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Japan

Monday, May 1, 2006

Pocky Caramel

Like KitKats and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, there are a lot of different versions of Pocky, and I’ll probably never get through all of them. Luckily this one came in a smaller package.

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This petite sized box is about one third the size of a regular box of Pocky, which is fine for me when I’m still experimenting. Pocky Caramel is the same bland cookie/pretzel stick this time dipped in a white-chocolate-style caramel-flavored coating.

What was oddest about the flavor of these was not that it tasted like caramel, and it did, but that it tasted rather like orange. Like a nice orange creme brulee. I have no idea how this was achieved, but I found it rather nice. Even though there was a strong powdered milk flavor to the whole thing it didn’t feel grainy or fake-tasting. They were rather sweet through and probably too sweet for my tastes as Pocky goes, but I’m starting to think that Pocky should make a combo pack that has little packets of different flavors in it so you can mix it up. Maybe eating a Chocolate Pocky and Caramel Pocky together would be tasty.

Name: Pocky Caramel
    RATING:
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 6 TEMPTING
  • 5 PLEASANT
  • 4 BENIGN
  • 3 UNAPPEALING
  • 2 APPALLING
  • 1 INEDIBLE
Brand: Glico
Place Purchased: Mitsuwa (Little Tokyo)
Price: $.99
Size: 1.41 ounces
Calories per ounce: 149
Categories: Cookie, Japan, Glico

POSTED BY Cybele AT 6:35 am     Comments (4)

Friday, April 7, 2006

Meiji Lucky Mini Almond

While I’m partial to Pocky, I’m trying to open up and try a few of the other dipped cookie sticks from Japan. Last week it was Yan Yan, this week I bring you Lucky Mini Almond Black.

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These petite little sticks of chocolate flavored biscuit stucks are covered with a mix of dark chocolate and crushed almonds. Like Pocky, there’s a little bit of uncovered stick so you can grab it and not worry about melting the chocolate as you nibble.

The package holds a brown plastic tray with two sections filled with the sticks. Each stick is about 2.5” long. There are plenty of almonds and it’s got a good mellow crunch to the biscuit without being too sweet.

The ingredients have some oddities, including things like “cheese powder” and “cream powder” but these definitely have no hint of the cheesiness of the Yan Yan.

Overall, as a nuttier version of Pocky, this is pretty good. I actually like the high ratio of chocolate and nuts and the slightly flavored biscuit. It’s no Men’s Pocky, but it’s a great afternoon snack that doesn’t feel too decadent.

Name: Lucky Mini Almond
    RATING:
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 6 TEMPTING
  • 5 PLEASANT
  • 4 BENIGN
  • 3 UNAPPEALING
  • 2 APPALLING
  • 1 INEDIBLE
Brand: Meiji
Place Purchased: Mitsuwa (Little Tokyo)
Price: $1.49
Size: 1.9 ounces
Calories per ounce: 168
Categories: Chocolate, Cookie, Nuts, Japan, Meiji

POSTED BY Cybele AT 1:43 am     Comments (4)

Friday, March 31, 2006

Chocolate Disk

On one of my recent visits to Mitsuwa, the local Japanese grocery chain, I found this. Even the woman at the checkout thought it was cool.

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Basically it’s a blister pack of M&M-style candies. The disc is the size of a regular CD with a larger hole in the middle. The candy coated treats aren’t quite real chocolate, there’s a large amount of vegetable oil in there in addition to the cocoa butter, so I knew before I even got them home that they wouldn’t really rival M&Ms or the fantastic seasonal Hershey’s Candy Coated Eggs.

Still, the sherbet colored candies and super-sealed individuality was compelling. My low expectations were completely met. The candies are well made, the shells are smooth and consistent but freakishly slippery. The taste is sweet and crunchy with a mild chocolatey taste, but of course the texture of the actual chocolate is rather lost.

I suppose blister packs for little candies is extra-hygienic, but I found that just as many of the candies wound up bouncing around and onto the floor as I tried to pop them out through the foil. It’s a fun novelty item, but in my mind if you’re going to go through the trouble of wrapping them up like this, at least do it with something of value.

Note: There are 26 candies in the disc.

Name: Nagewa Choco (Chocolate Snack)
    RATING:
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 6 TEMPTING
  • 5 PLEASANT
  • 4 BENIGN
  • 3 UNAPPEALING
  • 2 APPALLING
  • 1 INEDIBLE
Brand: Furuta
Place Purchased: Mitsuwa (Little Tokyo)
Price: $.99
Size: .88 ounces
Calories per ounce: 125
Categories: Chocolate, Japan

POSTED BY Cybele AT 10:46 am     Comments (10)

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Konpeito

What’s truly baffling in the whole confectionery world is that most sweets are made from the same ingredients. Yet the processes applied to them and the combinations can yield vastly different results. The Bunny Basket Eggs reviewed last week are an excellent example of sugar done wrong.

imageKonpeito (or Kompeito) is just sugar, and done so well. These little rocks, about the size of a pea and simply rock sugar with a little food coloring. And when you compare iit to those awful marshmallow Easter eggs, it makes no sense.

If you ever saw Spirited Away, you may have seen this candy. They’re little multi-faceted sugar crystal lumps that look like three dimensional stars.

There’s not much else to say about them except that they’re sweet and cute. If you’re looking for a special little something exotic for an Easter basket, these might fit the bill, the packaging is pink and pretty and of course the little pastel morsels of sugar are, well, rock candy. And rock candy rocks. You can even pick up a package and use it when you serve tea or coffee as a cuter version of the old sugar cubes.

See also: CandyAddict.com review, JunkFoodBlog has more on the cultural significance and limited edition versions and Wikipedia has a full entry including the references to Kompeito in media.

Name: Konpeito
    RATING:
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 6 TEMPTING
  • 5 PLEASANT
  • 4 BENIGN
  • 3 UNAPPEALING
  • 2 APPALLING
  • 1 INEDIBLE
Brand: Kasugai
Place Purchased: Mitsuwa Marketplace (Little Tokyo, LA)
Price: $1.39
Size: 2.64 ounces
Calories per ounce: 115
Categories: Hard Candy, Japan, Easter

POSTED BY Cybele AT 10:39 am     Comments (15)

Wednesday, March 1, 2006

Coffee Beat

As is often the case when I’m buying Japanese candy at Mitsuwa, I wasn’t quite sure what these were. Some good pictures on the package are always helpful and I figured that these were just coffee flavored chocolate shaped like coffee beans. They are, and so much more.

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The candies come in a sassy cardboard tube (wrapped in plastic to keep them fresh). The name, coffeebeat is in English, as I believe that the word ‘coffee’ is pretty recognizable in the Japanese market. The font is funky and reminds me of the ‘70s. Inside the tube are little coffee bean shaped (but slightly larger) chocolate candies with a hard candy shell like an M&M. They even have the little crease on the flat side like a real coffee bean.

The shell is sweet and crunchy and very thin. The center is chocolate with strong milky flavor to it and of course a hit of coffee. It tastes like a mocha. Sweet, smooth, milky and with an excellent coffee flavor that doesn’t feel like a “flavor.” In fact, it’s less chocolate than it is coffee - the chocolate is just a medium to deliver the milky coffee flavor. If you’re a black coffee person, I can see that this might not be the coffee candy for you.

The package is cute, makes it easy to share and the quality is very good. Overall, I’ve been very pleased with the Meiji brand. The products are well priced, use quality ingredients, have logical yet innovative packaging and of course they all taste great. The website seems to indicate they’re for kids, but maybe I’m just a kid at heart.

Name: Coffeebeat
    RATING:
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 6 TEMPTING
  • 5 PLEASANT
  • 4 BENIGN
  • 3 UNAPPEALING
  • 2 APPALLING
  • 1 INEDIBLE
Brand: Meiji
Place Purchased: Mitsuwa (Little Tokyo)
Price: $1.29
Size: 1.23 ounces
Calories per ounce: 155
Categories: Chocolate, Coffee, Meiji, Japan

POSTED BY Cybele AT 12:07 pm     Comments (22)

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Pocky Decorer Torokeru Montblanc

I haven’t the foggiest on the name on this one, so I’m gonna call these Chestnut Pocky and if anyone else knows what those alternating Japanese and French words add up to, please let me know. (I know that Mont Blanc means white mountain, but that’s not a flavor!)

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This is Super Thick Pocky. There are two coatings, the bottom coat is a milky sweet, kinda caramelly coating. The zig-zaggy top coat is similar, but has more of a nutty taste to it, which I’m guessing is where the chestnut comes in. But after tasting it (well, by that I mean eating half the box) I checked with JBox which always has nice descriptions:

Here is the latest treat from the Glico people, a fresh new style of Pocky that is out of this world. The delicious crispy pretzel snack wrapped in milk chocolate and then decorated in gummy style chestnut-flavored chocolate, for a taste based on the French treat popular in Japan called Mont Blanc!

It’s been years since I’ve had chestnuts but I remember them being rather sweet and chewy, unlike other nuts.

These are rich and sweet and not as addictively snackable as many of the other Pocky that I’ve had. They’re nice and all, and maybe in a Pocky mix I’d find them a nice change, but I can’t give them the highest marks as a snack. But I can confirm that there are no hydrogenated fish oils in this ingredients list, so that’s a bonus.

(Sorry for any feed duplication today, I’ve been traveling and I scheduled these reviews to launch but something went screwy.)

Name: Pocky Decorer Torokeru Montblanc
    RATING:
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 6 TEMPTING
  • 5 PLEASANT
  • 4 BENIGN
  • 3 UNAPPEALING
  • 2 APPALLING
  • 1 INEDIBLE
Brand: Glico
Place Purchased: Mitsuwa (Little Tokyo)
Price: $1.69
Size: 2.18 ounces
Calories per ounce: 92
Categories: White Chocolate, Cookie, Glico, Japan

POSTED BY Cybele AT 1:19 pm     Comments (9)

Friday, February 24, 2006

Pocky Fuyono Kuchidoke

I’m traveling this week, and when I was at Mitsuwa picking up some things I looked for something to take along that might be considered “traveling Pocky.” I did find some Winter Pocky, which is appropriate because it’s winter here in Pennsylvania. I’m guessing it’s the same as our Limited Editions that Hershey’s and Nestle have been playing around with, they just call it “Seasonal.”

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This is a regular milk chocolate Pocky rolled in cocoa. The chocolate seems sweeter than the regular chocolate Pockies and have a slightly more “dairy” flavor to the chocolate than the Men’s or regular Chocolate. It came in four small packets and is a bit more expensive than regular Pocky.

Unlike all the other Pockies I’ve had, this one did not look like the picture on the package. The package made them look textured, but these were just more matte looking and no cocoa came off the sticks (none in the bottom of the little plastic wrapping even). The cocoa adds a nice little bitter and salty hit to the whole thing, which is nice because now that I’ve had Men’s Pocky, I think that regular chocolate Pocky is a little too sweet.

There’s no listing on the ingredients that it contains hydrogenated fish oils, but it does have “shortening” listed on the ingredients, which isn’t prefaced with “vegetable” so it might be in here. It also lists monosodium glutamate.

Name: Pocky Fuyono Kuchidoke (Chocolate Winter Pocky)
    RATING:
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 6 TEMPTING
  • 5 PLEASANT
  • 4 BENIGN
  • 3 UNAPPEALING
  • 2 APPALLING
  • 1 INEDIBLE
Brand: Glico
Place Purchased: Mitsuwa (Little Tokyo)
Price: $2.49
Size: 3.35 ounces
Calories per ounce: 129
Categories: Chocolate, Cookie, Japan, Glico

POSTED BY Cybele AT 7:15 am     Comments (8)

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Hanahiyori - Green Tea White Chocolates

imageSometimes I’ve just gotta buy something because of the way it looks. I saw someone posting photos of this candy on Flickr a few months back. If I hadn’t seen what was inside the box, I’m not sure I would have bought it. The box is 5” wide and 4.5” deep (and only .75” high). The little candies are depicted on the package as well as a diagram of them (in Japanese) on the back (see the website for the text if you’re curious).

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I’ve always been pleased with Morinaga’s products. They’re one of Japan’s finer mass-market candymakers. Their ingredients are good quality and they have a fantastic way with packaging.

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The candies are “white chocolate” (made with real cocoa butter) with green tea in it (matcha). They’re shaped into pretty little candies - a fan, a flower, a leaf.

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There are two different kinds - a dark matcha shape with a chocolate base and then a version with a white chocolate outside with a green tea inside. Though they look different, besides the little bit of dark chocolate on some of them, they taste the same. If you’ve ever had green tea ice cream, that’s basically what this tastes like. Sweet, milky green tea in a solid creamy form.

Some matcha treats have a grain to them, but these are pretty smooth with a mellow, earthy flavor that has only a slight bitter note in the middle. The floral notes stay with you long after you’ve finished them, it’s a pleasant feeling, not like coffee breath. As white chocolates go, this is the way to eat them. They’re pretty, they have an actual flavor and they probably give you a good boost of antioxidants. These are the perfect little gift for someone. The packaging is sweet but they’re not too expensive (even for an import). They’d also be a nice finish to a Japanese-style meal. The package says that a single serving is the whole box, but at 167 calories per ounce, you’ll be doing your heart a favor if you share.

Note: You can order them online from JBox or scour the Japanese markets for them. They may be a seasonal item. This post is pretty much a blatant photography exhibition, they were just so ding-dang cute!

Name: Hanahiyori - Green Tea White Chocolates
    RATING:
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 6 TEMPTING
  • 5 PLEASANT
  • 4 BENIGN
  • 3 UNAPPEALING
  • 2 APPALLING
  • 1 INEDIBLE
Brand: Morinaga
Place Purchased: Mitsuwa (Little Tokyo)
Price: $2.39
Size: 1.44 ounces
Calories per ounce: 167
Categories: Chocolate, White Chocolate, Japan, Morinaga

POSTED BY Cybele AT 9:31 am     Comments (6)

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