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Sweet somethings from far, far away

Sample the exotic, sugar-infused tidbits of Idaho -- and beyond.

August 17, 2008|Avital Binshtock | Special to The Times

Frequent travelers know that one of the simple pleasures of being in a new place is standing in a market entirely dumbfounded by all the totally unexpected treats.

Many of the confections that used to be foreign to Americans now have become standard fare here. Germany, for example, gave us the gummi bear, and England bestowed upon us the Cadbury Creme Egg.

This fact got us wondering what other sugar-filled goodies are here and abroad, just awaiting our discovery. Some of our favorites.

BOTAN RICE CANDY

Where it's from: Japan

Why it's worth trying: Each piece of candy in the box is individually wrapped -- but you're supposed to eat the translucent "paper," which is made of rice and dissolves in your mouth. Also inside every box: a sticker or temporary tattoo.

What it's made of: Sugar, sweet rice, water, food coloring and lemon and orange flavorings.

Where to get it: Throughout Japan and in most Asian grocery stores for about $1 per box.

KINDER SURPRISE

(also called Kinder Egg)

Where it's from: It originated in Italy but is prevalent in Germany, England and elsewhere in Western Europe.

Why it's worth trying: It's a thin, hollow "eggshell" with milk chocolate on the outside and white chocolate on the inside. The hollow space holds a small plastic capsule, inside which is an assembly-required novelty toy such as a mini-gorilla or a Viking figurine.

What it's made of: Cocoa solids and milk solids. The toys are usually plastic.

Where to get it: Throughout Europe, or at www.malincho.com (12 for about $16 plus shipping); buy in bulk and they come in an egg carton.

IDAHO SPUD BAR

Where it's from: Boise, Idaho

Why it's worth trying: This candy bar is semi-potato-shaped, though it tastes nothing like a potato, nor do its ingredients include potato. Instead, this concoction, made by the family-run Idaho Candy Co., is a tribute to the state's famous tuber rather than a faithful representation.

What it's made of: A marshmallow center with a soft chocolate coating, all covered in shredded coconut.

Where to get it: Throughout the Northwest or from www.idaho spud.com; $18 for a 24-bar box, plus shipping. (At the same site, you can also get the peanutty-chocolaty-marshmallowy Old Faithful bar, named after the Yellowstone geyser.)

SALMIAK

Where it's from: Scandinavia

Why it's worth trying: Salted licorice is popular throughout the Scandinavian countries and is branded under different names, such as Djungelvral in Sweden. You must be an intrepid taster to try this one. It's not for everyone. But those who are fans are exuberant.

What it's made of: Sugar, corn syrup, starch, molasses, ammonium chloride, wheat flour, gelatin, licorice extract, artificial color, vegetable oil and beeswax.

Where to get it: Throughout Scandinavia and at www.licoriceinternational.com for about $9 a pound, plus shipping.

BEACON FIZZERS

Where it's from: South Africa

Why it's worth trying: These tongue-tingling, bright-colored toffees come in flavors such as cream soda and strawberry.

What it's made of: Toffee with sodium bicarbonate and

artificial colors.

Where to get it: In South Africa or from www.biltong2u.co.uk for an unbelieveable $32 per piece, including shipping.

LA-DEE-DAHS

Where it's from: Chicago

Why it's worth trying: Handmade by a company called Whimsical Candy, owned by pastry chef Chris Kadow-Dougherty, these spiraling chewies aren't overly sweet, come in adorable packaging and reflect Chicago's happy-go-lucky orientation.

What it's made of: Sea-salt caramel, nougat and fair-trade dark chocolate.

Where to get it: At many Chicago retailers and wine stores, as well as from and www.pastoralartisan.com; for $6 per three-piece box, plus shipping.

GRAFFITI BAR

Where it's from: New York City

Why it's worth trying: A company called Alison Nelson's Chocolate Bar enlisted the help of 10 old-school graffiti artists to design the "rappings" for her candy bars, giving them the look of New York City street art. Some of the profits go toward the All Stars Project, a performing-arts organization for underprivileged youth. And the chocolate's delicious.

What it's made of: Chocolate, in flavors such as almond, caramel, cookies-n-cream, s'mores, strawberry, toffee crunch, banana and rum.

Where to get it: At Chocolate Bar locations in N.Y. and New Jersey or at www.chocolatebarnyc.com. A 2.25-ounce bar goes for $4; for $40, you can get a limited-edition box that contains 10 bars and an authentic graffiti stencil; shipping additional.

MONTELIMAR NOUGAT BAR

(Sometimes called Nougat de Montelimar Tendre)

Where it's from: France

Why it's worth trying: Looks uninspiring, but one bite will make most foodies gasp with pleasure. It's slow-cooked and double-boiled in copper caldrons by a Provencal company called Arnaud Soubeyran. The addition of lavender honey makes this taste unforgettable.

What it's made of: Sugar, almonds, lavender honey, pistachios, egg white and natural vanilla aroma.

Where to get it: In Provence, or at www.artisansweets.com for $7.50 per bar, plus shipping.

PAL-O-MINE

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