There’s a Kam Man Market that falls along a stretch of Route 1 in New Jersey, sandwiched between an AT&T store and a takeout joint, that I’d frequent on weekends as a kid. I would’ve spent hours there if I could. It gave me access to confections I couldn’t find at a local Shop Rite or A&P, from Pocky to Meiji Hello Panda biscuits.
What captured my imagination more than any other sweet, though, was a peanut cookie. I didn’t know its name—hua sheng bing—until much later in life, when I came to learn it was eaten pretty frequently around the Lunar New Year. I just picked it up by chance one Saturday afternoon when I was seven or eight. Still, I found it vastly better than any other peanut butter cookie I’d ever had up until that point.
Part of its appeal is aesthetic: these are small, circular blobs of beige, so dainty that you wouldn’t feel elephantine eating more than a few in a single sitting. Coated with a bronze glaze, they have small fault lines that look like wrinkles. I never knew the hands that made these cookies; all I knew was that they were pretty divine.
Shop the Story
As a matter of principle, I've long contended that store-bought cookies are better than homemade ones, mostly as a way to rationalize my own lack of cooking skill. But I haven't had these cookies in over a decade, and, after discovering Andrea Nguyen's recipe for these cookies, I've decided I'm willing to budge. Even if you don’t observe the Lunar New Year, make these this weekend. I'll certainly try. Will I burn my apartment? We’ll see. "Hua sheng bing are often sold in tall plastic containers at the markets," Nguyen writes. "I assure you that homemade ones taste far better." I’ll take her word for it.
Mayukh Sen is a James Beard Award-winning food and culture writer in New York. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, the New Yorker, Bon Appetit, and elsewhere. He won a 2018 James Beard Award in Journalism for his profile of Princess Pamela published on Food52.