Let's begin with a photo from NAS' PICAS. It shows an SIT block of flats in the 1950s.
The block in Cheng Yan Place that I stayed in from the mid-50s till the mid-70s looked similar to this one. However, there are 2 differences:
a. My block did not have a zig-zag facade like this one; and
b. The partition between the balconies of 2 adjoining flats in my block was a wall and not mesh-wire like what you see in some of the flats in the above photo.
(At this point, perhaps I should throw in a quiz question for which I don't know the answer - if not in Cheng Yan Place, then where was this block located?)
The coffeeshop was directly below my flat. Its boss was someone we called Ah Dong (阿东). He had a wooden counter with a glass/wooden cabinet for displaying packets of cigarettes for sale. Among the popular brands then were Navy Cut, Lucky Strike, Camel, Matterhorn and Abdullah 37．Most of these brands are no longer available today. But I digressed as cigarette is not the "snack" that I am talking about today.
Lining the top outer edge of the wooden counter were several large glass jars that looked something like the one below. (My sincere apologies if it looks more like a milk bottle to you. Now you know why I did not end up being an artist.)
Thanks to Frannxis who has a miniature version of the glass jar, I have this picture to show you:
The cylindrical jars were at least 15-inch tall and about 9-inch in diameter. They each had a tin cover with a knob. The tin covers were lined with tracing paper to ensure that the jars were kept air-tight. The jars were never empty but were always filled with yummy-looking and irresistible snacks, at least to children like me. (Little wonder why my dental health could have been better today.) Some of the snacks were arranged very neatly in the jars. Most of the snacks were peanut-based. I recall the following types:
Kong thng. This one literally crumbles and melts in your mouth.
Peanut candy. You must have very strong teeth to eat this as it is hard as a rock. Be careful, if you break off a piece of "peanut", be very sure that it is not one of your molars.
Peanut "cake" like these but without the curvy edges.
The peanut "cake" looked really like a carrom seed, only bigger and thicker.
Peanut biscuit that looked somewhat like the one on the left but actually more like the one on the right.
Choi ma fa (脆麻花) that looked like a girl's braided hair.
And a final one for which I don't know the name. You may be put off by the "not very appetising" brown pattern on the biscuit but just wait till you taste it. I think this biscuit is still available today but in miniature form while the one we had at that time was almost palm-sized.
Do you remember the above snacks?
Update On 3 Aug 09:
Alexander commented that the last photo showed an "ear biscuit". I googled and found the following types:
Picture from source. This one is called "yee chai pang" in Cantonese or "spiral ear biscuit". It is also another type of biscuit that I was familiar with as a kid. However, the ones I ate then had 4 biscuits joined together like a butterfly, hence it was also called the Butterfly Biscuit, as Chun See had pointed out.
Picture from source. This is a thinner type and is called "pig ear cracker biscuit".
Picture from source. This is yet another type and is called "cow's ear biscuit".
Still, I don't think any of the above types of ear biscuit is exactly the same type as the one that was sold in the coffeeshop. As mentioned by YG, it was flat, thin and large. The brown spiral portion tasted like ginger biscuit.
Update on 4 Aug 09:
Thanks to YG. He went as far as his neighbourhood shop (which is not really that far) to buy this biscuit so that he could provide the correct photo for this blog:
Yes, this is it! What will I do without friends like Frannxis and YG? Now, what is it called? Elephant ear?