Thursday, July 20, 2006
Aji Ichiban is a chain of stores that sells dried and cured fruits as well as candy by the pound.
I went to the location in Chinatown in New York City while I was there. The store was kind of small and the woman behind the counter barked at me when I took some photos. This one was taken from the street. I actually think they’re doing their customers a disservice when they can’t take photos, because that’s the only reason I know what some of the candy is. It’s marked in the bins, but not on the wrappers.
They have a large selection of bins that contains individually wrapped candies or salted fruits or nuts and rice snacks. There are even samples of the fruits by the bins, but I made the mistake of taking what I thought was dried ginger and it turned out to be a salted plum. Quite a shock and made me parched instantly.
It’s not a huge store, but then again, they don’t have large tubs of everything. A third of the display space is for snacks and dried fruit, the rest is candy. Most of the candy is a mix & match by the pound, but some of it you could buy prepacked.
I liked just about everything in this mix. I chose carefully, so this is a good sign about the way that the packages are marked. Some have English on them, most are just pictures and sometimes the bin they were in at the store had some clues about the contents. Items came from all over Asia, some marked from Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and Japan.
I got some super fizzy sours, something called Zour Bomb, which was a cross between a cola flavored hard candy and a Zotz. However, partway through it got a minty flavor to it that kind of turned me off. The outside was dusty looking and super sour, then a hard candy and then the inside had another reservoir of sour. It also came in Lemon which was excellent.
Another was a little orange packet called Sour + from Lot100. It had little orange faces on it making sour impressions. It was a gummi, soft and about the size of a gumdrop with a sugar sand on it. Whoo, it was sour to start, then the soft gummi had a nice orange flavor to it. I would definitely buy these again. I wonder if they come in pineapple. That’d be cool.
Lot100 also had a nice Cola hard candy. It looked a little odd in that it was a plain red hard candy. It tasted like cola but had a slight hint of cinnamon.
Not everything from Lot100 was a hit - I had a rather promising Mango gummi that just didn’t quite hit the right balance. The texture was fantastic, plump and moist with a nice tart note but the mango “flavor” was less “pine meets melon” and more “burnt rubber.” Too bad.
Kasugai had a good assortment of fruit gummis, which I’ve reviewed before. I picked up Litchi and Muscat this time. They’re called super juicy on the label and they are plenty soft, but the litchi was a little flavorless and almost like a Turkish Delight. Muscat smelled wonderful and had a bit more complex flavor, something like white grape and orange blossom.
There was also a line of Milk candies that had calcium in them that came in interesting flavors like chocolate, vanilla and also red bean. They had an odd, firm, fluffed latexy quality to them, kind of like Hi-CHEW. I have no idea how much calcium is actually in it, but they were super soft and very satisfying. The vanilla was a little bland and the chocolate was kind of like a bouncy Tootsie roll, but I really liked the red bean. I mean, I really liked it. I’m sorry they’re gone now.
I picked up a few tea flavored candies, one from Thailand called Didi Honey Lemon Tea Candy was particularly nice. Only slightly tart, there was a nice play between tea and honey in there. The other brand was Cister from Malaysia wasn’t as pleasant looking (brown) but had a much stronger tea flavor and some mint thrown in (which made it taste more like a Ricola drop).
Another assortment were called S’Creams and were just hard candies with a milky swirl to them, kind of like Lifesaver’s Creamsavers. They were pleasant enough, with a Werther’s-like crunch if you bit them but a good tangy hit too to keep them interesting and satisfying. I picked up Orange, Strawberry and Melon.
There were a few flavors of these, I picked up Pudding Marshmallow, Grape Marshmallow, Mango Marshmallow and then two that have no English text on them - one has purple on its wrapper and the other has pink.
Mango Marshmallow - shown above - sucked royally. I had two of them, I at that bite of one and I gave the other to Amy, who promptly spit it out in my trash can. Why is it bad? It just is ... don’t make me think about it.
Pudding Marshmallow - it looks suspiciously like Mango, but thankfully is quite nice. It’s a marshmallow with a little lump of creamy, dulce de leche tasting filling in the middle. Not quite fudge, not quite creme, but pleasant and a little artificially vanilla tasting but with a tasty hit of salt.
Chocolate Marshmallow - there was no indication what this was, just a pink wrapper. The chocolate was a cross between frosting and a Tootsie roll. Not as good as the pudding one, but I liked it.
Grape Marshmallow - hmm, it was okay, but the grape filling was like cheap jelly and it just didn’t appeal much to me.
Basically, Aji Ichiban is as much of an adventure as you want it to be. You can grab a pound of simple mixed candies that you know and love or you can push the boundaries of your taste experiences and just shovel them into your bag blindly and see what happens.
I think the candy is horribly expensive for pure sugar stuff - $10 a pound is way up there even for the fancy fruit candies from Italy that I see at Zabars or something. But the variety is pretty special and with no minimums and the ability to mix and match is a huge plus. You can also order online, but there’s a half-pound minimum with most candies and of course the selection is limited. They have stores in several large cities across the edges of the United States, but they don’t have the addresses on their site.
Monday, June 13, 2005
Name: Chimes Ginger Chews
How could you not love something that comes in this nifty tin? Chimes has three different kinds of ginger chews, Peppermint (this review), Peanut Butter Ginger (previous review) and Ginger. I believe that The Ginger People also have the same repetoire and that these are all probably made in the same factory somewhere in Indonesia.
There are about 14 of these individually wrapped chews stuffed into this tin. The lid slides back for dispensing, though they’re jammed in there pretty good and not that easy to just dump out. Further, when opening the little individual wrappers, the chews sometimes get stuck to the plastic.
Beyond that, once you’ve got on in your mouth, it’s instantly minty. The chew is soft and sticky with a distinct barley sugar note to it (I like that). As you chew, the spicy notes of the ginger come through and as you’re done with the chew, the burn of the ginger lasts for quite a while. They’re very satisfying but as snacks, I think the packaging is great because I don’t think you’d want more than two or three of these at any given time (the peanut butter ones, however, I think lend themselves to greater consumption).
On the whole, now that I’ve tried all three of these flavor combinations I think I prefer the plain ginger, then the peanut butter and then these. Not that these aren’t good, but I don’t really think that mint and ginger are the best of all possible flavor matches. The Ginger People also make an Apple Ginger chew that I think I’m going to have to seek out now.
Rating: 8 out of 10.
Tuesday, May 31, 2005
Name: United Coffee Candy
Two different kinds of coffee hard candy. United Coffee Candy is from Thailand and the candies are little, flat rectangles and the Bali’s Best are from Indonesia (Bali) and are circular. Both have similar ingredients - leading with Sugar, then Glucose Syrup with Bali’s Best adding a little dried milk and then both round it out with coffee powder and oil. Pretty simple, and both get it absolutey right.
Each of them are crisp and densely rich. Sweet but with a robust and full sweet coffee flavor. Bali’s is just a little creamier because of the milk powder, but it also has a little more of a bitter twang to it.
Though the shapes are different, each are individually wrapped in sealed pouches.
Both are definitely keepers, something I’ll keep in the car or my purse or even the desk drawer. Easy to share and since I’m the type who likes to crunch her hard candies, these are very satisfying with a toffee consistency.
Rating: 8 out of 10.
Thursday, May 19, 2005
Name: Peanut Butter Ginger Chews
I happen to love ginger. I love the stuff the Ginger People put out. I think I’ve seen this product offered by them as well.
Imagine a peanut butter taffy chew (with real nuts in it) and add some spicy ginger and you’ll have Peanut Butter Ginger Chews.
They’re soft, but not sticky. Chewy but not hard. Crunchy and smooth.
I was kind of dubious when I took it out of the package, because it looks like a powdery turd. But they’re rather addictive. And unlike the regular ginger chews, these aren’t as sticky and the peanut butter keeps them from giving you a hard sugar rush.
Rating: 8 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.