Unlike my other product reviews, this product has a long story to it, and finally involves travel. After all, the "Travel" part of Eat. Travel. Eat! has been long neglected with the exception of the Arboretum and Charlie Palmer/Pelican Grill which I all wrote recently. So what travel is this?
If you looked at the product box, you should know. Macau!
My first trip to Macau took place last year, and one of the things we always wanted to know about was about Macau almond cookies. Choi Heong Yuen is the large and smart company who makes all the advertising spots for their products. So, being in the US, we saw their spots on TVB quite frequently, and obviously, it got stuck into our heads.
Luckily, the hotel we were staying at for a few days, the Rio Hotel (no, not the same as the Rio in Vegas), sold CHY's products in their own hotel shop. And a real Choi Heong Yuen outlet was right across the street. So obviously, the day we arrived, we went to look around its small, but modern store, which was filled with various pastries, cookies, and other items. Quite interesting, but we were not ready to buy yet (we did later for a test comparison as well as due to hotel credit $). Because, as we went up and down the elevators at the Rio, there were people who were buying another brand. That was Koi Kei. According to the bags the people held, it was the #1 souvenir in Macau. Really?
So, we visited Senado Square on another day after hearing about Restaurant Platao from the hotel concierge. Senado Square was a feast for the eyes in terms of architecture and detail. Plenty of shops to see around for the shopping folks. And as we walked uphill, we saw Koi Kei. There were actually 2 Koi Kei outlets in the area. Quite shocking! And of course, being the big guy, there were also other smaller companies, not as well known, also selling similar products. Before we walked into Koi Kei, other vendors already gave samples to us of their almond biscuits, which were FRESH out from the oven- very warm! It was smooth (slightly gritty), almond-y, and tasty. Great start to knowledge about Macau food.
And of course, some photos. Obviously, not as comprehensive as I do now as back then, what was in my mind was that: food was not worth taking pictures of, and these were for memories of the store, and not for you to get a glimpse. Now it is different, of course :).
These photos with dates on them were taken by my Sony P200 which broke down sadly- this was about a month before it broke down at around 5000 shots (lens error, then just would never turn on every again). Companies just seem to be taking features OUT of their cameras while bumping other things up. Like Manual function and a optical viewfinder. All gone from the small pocket size point and shoot Sonys now. Boo.
Koi Kei, if you can see through clearly the blurry photo, also has plenty of samples, which are cut up into small pieces for sampling pleasure. Of course, I tried many different products (e.g. wife cake, almond cookie (of course), phoenix egg rolls, candies, et cetera). We (dining companions and I) also bought many products in the end. Special booths were put for selling different products, like Phoenix egg rolls with seaweed or crystallized ginger with coconut.
As you can see, this was the all about jerky section. There were plenty of choices to choose from and on the side, what was there? Oil. Of course, to make the jerky look pretty to be sold. Although there were many choices, we bought jerky at another place, which I did not end up taking photos of. Sorry, no thoughts on taste. They were not too busy with customers so there was no sampling unless you asked. And we were not really thinking of buying jerky in the first place, so...
Anyway, Koi Kei also sold Portuguese Egg Tarts for about a dollar USD each (slightly less). Again, we did not try these as lunch was coming soon anyway. But they certainly looked pretty!
What was the outcome of our purchases? 4 large bags for relatives and a bad for ourselves. Haha. What did we find out when we went back to HK? That HK sold Koi Kei products. Bwawawa... but of course, buying from the source is getting fresher product. All the products were very enjoyable indeed. The ginger was quite different with the dried coconut, and the pineapple cakes/ phoenix egg rolls were delightful to eat. Quickly, our supply dwindled and eventually, went to nothing.
Now then, where did the box of Almond Cookies in the first photos come from? Actually, just steps away in San Gabriel's HK Supermarket, right across from Embassy Garden.
Koi Kei products were being highlighted, with a special spot closer to the checkout stands away from their usual aisle spot. So, I noticed, and as a memory thought I bought them. After all, we did already buy Choi Heong Yuen products twice after coming back from Macau, wanting to savor the cookies again. Those were good but were a tad sweeter- Koi Kei's in my opinion have just the right amount of sweetness.
Here is the close up (picture switch pending if I eat the last Koi Kei cookie :) ). As you can see the company's name, in Chinese characters, is molded onto the cookie.
Now, if you haven't had one of these Macau almond cookies, here is what to look for. What is most important is the texture of the cookie. In Hong Kong, the hotel gave us mini almond cookies (of the same type) to eat, and they were extremely gritty when eaten. The mung bean flour/ batter did not melt into the mouth. Instead, they felt like fine sand instead. Now, a good texture is like Koi Kei's version. The cookie practically melts in your mouth as saliva combines with the cookie as you bite (visual is disgusting but describes it...), and feels very smooth as the cookie becomes smaller and smaller by every bite.
Whole almonds (from America! Wow, the almonds had a round-trip journey!), in this case, were added, giving a slight textural difference to the cookie. The whole cookie had a light almond flavor which was not too bold (e.g. Fresh and Easy's pistachio gelato is a example of bold almond flavor) but quite pleasing. Not too much sugar was added to the cookie so the almond stood out without being too almond-y.
Yes, Koi Kei's (and Choi Heong Yuen) products are expensive when compared to commercial products. (but you are getting something better) After all, if you do the math, they are at least .25USD a cookie, which in some cases, is actually an okay deal.
"Chocolate chip cookie for 25 cents!" (school cafeteria, popular item. Flat, eaten in about 5 bites. Chewy, more sweet flavors)
"Koi Kei Almond Cookie for 25 cents!" (Ooh, there is a sense of BRANDING. And plus it is something special.)
If you don't get the message, I'd rather get Koi Kei's product. Scrumptious but expensive. So, if you do ever go to Macau, get your mind's worth of delicious samples, take plenty of pictures, and enjoy what you end up buying and savor every bite that you end up trying. In Macau, you can get more than just almond cookies. You have Koi Kei's variety of products right in front of your face. In the US, not so much. Koi Kei so far is only at HK Supermarkets, if my knowledge is correct.
Buying it now in the US is nostalgia to me. :) Anyone know where else other thank HK Supermarket that sells these?