Food/Drink Items For Office "Exchange"

I’ve recently become party to what we shall euphamistically refer to as an “exchange” of…well, stuff. The particulars and the mechanism by which stuff is, er, distributed shall remain a mystery to the reader, but the basic idea is that you put stuff in and occasionally, if your luck holds, you get stuff out.

Stuff, by the way, is food or drink items, like prepackaged cookies, soda, and Gatorade. Being me (i.e. unable to just do the conventional thing and be done with it) I want to pitch in bizarre stuff that no one has ever heard of. So I’m looking for suggestions. The guidelines are:[ul]
[li]Prepackaged food or beverage item (no open items or bulk goods).[/li][li]Roughly US$1 in value each.[/li][li]Nonperishable (within reason).[/li][li]Appealing in taste and appearance.[/li][li]Readily available in a major US metropolitan area (Los Angeles).[/li][li]Packaging with non-English writing, cow-eyed anime characters, a large number of diactrical marks, et cetera is all good. Doubleplusgood if it comes from some country or region most people can’t place on a map.[/ul][/li]Remember, good stuff, not crap you foist off on your in-laws after a foreign vacation so they stop asking you to bring stuff back. Recommendations?


et cetera is all good. The stranger (to a US resident) the better.

I’m thinking a trip to Olvera Street or Little Tokyo (or even an ethnic market) would be hysterical.

We’ve got some Asian markets here that I’ve meandered through and there are little snacky type things that would probably be good. I don’t know WHAT THE HELL they are, but they’re unusual. (To me anyway.)

Try the dollar store. Dollar General here in NJ always has bizarre foodstuffs. Just check the expiration date if you can find one. I 2nd the trip to an Asian market.

If you have a Big Lots store in L.A., check it out. You might think of it as a large version of a trashy dollar store, but they always have awesome food and beverages that you can’t find anywhere else (including other Big Lots stores). I’ve come home with exotica (canned grape leaves stuffed with rice and marinated in olive oil), interesting hot sauces (chipotle and peach), marinades (coconut curry), and barbecue sauces, beef jerky, cool sodas (one-liter bottles of regional root beers like Dog ‘n’ Suds that you NEVER see in Florida), desserty stuff (a bottle of white chocolate syrup), and more, and none of it is terribly expensive either.

Since you’re in L.A., by all means check out an Asian market, but also go to a Mexican market and you can probably find a good variety of salsas, hot sauces, dried peppers, corn chips, and Mexican sodas (Jarritos is a good one, and even Mexican Coke, sold in small glass bottles, is made with cane sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup, so it tastes different than what we’re used to, and delicious).

Oh, and I know that Pocky isn’t all that obscure, but damn if it isn’t tasty.