Oh my god. My mouth is watering so much looking at this. I want to eat it NOW! But it's my last bar left from a multipack I brought back with me from Korea ... and I don't know if there's anywhere I can buy these in the UK, so, I kind of want to save it ...
Today's snack is 해태 연양갱. It's a brand of 양갱, a sweet bean jelly that's popular in Korea. It has an unusual firm texture that is unlike any kind of Western confectionery I can think of. Although it's a kind of jelly, it's a different kind of jelly. And very, very sweet. Perhaps something akin to marzipan? It's made from 팥, the red beans that are often made into a paste and found in various other traditional Korean sweets.
연양갱, in my opinion, is a super-snack. It's a sugary little calorie-loaded hit of energy and happiness that instantly satisfies. I often bring a bar with me if I'm out hiking or cycling, but it's also good as an energy boost on a work break. Although the texture is a bit odd when you first try it, I think it's one of those snacks that grows on you after time ... and quickly becomes addictive!
As well as plain 연양갱, there are lots of other flavours you can try. I really like honey flavoured 양갱, and the chestnut flavour is quite popular (밤양갱). I've even seen a Sweet Potato (고구마) version in a pink wrapper, that looks really yummy. A word of warning: I really didn't enjoy 해태 brand's 'Well-being' (웰빙) 연양갱 (green wrapper). It supposedly contains Chlorella, which supposedly has magic health properties, but personally I very much doubt its health effects, and it simply tastes disgusting. Don't be tempted by the multi-packs of the stuff that are always on offer at Home Plus - If in doubt, just stick to original or chestnut flavour!
History: 양갱 is a traditional confection which originated in China (Chinese characters: 羊羹). Versions of it are very popular in Japan (羊羹, Hiragana: ようかん), and apparently the 양갱 we know today mostly developed in Japan. You can see the character for 'sheep', 羊 (양) in the name, and Wikipedia tells me that this is because 양갱 developed from a recipe that was originally made from boiled sheep gelatin or sheep's blood.
Don't worry, no sheep in modern 양갱! Ingredients of 해태 연양갱:
팥앙금, 갈색설탕, 물엿, 포도당, 한천, 타우린, 유화제
Adzuki beans, brown sugar, starch syrup, dextrose, agar agar, taurine, emulsifier
Wait a minute ... taurine? No wonder it gives such an energy high!