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The Candy Map 20

Take a second to think about your favourite food. Are you a vegetarian or a meat eater? Do you prefer fast food or do you go organic and all-natural every mealtime? One thing almost all of us can agree on is that at one time or another we've craved a treat or a sugar rush and indulged ourselves in a bag of sweets or that oh-so-satisfying bar of chocolate. Join us on a decidedly sweet-toothed global tour, getting involved by adding your own images, as we create the Candy Map, the ultimate visual archive exploring the fascinating stories behind the most tantalising sweet treats on the planet. In its modern incarnation, the word 'candy' is derived from from the old French term 'candi sucre', or 'sugar candy', and the Arabic and Persian words 'qandiyy' and 'kand'. Ultimately, the word originated in the Indian Subcontinent thousands of years ago where the ancient Sanskrit term 'khaṇḍa' very loosely translated to 'divided sugar'. Elsewhere, the Egyptians, Greeks, Persians and Ancient China's Han Dynasty had long been using honey to prepare and enjoy candied fruits and nuts and so mesmerized were Greek and Persian travelers by ancient Indian sugar candy that they remarked, as the story goes, that the Indians "produce honey without bees". Still used in Hindu ritual throughout southern Asia, sugar-based candy as we know it today originated in ancient India and from there it took the world by storm, adorning royal tables in Europe and traveling to the New World to become, arguably, the world's favourite comfort and soul food. Today, 'candy' is an umbrella term for sweets, chocolate and any other kind of confectionery or food glazed with sugar. These mouthwatering sugary treats don't just tickle the taste buds of sweet addicts and chocoholics in every country on the planet but also have their own captivating stories, including inspiration from Aztec skull trophies and the tale of a sensationally Japanese twist on an iconic western chocolate bar. Whatever your candy of choice, come with us as we chart the stories of the world's most delectable confectionery.

Las Vegas, USA

Mar 20 2005

Some types of candy need no introduction and on the Las Vegas Strip, in Showcase Mall next to the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino, one of the most iconic and best-loved brands of confectionery has been given its very own megastore. Pulsing with classic, Vegas-style glitz and extravagance, M&Ms World has received a staggering average of eight million visitors annually since its opening in 1997 and the store offers its visitors the standard souvenir fare of t-shirts, postcards, mugs and, not to mention, M&Ms-themed underwear. Some of the unique features of the store include a full-sized replica of the M&Ms NASCAR driven by American racing legend Kyle Busch, a printing machine which allows visitors to create their own custom M&Ms and even a 3-D movie called 'I Lost My “M” in Las Vegas', which sees the red M&M seen in the company's commercials trying to regain his printed M after losing it in a game of roulette in a Las Vegas casino. Image Credit: Amit Patel (Flickr)

Las Vegas, USA

Dec 12 2013

Laid out over a total of four storeys and marketed as "the sweetest retail-entertainment attraction found on the Vegas Strip", Vegas' M&M'S World is also the original birthplace of some of the more 'exotic' flavours of the iconic candy, including coconut, orange, carrot cake and 'strawberry peanut butter'. In December 2013, the store celebrated the opening of its new candy wall, an entire wall made of plastic tubes full of M&Ms, as part of a larger full-store renovation project which took place in the same year. The candy wall stretches 62 feet wide and features 125 tubes of M&Ms in twenty two colors and eleven flavours and the Mars company also cashed in on the popularity of Las Vegas' M&Ms World, by opening branches in Orlando in 2005, New York in 2006, London in 2011 and in Shanghai in 2014.

Oaxaca, Mexico

Dec 31 2008

In Mexico, one of the best loved varieties of confectionery is created by molding sugar paste and meringue powder into figurines of hundreds of different types of animals and skeletons. The sugar figurines are known as Alfeñique and despite being available year round, are most associated with Mexico's famous Dia de Muertos celebrations, a three day festival at the end of October in which families remember and honour the dead and their ancestors. When Dia de Muertos begins to loom on Mexico's culture calendar, sugar skulls known as Calaveras begin appearing at market stalls across the country. As with their animal figurine counterparts, Calaveras are made by pouring sugar paste and meringue powder over a skull-shaped mold before being decorated with coloured beads, icing and frosting and tens of thousands of the sugar skulls are crafted and sold in the lead up to Dia de Muertos festivities. ,

Oaxaca, Mexico

Oct 28 2008

In addition to the sugar Calaveras, chocolate skulls as well as skeletons, bones, angels and coffins are also widely produced in Mexico and some variations are also made with a luxurious honey filling. In Aztec times, similar figurines were created using the toasted grains of a perennial plant known as amaranth and were then used in religious and sacred rituals as well as for infamous and bloody Aztec sacrifice. When the Spanish Conqustadors arrived in the Americas. they brought sugarcane with them and as they conquered the New Word, Catholicism spread and the Aztec figurines made with toasted amaranth were largely replaced with the molded sugar paste Alfeñiques and Calaveras seen throughout Mexico today, especially around Dia de Meurtos. With the celebration inspired by Mexico's past, specifically a festival honouring Mictecacihuatl, the Aztec goddess of death and the afterlife, the sugar and chocolate skulls act as a kind of link to Mexico's Mesoamerican heritage in which the skull, death and the afterlife were highly revered and as a playfully macabre homage to the Aztec tradition of taking skull trophies from sacrificial victims and slain war enemies and displaying them on wooden racks known as Tzompantli.

Perugia, Italy

Oct 22 2002

Every October in Perugia, capital of central Italy's Umbria region, something curious and downright surreal happens in the plazas around the city's Piazza Italia, Piazza della Repubblica, Corso Vannucci and the Piazza IV Novembre. This is not just your average chocolate festival, this is 'EuroChocolate', a nine day, extravaganza of just about everything choco-tastic which has been held annually since 1993 and become one of Europe's largest, tantalising the taste buds of over one million chocoholics from around the globe every year. In addition to the standard tastings and souvenirs found at any chocolate festival, EuroChocolate is famous for its wackier side, epitomised in 2002 when its creator Eugenio Guardicci arrived at the event in a Fiat 500 convertible made of milk chocolate.

Perugia, Italy

Oct 14 2011

Chocolate massages, chocolate-sculpture hairdressing and chocolate day spa treatments are all par for the course at Perugia's famous chocolate festival, as household confectionery names such as Nestlé and Lindt use the publicity of the event to market their wares. Chessboards, cameras, gaming controllers and almost anything imaginable is crafted from solid chocolate and showcased at the event and one of the most spectacular creations of recent years was an igloo made from nearly eight thousand pounds of chocolate bricks. EuroChocolate has also seen records set, with the world's largest chocolate bar - weighing six tons, stretching a colossal seven metres and studded with millions of hazelnuts - the main focus of the festival in 2003. The 2011 edition of the festival showcased arguably the most spectacular sculpture, with a whole country getting the EuroChoc treatment as the entire Italian peninsula, along with its iconic landmarks such as Rome's Colosseum, Sicily's Valley of the Temples and the Leaning Tower of Pisa, were cast and recreated from fourteen metres of solid milk chocolate.

Istanbul, Turkey

Apr 28 2016

No list of the world's iconic candy and confectionery would be complete without Turkish Delight and in markets and bazaars throughout Turkey's cities, including Istanbul's historic Mısır Çarşısı, also known as 'Spice Bazaar', this almost mythical sweet treat is still revered and showcased. Known as 'Rahat Lokum', or 'Lokum' for short and literally meaning 'throat comfort', Turkish Delight is traditionally made by slowly boiling sugar syrup and cornflour together and flavoured with exotic luxuries such as rosewater, orange flower water and citrus fruits. The resulting sticky and jelly-like substance is then allowed to cool before being cut into cubes and lavishly dusted with icing sugar.

Istanbul, Turkey

Apr 30 2011

Symbolic of what made the Orient so exotic and mystical for Westerners, Lokum has quite literally provided eye candy for traders, travelers and foodies for centuries, shining like sugar-dusted pink, green and yellow jewels in Turkish markets and bazaars since the heyday of the mighty Ottoman Empire. The recipe was invented in 1777 by a confectioner named Bekir Efendi and word of its creation quickly spread as they candy rose to become a sensation throughout Istanbul. So impressed was Sultan Abdul Hamid I that he appointed Bekir chief confectioner to the imperial palace and with the addition of pistachios and almonds as well as coconut, cinnamon and other spices brought back along the Silk Road from India, China and Southeast Asia by Islamic traders, Lokum became synonymous with Ottoman luxury and decadence.

Sighnaghi, Georgia

Jan 26 2014

In Georgia, what may look like a cured pork product or sausage strung up to air dry and hang from the rafters of shops of homes is often, in fact, the nation's most famous candy. Native to the Kakheti region, near Georgia's far eastern border with Azerbaijan, Churchkhelas are a type of sausage or candle-shaped confectionery made from flour, grapes and nuts which have been dipped in a traditional mixture of grape juice and flour known as Phelamushi, before being left to dry in the sun. Popular throughout Russia, southeastern Europe and Turkey as well as their native Georgia, Chuchkhelas are a fixture of Christmas and New Year celebrations across the country and were also a staple of the Georgian army before the days of modern food storage, due to their long shelf life which can last for months and even years at a time.

Sighnaghi, Georgia

Oct 1 2010

Churchkhelas are so popular in Georgia that they have become affectionately known as 'Georgian Snickers' and are most common throughout the country when the harvest season arrives and the nuts and grapes used to make them are in their prime. The process of making Churchkhelas has become something of a culinary art form in Georgia, with families often sticking rigidly to their own closely-guarded tweaks and twists on the traditional recipe, and after the Phelamushi grape and flour mixture is brought to a boil and left to cool, honey is added before whole hazelnuts and walnut halves are carefully threaded onto a string using a needle. The finished string of walnuts and hazelnuts is then dipped into the chilled Phelamushi and honey mixture and completely covered before being strung up to air-dry for up to a week.

Tirumala, Andhra Pradesh, India

Jan 20 2008

Located 2800 feet above sea level in the hilltop town of Tirumala in southwestern India's Andhra Pradesh state, Sri Venkateswara Temple plays on the idea of a major Indian temple being devoted to a specific incarnation of an important deity. In this case, the temple honours Venkateswara, an avatar incarnation of Vishnu, who, as the story goes, heroically saved humanity from an impending age of darkness known as 'Kali Yuga' and became the supreme deity of a branch of Hinduism known as Vaishnavism. Venkateswara Temple dates back over one thousand years to when it was initially constructed by the Pallava dynasty. Three entrance ways lead into the temple's 'Garbhagriha', or inner sanctuary with the main powder white-coloured gopuram, or temple tower, standing at fifty feet high and on any given day Venkateswara Temple sees upwards of 75,000 visitors.

Tirumala, Andhra Pradesh, India

Jan 15 2015

What makes Tirumala's Venkateswara Temple completely unique from any other of the tens of thousands of Hindu temples in India is a highly revered and spiritual type of sweetly-flavoured Prasādam, a ceremonial food which literally means 'gracious gift'. The main and most famous type of Prasādam offered to the avatar of Vishnu at Venkateswara Temple are the spherical Tirupati Laddu, also known as Srivari Laddu. Every day, a series of conveyor belts is used to haul ten tonnes of sugar, one ton of gram flour, 700 kilograms of cashew nuts, 150 kilograms of cardamom, 500 kilograms of sugar candy and 550 kilograms of raisins along with 500 litres of clarified butter known as ghee are hauled into the Laddu Potu, the temple's kitchen. The potu temple kitchen is equipped to produce a mind-boggling 800,000 Tirupati Laddus in a single day and when the ingredients arrive, an army of 150 volunteer chefs known as Devasthanams spring into action and prepare the holy offerings for Vishnu. The recipe is over three hundred years old and so revered and spiritually significant are Tirupati Laddus, that in 2009 the holy candy spheres were registered with a geographical indication, meaning that only Venkateswara Temple's Devasthanams are permitted to make them.

Dali, China

Feb 18 2008

Candy floss, or Cotton Candy, is unquestionably one of the world's favourite forms of confectionery and can most famously be seen and enjoyed at carnivals and in fairgrounds across Europe, the US and Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Japan. The story of this notoriously tooth-melting sugar candy can, food historians and scholars believe, be traced back to Europe in the nineteenth century and others believe that similar sweet treats made using spun sugar originated in Italy as far back as the Renaissance. In China, variants of candy floss are seen being made by street vendors all across the country and the process of spinning melted and liquefied sugar to create candy has a legend all of its own, far predating anything similar seen in Europe and tracing its roots back well over two thousand years to the imperial palaces of the ancient Han Dynasty.

Kunming, China

Jan 22 2009

China's most famous type of sugar spun candy first appeared around two thousand years ago. According to the legend, a chef in the imperial court of Han Dynasty sought to impress Emperor Wenshu by inventing a new kind of sweet dessert for the ruler and his entourage. After months of ceaseless toil in the imperial kitchen, the chef's eureka moment came when he began spinning sugar and rice flour into delicate and thin strands. He presented his creation to an initially confused Emperor Wenshu who, as the story goes, was reminded of the beard of a mythical Chinese cloud serpent or dragon after he tasted the rice flour and sugar strands and looked into a jade mirror to find that some had stuck to his chin. The chef's sugar-based alchemy paid off and Emperor Wenshu was infatuated with the newly invented treat, naming it 'Long Shi Tang', or 'Dragon's Beard Candy'. Today, Dragon's Beard Candy is made from sugar, rice flour and maltose syrup and luxuries such as peanuts, sesame seeds and coconut are also added to the mix throughout China. Dragon's Beard Candy became so famous in the Han Dynasty that the recipe also spread to become a favourite in the imperial courts of Korea's Joseon Dynasty and has even become a common fixture of markets and shops in cities around the globe with large Chinese immigrant populations, especially in Singapore, the US and Canada.

Cồn Phụng, Bến Tre, Vietnam

Aug 15 2014

With a nickname like 'Xu Dua', or 'Land of the Coconut', it comes as no surprise that in southern Vietnam's Bến Tre Province and among its time-frozen rice paddies, the steamy and fertile Mekong Delta provides coconuts in abundance. Coconuts, their husks and their flesh are used to make almost anything practical in Bến Tre Province, including rice bowls, utensils, handicrafts and are even used in the construction of house and in addition, the abnormally fertile soil along this stretch of the Mekong Delta makes Bến Tre's coconuts some of the most highly sought-after anywhere on the planet. Despite the view in Bến Tre of the coconut as an all-purpose supercrop, the most famous use for the region's coconuts is a particular type of southern Vietnamese candy which is exported all over the world.

Cồn Phụng, Bến Tre, Vietnam

Dec 14 2003

Kẹo dừa, the famous coconut candy, has become a major money-maker for Bến Tre and all along the banks of the Mekong in this region, including on the islands of Cồn Phụng and Cồn Quy in the middle of the delta, the coconut candy is made in both factories and on makeshift production lines inside family homes and sheds. After the freshly grated coconut is squeezed and pressed to extract its milk and its cream, malt syrup and sugar are then added. The exact amounts of sugar and syrup added to the coconut milk and cream mixture often varies from family to family as a closely-guarded secret and after the shells which the coconut flesh was extracted from are placed into a pile and set on fire, a wok containing the coconut, syrup and sugar is heated. After caramelising and thickening, the gooey and sugary coconut mixture is placed onto a mould and then allowed to cool before being sliced into rectangles and cubes. Traditionally, the finished Kẹo dừa cubes are packaged in two layers of wrappings, one of edible rice paper and the other foil paper. Image Credit: Vajar24 (Flickr)

Fenghuang, China

May 10 2009

All across China, enclaves of the past can be found in the hundreds of ancient towns and villages which cluster the vast expanses of the country. 'Gǔchéng' is one of many Chinese names for 'old' or 'ancient' towns and these settlements mirror a sense of what the country used to be, snapshot everyday life in centuries past and provide a glimpse into the heritage and culture of the hundreds of different Chinese ethnic groups. The best of these fascinating settlements are, arguably, found in the east, south and southwest of China, including Fenghuang in the far west of Hunan Province. Life continues in much the same way for the residents of Fenghuang Old Town, as with other ancient towns, albeit with constant throngs of tourists, and with the emerald green of the Tuo Jiang River flowing through it and alongside the town's famous Miao ethnic silver crafting, the art of making traditional Chinese ginger candy is still on full show.

Fenghuang, China

Oct 19 2008

Fenghuang literally means 'Phoenix' and in shops along the old town's ancient cobblestone streets, candy-crafters can be seen pulling and tugging thick strands of what could easily be mistaken for the severed tentacle of a giant squid or other monstrous sea creature. This, in fact, is traditional Chinese ginger candy and although many of China's ancient towns and villages are famous for this curious sweet treat, Fenghuang's ginger candy is considered to be some of the finest. As with Fenghuang's silver crafting, the ginger candy is prepared according to a closely-guarded recipe created by the town's Miao ethnic population and the cooking process begins with melting malt sugar in vat or large wok and adding a handful of secret ingredients as well as liberal amounts of ginger to the mixture. Next comes the tricky part as, between the time when the it cools and solidifies, the tough and gooey ginger and sugar mixture is placed on a metal stick and rigorously pulled and stretched into a line before being folded into a disc shape. The disc is then chopped and packaged, with the going rate for Fenghuang's trademark traditional ginger candy usually set at between two and four yen per bag and to appeal to modern tastes, the candy is sometimes flavoured with banana, mango, coconut and chocolate.

Tokyo, Japan

Jan 20 2015

Japan is famous for putting its own twists on cultural and material imports from the West and alongside foreign culinary trademarks such as KFC and McDonalds, sweet treats and candy get the full Japanese treatment. Desserts and candy have their own storied and unique tradition in Japan, but what never fails to amaze and bamboozle Westerners when they arrive in the country and enter a shop or market is the staggering and, for them, strange flavours used in the Japanese twist on the British candy icon, the Kit Kat. Japanese Kit Kats come in a famous and almosy endless range of flavours, from logical additions to the original such as cappuccino, strawberry and 'Chocobanana', to the sensationally Japanese and seemingly outlandish rock salt, 'Okinawa Sweet Potato', Shishito pepper and hot chili varieties. Wasabi, Green Tea and Miso Soup flavour Kit Kats are also particularly popular. Image Credit: Nelo Hotsuma (Flickr)

Tokyo, Japan

Mar 26 2012

Kit Kats first arrived in Japan in 1973 and since then, over three hundred variants have appeared throughout the country in flavours inspired by both regional and seasonal Japanese food favourites. In 2014, after personally adding passion fruit and chilli, ginger and kinako soybean to Japan's already mind-boggling array of innovative Kit Kat flavours, chef Yasumasa Takagi opened the first of a branch of stores specifically dedicated to Kit Kats in the Ikebukuro District of Tokyo's Toshima-ku area known as 'Kit Kat Chocolatory'. Kit Kats have also become cultural symbols in the form of good luck charms in Japan as, by a one in a million and astronomically lucky coincidence, the Japanese translation of the chocolate bar's name, 'Kittsu Katsu', is also a way of saying 'You will surely win!' and Kit Kats have accordingly been used to wish friends and family good luck for exams ever since. Perhaps most sensationally, the country's most iconic landmark also received the full attention of the Japanese Kit Kat craze when, in 2012, a limited edition blueberry cheesecake flavored Kit-Kat appeared in packaging inspired by Mount Fuji.

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