A bevy of new-to-North America munchies deliver nutritious value with each crisp and flavourful bite. Move over sweet potato, cassava and coconut chips: snacking by the handful has never seemed so responsible.
Also known as fox nuts, makhanas are used in Indian sweets and snacks. Harvested from the prickly water lily plant, the dark, pea-sized seeds are transformed into crunchy, voluptuous puffs after being popped then roasted. Resembling souffléd mushroom popcorn, makhanas possess a light texture similar to puffed barley. Boasting plenty of fibre, manganese, iron and protein, this addictive bite is sustainably grown and a great vehicle for seasoning, thanks to all that surface area to cling to. Bonus: there’s no need to worry about getting hulls stuck in your teeth.
What to try: Dear Snackers. Available in non-traditional flavours like BBQ, sweet and salty, and golden turmeric. First-time entrepreneur Shifa Begmohamed doesn’t just manufacture these snacks in Woodbridge, Ont., but sources the seeds directly from female farmers in Northern India, who are paid a fair living wage.
Where to get it: Independent grocers, such as The Summerhill Market, Essence of Life Natural Food Market and Fiesta Farms, or online at Well.ca.
Fried Fish Skin
A well-loved Chiu Chow cuisine condiment that’s usually served with broth and noodles, deep-fried fish skins have an incredibly crispy, light texture. Sustainable when harvested from responsibly sourced fish, these byproducts from the fishing industry are a coveted source for collagen but also contain protein, omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin E. Whether they’re enhanced with herbs and spices or laden with umami-rich salted duck egg yolk powder (the flavour du jour), fried fish skins have a cult following in Asia.
What to try: While the best-known brands out of Singapore are Irvins (which boast a curry leaf flavour) and Golden Duck (which has a sweet profile), I reach for Crusty’s. The twice-fried skins are thinner, crispier and taste as if they were just freshly cooked in a Singaporean zi char kitchen.
Where to get it: Nations Fresh Foods, delivery through the GOcery app or online at HaiSue.ca.
Dried-and-fried algae is high in vitamins A, B12, C and E, and packed with protein, fibre, iron and iodine. While the plant-based nutrient powerhouse is already considered an everyday food found wrapped around maki or rice crackers, unlike toasted nori these paper-thin sheets are brilliantly-crisp with a slightly aerated texture. Tossed in a host of bright and tangy seasonings, these sheets may be shielded with a savoury and aromatic tempura coating or even sandwich bits of dried seafood or freeze-dried durian.
What to try: Thailand’s leading producer, Tao Kae Noi, is a household name across East Asia. From crispy fried, grilled or roasted to being coated in batter, these seaweed snacks come in every flavour including wasabi, tom yum goong, seafood, grilled squid and chicken.