If You’ve Ever Wanted to Eat Crystals, Try This Candy
This traditional Asian candy looks like a crystal and makes for a perfect ASMR mukbang item.
I’m not sure when exactly crystals became such a huge part of the zeitgeist. Suddenly I know people who harness energy from precious gems on chains looped around their necks or placed on top of their foreheads. Their homes are decorated with pointy rose quartz and hexagons of calcite, and they massage their faces with jade gua sha tools.
Finding healing through cooled magma is fine by me—I understand the fixation with such beautiful objects in colorful shades of pink, purple, and aquamarine. What I personally can’t stop thinking about, however, is how delicious they look.
If, like me, you’ve ever had intrusive thoughts about eating crystals, there is no better time than now to try out crystal candy. Made from a base of agar agar and sugar, crystal candy—known as kohakutou in Japanese and mứt rau câu in Vietnamese—is gaining popularity on TikTok and Etsy.
“This is something that I used to make with my grandma and mom when I still lived in Vietnam,” explains Gia Huynh, founder of crystal candy company, Silky Gem. Mứt rau câu is typically served for Têt, or Vietnamese New Year, and Huynh would help her family prepare a tray of treats that included the crystal candy, which was her favorite. “I’m not a very sweets person, but this was the only treat I loved to eat during the new year.”
Huynh would only get to indulge in the candy once a year, but when she moved to the states in 2016, she found herself fondly remembering—and craving—the treat. Although she could sometimes find it at Vietnamese grocery stores, she decided to try making it herself. With a background in soap-making, Huynh found it easy to mix the colors into alluring shades that resemble crystals, and found the hands-on carving of the candies to be a fun creative outlet.
Alissa Miky, the founder of Misaky Tokyo, had a much different entrance into crystal candy crafting. She traces her story back to post-9/11 New York, when she had to fly back to Tokyo mere days following the terrorist attacks. The prospect of getting on an airplane was terrifying for a nine-year-old. Red Cross volunteers at the airport, however, provided comfort: They handed out tiny bags of candy.
“It was just a yellow gummy bear, but for me at that time, it felt like a treasure,” Miky recalls. “I cried as I ate it—it made me feel safe and happy.”
It would be years later that Miky would make the connection about how significant sweets can be in one’s life. She would go on to business school, start a floral business, and distance herself from that tragic day. But when she decided to start Misaky Tokyo in 2019, the memory came back.
Miky settled on kohakutou, rather than myriad other candies, because of its distinctly Japanese history that stretches back hundreds of years. “In the past, these candies were eaten for tea ceremonies,” Miky explains. “At the tea house, everyone is equal. Samurai weren’t allowed to bring their swords in and the entrances were small, so everybody had to bow their head to enter.”
This philosophy of equality is rooted in Misaky Tokyo, the name which translates to “beautiful future.” As a Japanese-American founder in a largely patriarchal society, Miky hopes her candy and business can promote equality for all, regardless of gender, ethnic background, or any other defining quality. That, and also spread joy through unique sweets.
For those who have never had crystal candy, you may have seen ASMR videos on TikTok floating around that highlight its satisfying crunch. The sugar and agar agar mix that is used to make crystal candy is hand carved into crystal shapes before it is dried for several days, leaving the candy with a crunchy skin on the outside and jelly-like interior. It is also gluten-free and vegan.
“For me, it’s not about the sweetness—it’s about the texture,” Huynh says, adding that the inside of the candy is softer than gummy candy and lacks bounce. “You either love it or hate it,” she laughs.
That doesn’t mean that Huynh doesn’t care about flavor. She collects crystals herself, and uses them as a visual aid when dreaming up new candies. Some of her crystal iterations draw on flavor combinations from her background, like pandan and coconut, mango, and butterfly pea flower. Florals are another inspiration; lavender, rose, and hibiscus are part of her collection of candies. She has also recently released a sugar-free version and is developing a sour candy.
Social media has been everything for growing the two businesses. “I’m not a native English speaker and I didn’t expect to be able to start a business in a new country,” Miky says, noting that Misaky is headquartered in Los Angeles. “Because of TikTok, we could collab with Kim Kardashian, serve sweets at the Oscars’ and Emmys’ pre-events, collaborate with Nobu and so many luxury brands. TikTok changed our company’s destiny.”
For Huynh, it’s allowed her to employ her entire family—her mom, dad, and husband all work on Silky Gem full time. “I feel so blessed,” she smiles. “I get to share a piece of my culture with everyone.”