Thursday, March 03, 2011
One of the earliest international candy obsessions I developed because of Candy Blog was HiCHEW. They’re made by Morinaga in Japan and come in a wide variety of fruity flavors. The packages are flat, contain only one flavor and feature individually wrapped pieces that are easy to share.
They’ve been popular in Japan for since 1975 (and existed in different formats for at least 40 years before that). Lately they’ve become more widely available in the United States and Canada, starting with large metropolitan areas with large Japanese populations. Now they’re pretty commonplace here in Los Angeles, I can get them at 7-11 or Target and the packaging has been Americanized with English wrapper and full nutrition facts.
The American ones are made in Taiwan and feature slightly smaller packages at 1.76 ounces and sporting a price of about $1.00. The flavor set is rather ordinary with strawberry, orange, green apple, mango, lemon and melon (and sometimes banana) available. The Japanese also come in similar flavors with seasonal or limited edition varieties coming out all the time.
I decided to pick up a package of each and really put them to the test.
The Taiwanese version is more intensely pink in the center. The chew is stiff at first, but still smooth. It’s slightly tangy and has a good strawberry flavor that errs more on the tart side than the floral sweetness though it does get a little jammy towards the end with cooked strawberry notes. The chew lasts a long time and never gets grainy.
The Japanese version is a little softer and chewier. The flavor is also a well rounded berry with good sweet and sour notes, a little hint of floral and a creamy component (which might be attributed to a splash of yogurt in there). Instead of strawberry jam it was more like a strawberry smoothie.
Given a choice, I would pick up the Japanese version. Yes, I like to be able read my packages, but I also like my flavors bold and as authentic as they were originally conceived. I feel like the Taiwanese HiCHEW is like the Turkish Haribo Gummi Bear, not as good as those made in their homeland. However, I love the fact that this candy is able to get a wider audience. It’s a good introduction and perhaps die hard fans will work towards getting the real thing released in North America.
Friday, November 06, 2009
This summer Morinaga came out with a limited edition line of World Fruit flavors of HiCHEW. I tried to collect all of them. Shown here is the Blood Orange I reviewed over the summer.
HiCHEW, originally from Japan but now sold all over Asia and now in North America, are a soft chew made from sugar, glucose syrup, palm oil and gelatin. They’re rather like Starburst, but with a much smoother chew and a bouncy texture. It’s kind of like soft bubble gum that you can swallow. The flavors are usually very faithful to the real fruits.
I’m not usually fond of peach flavored candies. I like peaches but peach candy often ends up tasting either too much like the skin or like a bland version of the flesh but rarely an authentic combination of the two.
White Peach HiCHEW are extraordinary. They’re sweet, a little tangy and have that strange peach skin flavor which is some kind of cross between popsicle stick, rosemary sprig and Christmas tree. Though some folks say that the outside and inside have different flavor intensities, as far as I can tell it’s all the same.
Rating: 8 out of 10
When I ordered this I’d never had a real dragonfruit before. I didn’t know what they were and thought they were far too exotic to find at my local farmers market. Well, that turned out to be untrue. I did find dragonfruit at the Los Angeles Farmers Market and though it was expensive ($3.99 for one, which was about the size of a large pear) I bought it to try. What I found out is that a dragonfruit is just a prickly pear fruit (something I have in the back yard). The one I got was rather bland. It tasted like a cross between Kiwi (lightly tangy with a crunch of seeds), Fig (a fresh and clean flavor) and Musk Melon (sweet with a touch of honey) but not nearly as good as any of those on their own. Not worth the bucks.
The Dragonfruit HiCHEW package looked a bit more exotic than my real dragonfruit. The flesh of mine was white with little black seeds, the one on the wrapper had magenta flesh. Inside the foil the pieces are an intense pink with little black flecks, which I assumed would emulate the seeds. The flavor is fruity, like fruit punch, cantaloupe, peach and strawberry. It’s a little tart, but not nearly as intense as the peach from above or citrus flavor HiCHEW I usually prefer.
Though I enjoyed it, the flavor wasn’t as distinct and innovative as I’d hoped. (I guess part of me is hoping there’s a fruit out there that I’ve never tasted that will blow my mind.) The seed bits provided only a tiny bit of texture, like those in kiwi usually do. Certainly tasty enough to keep eating them, but not something I’m going to put on my list to seek out.
Rating: 6 out of 10
CamuCamu HiCHEW was a complete mystery to me. One of the things that is so compelling about tasting candies from around the world is that it exposes me to fruits, spices and flavors that I would probably never encounter otherwise. Camu camu is a bush native to the Amazon River basin and the berries (the size of grapes) don’t travel well, so the chance that I’ll run across them in the grocery story is pretty slim. They are available as frozen pulp or juice. Most of the information I could find about camu camu makes it look like it’s the next superfruit, another acai. (It can cure herpes! Detoxifies the liver, improves mood balance and promotes healthy brains.)
The pieces were white on the outside with pink from the inside kind of peeking through the not-quite-opaqueness. It’s immediately tangy: really really tart and smooth. It made my mouth water and gave me that tingle in the corners of my jaw. The flavor is a bit like cranberries, sour grapes and apples. I enjoyed it quite a bit, not really because of the flavor but because of the nicely rounded sourness that wasn’t a screaming acidity.
Rating: 7 out of 10
The final on the list is Durian HiCHEW. For those of you who don’t know what durian is, well, as far as I’m concerned you’re not missing anything. (You can read more about durian here.)
My personal experience with durian candies is limited. I’ve had a few hard candies that I mentioned here and some durian taffy another friend gave me that I couldn’t even bring myself because it smelled so bad. Neither of those, combined with what I’ve read about it, has compelled me to seek out the real thing. (They’re available frozen whole at several local markets in Los Angeles and seasonally in Chinatown.)
Oh sure, this HiCHEW looked benign, even smelled a little like vanilla. It was all white, no different colored center. Biting into it, it was a little tangy like a yogurt chew. But then the real durian flavor. It’s a mix of strawberry and mirepoix. The onion notes weren’t completely revolting, it was like eating ice cream that had been stored in a smelly freezer ... just off and not something that you’d think flavor-ologists would slave over and present to their bosses as something that should be placed in production.
If you’re durian-curious, I think candy is a great way to expose yourself to it and maybe even check it off of that omnivore list you have. As far as I’m concerned this was the best durian candy I’ve ever had.
Rating: 4 out of 10
HiCHEW use all natural colors, but I don’t think the flavors are all natural. They contain gelatin so are unsuitable for vegetarians and those who are looking for a Kosher/Halal chew.
Friday, September 25, 2009
I’ve been on a HiCHEW spree lately. Partly because Morinaga went on a binge and released about a dozen flavors. Besides their traditional array of 6 or 7 standard flavors they have another half a dozen single flavor packs out.
HiCHEW is one of those rare Japanese candies that’s being distributed around the world. Here in Los Angeles, I can get Lemon, Mango, Strawberry or Green Apple HiCHEWs at just about any 7-11 or Cost Plus World Market. But the limited edition flavors, the seasonal and the specialty assortments are a little harder to come by and require either an order directly from Japan (I’ve been using JBox and Asian Food Grocer) or a visit to Little Tokyo to Marukai Market, Mitsuwa Marketplace or Nijiya Market.
Today I have the two from the Summer Festival (Matsuri) line: Candied Apple & Cotton Candy. (I don’t know if there were more than these two ... maybe a Kettle Corn or Deep Fried Butter version escaped my view.)
The packages are compact, they have only 7 pieces in them instead of the longer packs that have 10. Even without knowing Japanese the packages are bold and easy to understand. There’s a little picture of a man selling candied apples with some stylized fireworks above him. Then of course the big candied apple (which seems to be dipped upside down to the way I’ve always had them, the stem is a the top, not where the stick enters the apple).
On the side of the package is the little diagram of what the candy looks like. A pink outside and white core with little flecks of what I’m guessing are the candied coating bits.
It smells softly sweet, a little like milk tea. Biting into it there’s an immediate apple juice flavor then a background of sweet sugar.
The little flecks are sparkly crunches of sugar. I couldn’t quite get an actual flavor from them. It becomes quite juicy. The texture is quite smooth except for the crunches.
I don’t think I’ve had a candied apple in over 15 years, so I can’t say for sure that this is an authentic representation contained within a 1 inch by 1/2 inch block. But it was still fun.
Rating: 7 out of 10
Cotton Candy HiCHEW smells simply like sweet. Pretty much the same as the Candied Apple.
It’s sweet, but not sticky sweet or cloying. It’s simply fresh. Not quite vanilla, which can be a little boozy and not quite a toasted sugar flavor either. It’s creamy without being milky. It’s clean without being flavorless. It’s a mystery wrapped in foil and stuffed with little crunchy bits.
The combination of the texture of the HiCHEW which is a taffy/gummi product that’s at once bouncy and smooth and the little cotton candy grainy bits is odd. Really nicely done cotton candy always has these little bits of grain where either the sugar didn’t melt & reform properly or moisture has caused it to recombine into a hard candy bit. Yes, it’s grainy, but the grains give way to soft sugar flavors.
It’s like cotton candy in all the right ways. And it leaves out the sticky paper cone.
It’s just so hard to describe that all I can say is that after I took the photos of the first pack I got from JBox, I made sure to pick up two more packs when I saw them in Little Tokyo.
It’s difficult to say but this is the best colorless and flavorless candy I’ve ever had. How do the Japanese do it? (I’m also still obsessed with the Juntsuyu I wrote about several years ago and add it to my order at JBoxevery time.)
Rating: 10 out of 10
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
Morinaga has created a huge array of flavors of their popular Japanese HiCHEW candies. Most of their standard flavors can be found easily in the United States and Canada. I’ve spotted them in convenience stores, Target, Cost Plus World Market and of course specialty grocers. The most recent one I picked up was Aloe Yogurt on a trip to Little Tokyo.
Depending on where I pick up my Japanese candy, sometimes the label has a translation on it (a sticker applied by the importer). In this case it went like this:
As an American, I have very little experience with aloe as a flavor. I’ve had prickly pear but eating aloe isn’t really something I’ve considered. It’s for soothing sunburn. While I’ve seen aloe vera juice at health food stores, I’ve certainly never seen Aloe Yogurt.
Most HiCHEW have a white chew outside and a lightly colored chew in the center. In this case it was all the same color, or so subtle I couldn’t tell.
The chew is smooth and latexy - a little bouncy and not the least bit sticky. It’s kind of like chewing gum except that it slowly dissolves. It’s a bit creamier than some of the straight fruit flavors. I credit the milk sauce for that.
The flavor is mild, a little citrusy and tangy, it reminds me more of Ramune (lemon soda) than yogurt or aloe. It’s fresh but that fresh taste also reminds me of bathroom cleaner - it’s a little too much like it’s covering something up than actually cleaning anything.
Overall, not my favorite HiCHEW. I think I’ll stick to the fruit flavors. I enjoy real yogurt, but I’m finding that I’m not that keen on yogurt inspired candy. (Including those “yogurt covered dried fruit” things from the bulk bins at health food stores.) But your mileage may vary.
Tuesday, May 15, 2007
Here I was lamenting that Starburst wasn’t making the flavors I wanted when there are companies out there that make exactly what I like: strong citrus flavored chews. A couple of weeks ago I ordered from JBox. Even though my local Japanese markets in Little Tokyo stock a huge variety of candies, they always seem to miss the fringy things.
The first item I wanted to try was Valencia Orange HiCHEW.
The candy is fresh and has that inimitable bounce that HiCHEWs always deliver. The orange flavor is well rounded, sweet and a little tangy with a good juicy zest bite to it. It’s not quite tangy enough for me, though it gets tangier and more latexy as the chew goes on.
Rating: 8 out of 10
The one that really got me off my duff to place an order was Yuzu HiCHEW. I didn’t even know what that was, but it had a sliced yellow fruit on the front.
Yuzu is an Asian citrus that most of us know from Ponzu sauce. It’s kind of like grapefruit with a little lime and a little tangerine thrown in. Technically I guess the fruit is a hybrid of the Papeda Lemon and the Mandarin Orange. It’s an exceptionally hardy citrus that can tolerate frost and freezing temperatures, though not particularly attractive, it’s treasured for its peel.
The lemon notes come out loud and clear early on, then the mellow tangerine juice kicks in and at the end of the chew a really enticing grapefruit zest come out and ends with a slight bitterness. I bought two packs of both of these and as I write this, the Yuzu has three pieces left.
Rating: 9 out of 10
JBox sells them for $1.40 (plus shipping) which is a bit more than the dollar or so that I pay at the local markets. But if you don’t have a local market, that hardly matters. Full disclosure: JBox gave me a gift certificate so that I could try more of the stuff in their inventory, I’ve ordered from them before and like their selection. Even though everything was shipped slowboat, it arrived in great condition. They don’t always have all items in stock, but they just launched a new feature where you can get an RSS feed for all new items or just create a search for the items you’re waiting to be in stock. (A very dangerous feature ... the Pineapple Mentos are in!)
Wednesday, January 10, 2007
More HiCHEW! This assortment was courtesy of a friend traveling in Japan though I’ve seen similar assortments at the Japanese grocers in Los Angeles. Since the label was all in Japanese (because it wasn’t imported), some of this stuff may be made up or perhaps pictures really are the universal language.
Grape is rather like the Grape Mentos I had late last year, it tastes more like concord grapes (most especially the skins of concord grapes). It grows more intense and complex as the chew goes along and it made me wish that there were more of them in the assortment.
It also makes me wish that we had a truer “grape” flavor in the States.
Litchi is odd. It’s a cross between a honeydew melon and a citrus aromatherapy candle. It’s fragrant and flowery and a little soapy but it also has a nice tangy quality with a bit of musk to it. It also tastes kind of creamy towards the end, like a yogurt.
I’ve decided I’m not a big fan of lichis. Maybe I’ve nust never had them prepared properly, but like macadamias, they’re not bad, just not for me.
Strawberry is sweet and tangy that begins with a strong natural flavor that makes me wonder if there’s a little stem in there somewhere. Later in the chew it starts to taste a little artificial, but still sweet and floral.
It’s less tart than a Starburst, and has a longer chew that doesn’t break down into a little grainy blob.
Like the Grape, it has a slight essence of the apple peel in it.
I kept half of them and put the other half in the family stockings ... I haven’t heard anything back from the family one way or another about them.
Here are my other HiCHEW reviews: Grapefruit (fantastic) and Strawberry (Doh, I didn’t realize I’d had them before. I wonder what I said.) There are lots of other flavors and one of these days I’m going to try the other citrus flavors because I’m pretty sure they’ll go over well.
Tuesday, August 29, 2006
I’ve been a little depressed lately and I figured the thing to cheer me up would be some bouncy candy. So I headed down to Little Tokyo over the weekend to buy myself some candy. I was lucky enough to find the Juntsuyu that I love so much (they were out the last time I was in there) so I bought two packages. I also scoured the aisles for something new to lift my spirits.
I enjoyed the Strawberry Hi-CHEW I had last year and a friend at the office recently gave me some green apple ones that were equally lifting. I found a new variety I hadn’t seen before, Grapefruit!
Flavored with real grapefruit juice, I figured I couldn’t go wrong. They’d be like a super soft version of the Pampelmousse Mentos.
These did not disappoint. The chew is soft and smooth and has a sort of pleasant rubbery quality that I can only report as ‘bounce’. The flavor is complex, with sweet and tart notes and some of the grapefruit oil essence in there, too.
If you’re ever confused about Japanese candy, so far I can say that the Morinaga brand is one that doesn’t disappoint. The candy has always been of high quality, the flavors good and the packaging is great. So if you’re standing in front of a big display of Japanese candy, try something Morinaga. (I like Meiji, too.)
If you wanted to try the Pink Grapefruit Mentos but you’re a vegetarian, you’ll be happy to hear that there is no gelatin in Hi-CHEW, it’s all vegatable ingredients in there!
Tuesday, May 03, 2005
One of the things I forgot to tell you about from my Little Tokyo excursion is Hi-CHEW. I’m guessing it’s the Starburst of Japan. It’s a fruit flavored taffy - white on the outside with a corresponding colored center to the flavor. I tried strawberry. It’s very flavorful and has a good soft chew. However, because they’re made with millet jelly, they have an odd sort of latexy chew to them. It takes some getting used to, but it’s a nice texture.
Rating: 7 out of 10
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.