Candy stores are always special places, and ones that fill a specific niche are endlessly interesting and fun to explore. For many of us, that beloved niche is Asian candy, and if you need to get your Eastern sugar fix on, look no further than Aji Ichiban.
Despite the Japanese name, Aji Ichiban was founded in Hong Kong in 1993. It's the Special Administrative Region's leading confectioner, with over 100 shops in the city. According to their website, there are also 150 other franchised locations throughout Asia (my first visit was in Shanghai at age 15), in addition to shops in the United States.
Expansion into the US began in 2000 and, for a while, many of the shops were popular stops for visiting Chinese officials. Most of them have now closed, but a handful remain in New York, Chicago, and suburban Los Angeles.
Aji Ichiban sells a healthy mix of Western and East Asian confections and salty snacks, but their biggest strength might be their dried goods: fruits, nuts, ginger, jerky, seafood, and so much more, much of it tied to traditional Eastern remedies. Items are sold by weight, and sampling is strongly encouraged, with small bowls of dried snacks dotting nearly every surface of the store.
We recently visited the New York location in Chinatown—which is welcomingly billed as the "Munchies Paradise"—armed with a camera and a sweet tooth. We emerged with candy and photos, all of which can be found, for your viewing pleasure, in the slideshow above.