich granola are great options.
Yoghurt is also a great snack alone or served with fruits. This season, Nongfu Spring launched perhaps the first plant-based vegan yoghurt in the Chinese market. This new product line offers three flavors: badam, coconut and walnut, all said to be made through fermenting plant protein.
The brand’s goal is to create a healthier alternative to traditional yoghurts. Each cup (135 grams) of the vegan yoghurt contains 4 grams of protein, which matches the requirement for milk-based yoghurts. Each serving has 94 calories and 12 grams of carbohydrate.
The smooth consistency of the plant yoghurts is very similar to yoghurt made with milk, but the flavor is not exactly the same. It’s sweeter and slightly sour with just a tiny bit of fermentation taste, but not rich enough.
But one thing should be noted about the vegan yoghurt is that it contains quite a lot of sugar like most flavored yoghurt products.