White Rabbit (大白兔奶糖, meaning ‘big white rabbit milk candy’) is the commercial brand of Chinese milk flavored candy, very popular in China and especially in Shanghai.
This taffy candy is shaped into small cylinders (about 3cm long), and have (indeed) a savory milk flavor, but maybe its most famous feature is being wrapped in a thin, edible paper made of sticky rice, meant to be eaten along with the rest of the candy, as seen in the picture above (the translucent, not the printed waxy one). I wish many western candy companies would take this idea!
This candy was ‘created’ by the Aipixi Candy Factory in Shanghai in 1943, when one of their merchants tried a milk candy from England and took the idea to China. The first Aipixi milk candies were packaged using a red Mickey Mouse drawing, thus being named ABC Mickey Mouse Sweets. In the 1950s, the Mickey Mouse was changed into a white rabbit, in a bid to build up a national brand image, as the Disney rodent was seen as a foreign symbol, and maybe they started receiving cease-and-desist letters from Disney lawyers.
The wrapping was redesigned to feature a naturalistic white rabbit, with Chinese and English hand-lettering, in a red, blue and black against a white background colour scheme, resulting in the distinctive design that hasn’t changed since.
During the hard times of the Chinese Cultural Revolution, these candies were promoted as a nutritional product through the slogan “Seven White Rabbit candies are equivalent to one cup of milk“, and it was usual to dissolve three or four of them in hot water to get an inexpensive glass of sugary milk.
As this brand accompanied the growth of many generations, it rooted in society through years and tradition, becoming a national brand, with cultural significance in China, like Toyota in Japan, or the chocolate shake Cacaolat in Catalonia; and it started when these candies were incorporated as gifts during the 10th National Day of the People’s Republic of China. In 1972, during the visit of Richard Nixon, Chinese Prime Minister Zhou Enlai gave him a bag of this candy as a gift, and nowadays, among the vast array of snacks that any self-respecting Chinese family offers when visiting relatives and friends during the Lunar New Year, one of them is invariably a bag of these.
During recent times, the company faced major issues with formaldehyde and melamine contamination in the 2000s, having to recall their production from overseas and face serious commercial trouble, but the exports were resumed in 2009 under the new commercial brand of Golden Rabbit Candy, made from Australian milk instead of Chinese. And the Chinese production of White Rabbit is now made from New Zealand milk. Just to be sure!
They can be bought online here or at your local Chinatown. Be careful: they are delicious!