Friday, July 8, 2005
Name: Green Tea and Black Sugar Caramels
I know, you must think me obsessed with caramels. But they are one of the most perfect expressions of sugar and fat. Soft, yielding, bursting with sugary flavor that lingers in the crevices of your mouth. They’re great for summer too, since they’re not subject to the temperature extremes of chocolate.
As promised, I’m ready to share my Japanese finds from my recent shipment.
First is Morinaga’s Kokutou Caramel. This is what’s known as a black sugar caramel, or probably what westerners know of as brown sugar or molasses. This caramel is darker than the milk caramels I’ve tried from Japan. It has a slightly rummy aroma and a definite molasses bite to it when chewing. It’s a really nice, smooth caramel with a good finish. There’s no molasses bitterness either. It’s not sticky, but plenty chewy with a good milky consistency.
Morinaga also makes a Matcha Caramel, which is a green tea flavored caramel. The nugget is definitely green. It smells of green tea and tastes just like green tea ice cream, with that same smooth roasted flavor and slight bitter tinge. Unfortunately after chewing for a while, it feels a little grainy and slightly bitter, like there are real ground up leaves in there. That aside, they’re quite addictive and both caramels complement each other well - so I can just alternate between the two all afternoon.
Rating: Kokutou Caramel - 8 out of 10
Wednesday, June 29, 2005
I made an order a few weeks ago from an online place called jbox. They’ll ship just about anything they can get their hands on from Japan. Most notably for me, candy.
At the moment I’m interested in Black Sugar Candy. This is something I don’t see in the states and I was curious about it. It’s basically brown sugar or molasses hard candies. Very nice, with great smokey overtones. I got five different kinds of that. There are also some caramels and some gum in there and one other chocolate bar I wasn’t able to find in Little Tokyo.
I’ll have full reviews later, but here’s a photo of what came in the box:
Tuesday, May 24, 2005
Name: Fruits Gummy
Aside from the name, these were great. Well, and the packaging.
The drab outside package featured rather drab pictures of the fruits flavored within. After opening there were over a dozen little individually wrapped gummies - each in a pretty colored wrapper with a fruit shaped gummy within. You can pretty much improve you enjoyment of these by dumping them from that outside bag. The fruits are pineapple, orange, strawberry, lychee and melon. The orange ones are cute little slices the size of an actual tangerine slice and the pineapples (also pictured) are tiny little pineapples.
Unlike the German-style gummies, these are a little sticky on the outside, which makes the individual packaging necessary. Biting into them, they’re less rubbery than gummies as well, but have that same great chewy-but-not-sticky texture that you find in a firm gelatin. The flavor is really intense, very fragrant. But, while the pineapple smells really good and is sweet, it has not tang to it. There is no sour associated with these gummies at all - they’re all sweet and perfume.
I found it refreshing and really pleasant, while I think I’d prefer them with a bit of a bite to them, the flavor is so dense I can see why they went this way. The package heralds that they’re made with real fruit juices and pretty much nothing else but that and some gelatin/pectin and sugar.
Rating: 7 out of 10
Thursday, May 12, 2005
Name: Hi-SOFT Caramel and Milk Caramel
First, I give high marks to Morinaga’s packaging team. Like the Hi-CROWN chocolate, the Hi-SOFT caramel comes in a spiffy hard box, perfect for carrying in a pocket or purse and fun to flip open to share. I’m not sure how many caramel products Morinaga markets, but these are just two I’ve found.
Of the two, I prefer the taste and texture of the yellow box Milk Caramel. Both are soft and chewy without being grainy, but the milky smoothness of the Milk Caramel far outweighs the Hi-SOFT’s keen box. Of course nothing will ever top the happy fat cows that got me started on the Japanese caramels.
In fact, of all the caramels I’ve tasted over the past few months, I like the Milk Caramel best. Looking over the ingredients it has the right mix of sugar and milk products, a dash of salt and something I didn’t expect - tea extract.
Rating: Hi-SOFT - 6 out of 10; Milk Caramel - 8 out of 10
Wednesday, May 11, 2005
Name: Pocky (Chocolate)
I love Pocky. Can I just start with that? What a perfect candy. It’s got the savory crunch of a biscuit and the smooth velvety flavor of chocolate.
Opening one of the foil packs I was met with the overwhelming scent of dark chocolate. The sticks were nicely coated (not too much) with chocolate, and leave a little uncoated spot at the bottom where you can hold it without getting chocolately fingers - something they don’t do with chocolate covered pretzels.
The coating is a thin sheath, but because of the richness of the chocolate, it’s the right proportion. The biscuit or pretzel part is bland - it’s not salty nor sweet, but the perfect bit of crunch and crispness for the chocolate.
The portion size is huge. Half the package (250 calories, 90 from fat but only 20 mg of trans fats). I wasn’t able to eat that big of a portion - that’s 22 sticks. I think they’re a great thing to tuck in a lunch bag or to go off on a picnic (provided your pack doesn’t get too hot and they melt and stick together). Easy to snack on, easy to share.
Rating: 9 out of 10
See earlier review of Green Tea Pocky.
Tuesday, May 3, 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
Thursday, April 28, 2005
Name: Sweet Candy (Fruit Drops)
Ya gotta love anything that comes in a swell flask-shaped tin in this day and age.
Made by Meiji, this tin contains, simply put, fruit hard candies. As far as I can tell the flavors are something like lemon, orange, strawberry, grape, pineapple and melon. But there’s also a curious opaque white one that’s peppermint (quite a shock when you’re expecting pineapple). The candies are nicely flavored. Tart but not overly so. The lemon and pineapple are particularly good.
It’s a fun little stocking stuffer or something to keep on your desk. After you’re done, you can even put change in the tin - though the largest coin that will fit through the opening at the top is a quarter (but if you’ve got more money, what are you doing saving it? you should be out buying candy).
Rating: 8 out of 10.
Wednesday, April 27, 2005
Name: Mousse Pocky (Green Tea)
Pocky is one of those Japanese treats that’s gone mainstream in the States. I’ve seen them at Ralph’s and even some convenience stores. I’d never had them before and I think if I had it to do all over again, I’d start with a more common flavor. However, I’ve got to hand it to the Mitsuwa Marketplace, they had a huge selection. There’s also something known as “Men’s Pocky” which I haven’t quite figured out.
If you’ve never seen them before, Pocky are little cracker/biscuit sticks dipped in something chocolatey or creamy. My choice was Green Tea. The sticks look just like the package promises. Long, unsalted pretzel looking things dipped in a green, creamy coating. You grab them by a small uncoated end for clean fingers.
The coating is like white chocolate flavored with green tea, and it tastes just like room-temperature green tea ice cream. Smooth, delicately flavored with a crisp bite to the cracker inside. They’re definitely addictive and one of the better items I bought on my last Little Tokyo trip. They do have a bit of hydrogenated oils in them (though the main fat is cocoa butter, which is what gives the coating its smooth-meltyness).
I’m eager to try more flavors. The neutrality of the crunchy stick makes it idea for just about anything. Mostly I’m going to see if other varieties don’t have hydrogenated oils.
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.