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
Monday, August 17, 2009
Here are a few of those items that I can at least tell you a little about.
Blood Orange HiCHEW from Morinaga are tasty little taffy-like chews I picked up in Little Tokyo about a month ago.
Like most HiCHEW, they’re individually wrapped and come in a single flavor pack. They also have a different color center.
The blood orange flavor wasn’t distinctively different from the other orange flavors I’ve had like Tangerine and Orange. It was juicy and had a nice mix of zest and tang ... but ultimately it wasn’t quite as exotic as I’d hoped.
Not that it kept me from finishing the package.
Rating: 7 out of 10
I went to Munchies on Pico a few weeks ago looking for some Israeli candy (reviews to come). I was pleased to find these little Paskesz Nutty Chews which were available in the bulk bins in these little individually wrapped pieces. I thought, How cool! They sound like Goldenberg’s Peanut Chews! (They were also available in a “bar format” which held I think five or six of these in a package.)
At about 25 cents each, it was a nice little chewy morsel, a vegan caramel with a good note of molasses with very dark roasted peanuts all covered in a dark mockolate.
After reading the ingredients, and noting that they’re made in the United States I’ve concluded that these ARE simply repackaged Goldenberg’s Peanut Chews. sigh
Rating: 8 out of 10 (same as Goldenberg’s)
I’ve been craving butter and sugar ever since my vacation when I started thinking about Bananas Foster. What doesn’t help is that Littlejohn Toffee is at the Farmers Market ... walking distance from my office.
So one day I was over there and decided to pick up a couple of their Pecan Pralines for review. They’re large puddles over four inches across (shaped in a shallow fluted cup) studded with pecans. Instead of the chewy style of praline, these are the sandy style. The recipe tastes pretty simple, butter, sugar and pecans (though I can’t be sure).
They melt in my mouth and the pecan provide a nice chewy, even fattier punch to the whole thing. You’d think it’d be too sweet, but the nuts seem to moderate it. It sandy and crumbly and doesn’t even look that good, but it smells like sweet buttery caramel sauce. Something about the texture wins me over.
After my first purchase of them (and failed photo shoot because I had my camera settings wrong) I had to go back and buy another one. And I’m sure it won’t be the last - it sounds like they’re expensive at $2.50 each, but after having one I’d probably pay double.
Rating: 9 out of 10
This was an impulse purchase at Robitaille’s Fine Candies while on vacation.
As you can see, it’s a deviled egg ... made of white confection. It was packaged in a tiny plastic bag with a curl of ribbon. No name, no ingredients ... the appearance was really all I needed. (I think I paid $1.85 for it ... more than I think I’d pay for a real deviled egg.)
The egg white is really white, something now found in real white chocolate (and knowing what they put into their Inaugural Mints, I’m going to guess that I’ve been eating all sorts of partially hydrogenated tropical oils). It’s smooth and rather pleasant.
The egg white is sweet, sweet with a touch of fake vanilla. The yolk cream is minted (with a few little nonpariels).
The only issue with the verisimilitude is the half egg doesn’t actually have a little depression for the yolk ... small quibble.
The Cafe Society - Candy Girls reviewed a similar version of this made with a crisped rice mixed in, which sounds much better. Of course best would be some really good quality white chocolate ... but I’m still swooning over my LEGOLAND white chocolate blocks and savoring the last few.
Rating: 4 out of 10
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
Often they come in different flavors, but the classic caramel has endured for nearly 100 years. One line is the Meiji Dice, which are little caramels that come in pairs inside cube boxes that also double as dice. More recently, as Meiji has acquired the Pokka Coffee company, they introduced the Pokka Coffee Caramel.
The cute packages feature half with icons of the Pokka coffee brand with their logo & seal. The other half are the dice - in this case using little coffee beans on each side to mark the numbers.
The caramels are bigger than the Morinaga ones I’ve had before, or the other, similar Meiji cubes.
They’re about 5/8 of an inch square with a distinct checkerboard texture on them. Each pair is wrapped in waxed paper and tucked into a box. So there are eight caramels total.
They smell very sweet and a lot like dark roasted coffee or espresso. There’s very little milk taste to it, though milk is a major ingredient. It’s definitely a sweet black coffee flavor. (Some coffee caramels taste like coffee ice cream.) I liked it much better than the grainy & gone texture of the Chewy Coffee Rio.
The dark, rich flavor and the soft, ample chew was really appealing to me. I found I ate three of the boxes before I was even ready to do this review. They were a bit on the expensive side for a mass-manufactured candy ... and the overpackaging is sweet for the first day or so, but silly and wasteful after that. I’ll likely stick with the Morinaga Caramels I know and love so well, or perhaps try the Meiji Chelsea Coffee if I can find them.
Thursday, January 8, 2009
I first experienced it in candy with the Yuzu HiCHEW and have eagerly consumed anything Yuzu I can get my hands on since. (And am considering planting a Yuzu tree in my back yard.)
So the Yuzu KitKat was enough to get me to place a pre-Christmas order with JBox. However, they were pretty expensive. $4.25 for 150 grams.
These little minis are two short fingers in a package (66 calories).
They smell like tangerines, chocolate and Cheerios.
The chocolate is rich and creamy and the zesty notes of Yuzu, which include grapefruit, mandarin, lime and tangerine come across immediately. The crunchy and bland wafers give it a bit of crunch. Towards the end there’s even a little bit of a bitter aftertaste from the citrus zest.
One of my favorite Japanese KitKats ever.
Rating: 9 out of 10
Azuki beans are used to make many confections in Japan, including a thick and sweet paste filling for mochi and a dessert soup called Oshiruko. Oshiruko varies depending on where you get it, but the little picture on the box looks like a thin, sweet bean broth with azuki beans and a dumpling of mochi in the middle.
The first Azuki KitKat I had was a white chocolate version, so I was definitely curious to try the red bean and milk chocolate combo in the newest Limited Edition from Nestle Japan.
This is definitely the kind of KitKat that fits into my mantra of “open your mouth, expand your mind.” Before I started my candy obsessed website I was pretty content with my American and sometimes Italian candies. I stuck to flavors and combinations that seemed logical to me. Combining beans and sugar (besides perhaps molasses baked beans) didn’t seem very confectionery to me. But now that I’ve had a good amount of mochi and red bean caramels I can say that beans are a natural, earthy & textured base flavor for candy.
This KitKat comes in the lovely box that is common in the Asian KitKats. Each little portion holds a two fingered KitKat. The front of this wrapper also has the new style of nutritional labeling that includes the calories right there - 110.
They’re glossy and pretty out of the mylar wrapper.
They smell like dirt. There are notes of freshly sawn wood, beets, caramel and rusted iron. It’s quite a different experience.
The bite and textures are the same as other KitKats. The milk chocolate is sweet and pretty creamy. The wafers are light and crunchy. The flavor is just as it smells - beets, charcoal, a hint of milk chocolate and butterscotch pudding. The Azuki flavor doesn’t quite make it in there, in fact, if I didn’t know that it was a red bean KitKat I probably would have guessed beets.
It’s not bad, a little bitter at times (which I don’t usually experience with other red bean items) but overall a tasty experience.
Rating: 7 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.
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
Meiji, one of Japan’s major candy & snack companies uses white and flavored white chocolates in many of their confections. The flavors range from berry and flower flavors (sakura) to green tea and caramel.
I found this Meiji Rich Strawberry Chocolate bar in Little Tokyo at Murukai Market, but every store seemed to carry them.
The bar is much deeper in color than the KitKats or even the limited edition Hershey’s flavored white chocolate bars that I’ve had. And the intensity of the color matches the flavor. It’s much more in the berry range than the “light touch of berries”. It’s both tangy and sweet, with that woodsy flavor of seeds in there as well.
I wasn’t as fond of it as a I’d hoped. Something about the tangy mixed with the sweetness and a bit of grain from the real berry in there made me miss the cocoa butter and milk base. But for $1.29, it was a great buy for a little more exotic taste than the ordinary.
Rating: 6 out of 10
I wasn’t sure what these would be, I thought something like the Skoolkrijt that I’ve come to love. I assumed it was a licorice center with a candy coating. I found a description online that said, “Salty Salmiak & Mint Flavor with a crunchy outer shell” which didn’t really capture it all (except that it included that it was salted licorice, not the straight sweet kind).
There are three shapes, a dark and a light jelly bean style and a larger, um, rock. I didn’t even know there was a third shape at first, as there were only two in the bag so I didn’t photograph it.
The beans are two different flavors. The light one is a peppermint, menthol and licorice mix of flavors. There’s a lot of crunch outside, it’s a bit grainy. The inside isn’t a molasses/wheat chewy licorice. Instead it’s a gelatin gummi flavored with licorice (and salt). The combo isn’t bad, a little metallic but the mint helps kind of smooth it all together.
The gray ones were similar but more on the straight licorice side. (They might not have been minted, but the proximity made them so.)
The lumps were a piece of the wheat based chew, again a little salted and covered with the minty crunch. That was my favorite.
They’re a little confusing for me. Not enough of one thing or another and the lack of the molasses punch to go with the licorice (my favorite combo) just didn’t make me want more and I never finished the bag.
Rating: 4 out of 10.
I was saddened several years ago to see that Wrigley’s altered their time-tested favorites: Wrigley’s Spearmint, Doublemint, Juicyfruit and Big Red gums to include those sorts of things. But then at Munchies in Los Angeles I stumbled across this little treasure - Juicy Fruit Gum, not only is it Kosher (which I don’t really need) but it’s also made with sugar and on top of that, they’re candy coated chicklets!
The box was cute and held 20 pellets. I usually chew three pieces at a time, so at 50 cents it’s no different in price than the regular pack.
I liked the crunch of the sugar shell and the indeterminate mellow fruity flavor of the chew. The flavor doesn’t last very long, but I don’t usually chew gum for a long time, just long enough to get most of the sugar out then I rinse and repeat.
Rating: 8 out of 10
Thursday, August 21, 2008
I have about half left.
But a morning browse on eBay a couple of weeks ago led to an auction of some Mentos from Japan in a yellow package simply flavored Grapefruit. I had to have them. So I placed an order with JBox and they arrived earlier this week.
Sporting and expiry date of 2010, these puppies must be fresh. The package is much like the others from around the world, the large Mentos logo, a picture of the fruit flavor on the right end and, of course, the name of the flavor in both English and Japanese.
They’re a nice yellow color and have the crunchy shell and soft chew inside. They’re tart and fragrant and have a good mix of citrus oil and zest notes. They’re not quite like the Pamplemousse though. The citrus is a bit more generic, a little floral and less bitter. Still extremely satisfying. I have two more rolls and if this were a permanent Japanese flavor, JBox could count on more orders. At a dollar fifty a package (instead of the 75 cents or so for my remaining Pink Grapefruit), I wouldn’t buy a lot of them though. (Mentos, can you make Yuzu flavored next?)
Wednesday, August 6, 2008
I bought this package of Kasugai Pineapple Gummy Candy back in January on a trip to Little Tokyo that I’d hoped would cheer me up. After all, the most widely accepted definition of candy is sweetened, concentrated and read-to-eat fun .
The package is dominated by a photo of two real pineapples. Pineapples are the symbol of hospitality in Western culture and their Indian name, anana  means simply excellent fruit . So what better combination to make lightly sweetened, concentrated and edible fun than to make it from the most excellent fruit?
The ingredients list goes like this: sugar, corn syrup, pineapple juice, gelatin, oblate powder, sorbitol, citric acid/malic acid, pectin, artificial pineapple flavor, palm oil, emulsifier, coloring (beta carotene).
Each gummi is individually wrapped. This keeps them fresh, which is good because I don’t usually eat a whole bag of gummis in one sitting. (But then again I have no problem eating stale gummis.)
The pieces are rounded, with a little crease in the top that might even make this look like a heart to some. Or maybe a peach.
Opening the little packet and the gummi is super soft, a little most but most of all, heavily scented. It smells like opening a can of pineapple: sweet but very deep. The chew is soft and pliable, almost like a Jell-O dessert.
It’s tangy and has a little sizzle to it with a good fruity burst. If I have a complaint about them, it might be that they’re just too fruity. After about five of them I get that same tongue burn. No, wait, that’s not a complaint. I love them. They make me happy. They’re concentrated bits of sunshine and tropical beaches. My misgivings are the fact that I find them hard to find and they’re pretty expensive for gummis.
Kasugai makes a pretty large array of flavors, most of them tropical including Lychee, Kiwi & Mango as well as the more middle-of-the road like Orange, Apple, Muscat (white grape), Peach and Strawberry.
 - This definition first appeared on Candy Blog on August 6th 2008, so may not be as widely accepted as I might hope.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.