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.
Wednesday, December 27, 2006
I have my favorite candies, and I’ve been pretty faithful to them over the years. But there’s always this longing to experience new candies and how different cultures, countries and regions express their love of sweets. That’s part of the reason for Candy Blog, to help everyone overcome that fear of the new and different and embrace the new and different.
This is a story about my first “exotic” candy.
Sometime when I was a kid in grade school I was given Botan Rice Candy. I know I’d been exposed to foreign candy already (Torrones, Toblerone & other European chocolates), but this one was exotic because of the pictures on the box and that it had no associations with a holiday at all. It’s possible I had it at school as an observance of Lunar New Year, or just a show & tell from another child whose parents bought a box for them to bring into class. It came in a simple little box that’s pretty much unchanged today. At one end of the box was a little compartment that contained a little toy, like you would also get in Cracker Jacks back in the day. In the other 3/4 of the box were little cellophane wrapped jelly candies.
Things have changed a little since then. There is no longer a little toy in the box, but now a “Free Children’s Sticker” instead. But I guess this leaves more room for candy.
The candies are little cubes of jelly with a mild orange/lemon flavor wrapped twice. Though it seems like it’s not that different from those sugar encrusted jelly orange slices, these are less flashy. And this is what’s important about the Botan Rice Candy - the inner wrapper is edible. It looks like a slightly clouded cellophane, but it’s really made from rice and will dissolve in your mouth. (I was also fascinated with this ‘edible’ packaging in the classic Torrone as well, which have a starch wafer to keep them from sticking.)
What could be better for a kid looking to expand her horizons? A candy you could show to your friends and freak them out when you eat the plastic wrap plus a little toy!
Sometimes I like to pick the inner wrapper off as completely as I can. For no real reason of course. It’s not like it’s tasty. It’s kind of gooey, starts sticky and then becomes slippery on the tongue. Later when I had sake for the first time, it reminded me of yeasty rice candy wrappers. (Not really in a good way either, I don’t care for sake at all.)
As a candy, Botan Rice Candy is okay. It’s sweet and mild, though a little sticky sometimes. It has some of the barley sugar or millet jelly taste that I like, but the real appeal has to be the edible wrapper. There’s not much in the box either, at 3/4 of an ounce, there are only six pieces in there. With import costs, it’s usually about a dollar a box, even down in Chinatown where everything is cheap.
I went poking around the ‘net to see what else is out there and found another brand that also features the rice wrapper but looks like it could be of higher quality.
So, what was your first experience with Botan Rice Candy?
UPDATE: Several folks have mentioned White Rabbit in the comments since it also has an edible inner wrapper, here’s my review on that.
Thursday, November 23, 2006
Things to be thankful for: I apparently rebound from weariness rather quickly! After my declaration that I will not try any other limited edition KitKat bars, I’ve been sucked back in. And by a Pumpkin version no less.
In honor of American Thanksgiving, I had to review them. So I met Santos, of The Scent of Green Bananas at the Farmers Market yesterday for some lunch and a huge and generous mess ‘o candy (like trick or treating for grown ups! - more on that in the coming week). I rushed home afterwards to photograph them so I could give them a try.
First thing to know about these is that they are Japanese. Second thing to know is that they are pumpkin flavored, not pumpkin pie or pumkpin pie spice or pumpkin custard. They’re pumpkin flavored. Ever eat a pumpkin?
They’re milk chocolate covering the normal bland wafers with a pumpkin creme inside. Lest you think that they’re subtle, they smell quite distinctly of pumpkin. In fact, when I opened the bag (not even any of the packets, just the bag that they were in) it smelled like baby food.
It takes a little getting used to, but the pumpkin KitKat has a nice toasted, caramelized flavor. It’s not as sweet as the usual grainy sugar cream, so it offsets the cheap and greasy chocolate quite well. I can’t quite put my finger on it, except to say that the flavor is Pumpkin (or perhaps simply squash). The package is all in Japanese.
There is a long and strange aftertaste to this candy, a pumpkin aftertaste and not something I’ve ever experienced in my life before. I kept walking around the house thinking of baby food. Baby food. Look at the package - there’s a family of pumpkins on there. Daddy pumpkin, Momma pumpkin and of course little baby pumpkin with his two front teeth just growing in. (Does he eat this pumpkin puree KitKat?) I keep thinking ... Babies with faces caked with strained squash. Smelling of squash, a smidge of fabric softener and of course that baby smell.
They are, in fact, strangely addictive. I don’t know how, because any gourd and chocolate has never sounded like a good combo to me, but here I am, eating another. I hesitate to give them a high score, but the fact that I continue to eat them means the have to get at least a 7 out of 10.
Final thought: thank you all for reading and commenting in the past year.
Thursday, September 14, 2006
Ramune is a Japanese flavor similar to Lemon-Lime but with something else in it that I can’t quite put my finger on, it might be kind of like tonic water. Ramune soda comes in a unique bottle, which has a bubble in the neck that holds a glass marble that seals the bottle when it’s upright and then as you tip the bottle it rolls out and allows you to drink. (The marble can’t get out of the little bubble it’s in, so you don’t have to worry about swallowing it.)
Just about every candy in Japan comes in a Ramune version. Hi-CHEW, Puccho, gum, Shigekix & gummis.
These little candies are also about the size and shape of a glass marble:
The Ramune hard candy is immediately tart and a little floral tasting and has a tingle and fizz that comes right after that. I think the fizz comes from a combination of baking soda and citric acid that’s activated by the saliva in your mouth. The fizz goes all the way through. It’s pleasant and not too tart, so you don’t have to worry about burning your tongue when you consume too many.
The Cola flavored ones came in little red packets, with different colored lettering on them. I suspect that some were lime cola, lemon cola and perhaps cherry cola, but I really couldn’t tell the difference. They were all cola and had the zippy fizz and spicy cola flavor combo. Of the two flavors, I think I preferred the Cola ones, but I’ve been on a kick for Cola flavor lately. This bag had a mix of flavors (you can also get solo flavor bags or tubs), so I could indulge whatever whim I had ... but at the end of the bag there were just Ramune left.
I’m a big fan of using hard candies on long car trips to keep you alert and your mouth moist. This is also good for planes, especially in these days where you can’t bring your own water. These are pretty cool because they’re so active in your mouth. I have to warn you though, this is no idle bubbly tingle, these will give you the burps just like real soda ... but no refrigeration needed!
Wednesday, September 13, 2006
The Japanese have some strange candies and these have to be right up there at the top. Puccho are pretty popular and with good reason, they deliver just about everything. They have variety in both the experience and the range of flavors, great packaging, they’re inexpensive and of course you can share them easily.
There was a wide variety of flavor combinations at the store and I was especially interested in the Cola one but wanted to stay away from the yogurt ones (I like yogurt, but not as a flavor).
The Cola (in the red package) was awesome. The little piece had white and brown stripes in the candy and every once in a while there was a little piece of cola flavored gummi or a nugget of sour foamy grains. The grains gave it a lemon-cola zap and the gummis gave the soft, Hi-CHEW-like taffy a little bump of longevity.
The second one is a bit more of a mystery. The English sticker on the label calls it Genki Drink, which didn’t really help me to narrow it down because I didn’t know what a Genki Drink is. A little time on Google and I knew EXACTLY what they are ... you’ve probably seen them before, those mysterious brown glass bottles by the checkout at the Asian markets and tea shops that claim to boost your mental acuity and, um, other things.
The saffron colored chews are similarly soft and have a tangy, lemon tea flavor to them but also a floral note that reminded me of violets. There are similar nuggets of white powder that release a little zap of fizz and tartness, but these seem to have a bitter bite to them. The little gummi bits linger and have a little fruity taste to them and help to scrub away any lingering taffy bits in the teeth (that’s how they’re described on the Puccho website).
I definitely found the Cola ones fun and practically addictive except for the later burps that the little fizzy bits seem to generate. The Genki, not so much, even though it probably has infusions of all sorts of healthy things (the only one I’m sure of is vitamin C). I’ll probably stick to my tried-and-true Hi-CHEW but the Cola ones are definitely compelling if I’m in a mood.
Interesting note: the motto for UHA Mikakuto is “Deliciousness is Gentleness”
Thursday, August 31, 2006
Green Tea (Matcha) KitKats from Japan have been around for a while, but it took me this long to get my hands on some. I couldn’t even find a single-serving bar so I had to buy this bag of miniatures. At over $6, it’s not something I’m likely to repeat for a mass produced consumer candy.
These little wafer sticks are covered in a white mockolate flavored with real green tea. The color of the coating is real, it’s a pretty shade of creamy green. It smells of sugar and the delicate scent of matcha. The layers are flaky and crisp, just like a KitKat ought to be. The mockolate coating is very sweet though, so the matcha nuances are lost until you reach a saturation point ... at about the second stick.
A little about matcha. Matcha is a style of preparing green tea that starts with preparing the tea leaves before harvest, where they are covered from the sun for a few weeks before they are picked. After drying they are ground into a fine powder to create the matcha. This powder is used to prepare the tea and unlike regular brewed teas, the hot water is added to the powder and it is not strained out. Think of it as the difference between coffee and cocoa. With coffee we brew the beans by passing hot water through the grounds. With cocoa we grind the beans very finely and add them to hot milk. You get more complex flavors when you consume the whole leaf.
While I found these enjoyable, they were a tad sweet, which covered up much of the green tea flavors. The white mockolate had more of a greasy consistency, since the ingredients go: sugar, vegetable oil, lactose, wheat flour, milk powder and the cocoa butter. The American label on the package may or may not be correct, as I found a huge discrepancy in the reported calories for them and I had to puzzle my way through the Japanese listing. Luckily numbers are universal.
I think these are limited edition, as they’re no longer on the Breaktown.com site, maybe someone can read that label and let me know. (Dont’ worry, these weren’t expired candies or anything, the freshness date said 01/2007 on it.)
POSTED BY Cybele AT 6:31 am
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!
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.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.