Wednesday, July 27, 2005
One of the best things about this blog is finding out about completely new varieties of candies I’d never heard of. One of these is Japanese Black Sugar Candy. Known as kuro sato, black sugar is basically brown sugar/molasses.
True brown sugar is basically sugar made from the whole boiled cane instead of just the cane juice that keeps the molasses. Molasses and black sugar is high in potassium as well as traces of iron, calcium and even a little salt. The taste of black sugar is similar to muscovado and has a salty, smokey taste to it. In the States, most brown sugar that you buy in the grocery store is just white sugar that has a bit of molasses added back into it.
Some Japanese just eat nuggets of black sugar as a treat (similar to maple sugar candies or Mexican panela). In fact, I used to eat brown sugar right out of the box as a kid. I loved the flavor of it. Many doctors and pharmacists have for years used muscovado-type sugars for medicinal use, either as a base for cough remedies or added to make medicinal syrups.
The Japanese use the bold taste of kuro sato to full effect in a lot of candies. Most are hard candies which are either for eating or for use as cough drops (often with the addition of honey or menthol).
Here are a few I found:
Name: Kuro Ame
from JBox - “A wonderful traditional Japanese hard candy, this is “Kuro-Ame” (Black Candy), a famous Japanese treat loved by everyone since the 1860’s. With a long history and a unique brown-sugar taste, this is a classical Japanese treat. One bag includes 22+ individual wrapped candies.”
Name: Pocket Black Sugar Throat Treatment Candy
In the tradition of a cough drop (similar to Ludens), this black sugar candy is packaged to carry easily in your pocket. Each piece is individually wrapped and has the distinctive taste of black sugar mellowed with a tinge of honey and menthol.
Name: Kasugai Honey & Black Sugar Candy
Shaped like little gems, these black sugar hard candies are individually sealed and packed with a little silica gel pack to keep them dry. They have a very smooth, sweet taste because of the honey. Not as smokey tasting as the Kuro Ame made by the same company, these are probably a great one to carry as a little pick me up and throat soother. Of the three products I bought, this is the one that is already gone.
Ratings - Kuro Ame - 6 out of 10
Also - see previous review of Asahi Drops (I didn’t know what Japanese black sugar was when I reviewed them)
Tuesday, July 19, 2005
Name: Mikakuto Osushi Gummy
This has got to be one of the cutest candies I have ever seen. It’s gummi sushi. The fish is little fruit-flavored gummies, the rice is marshmallow and there’s a little chocolate goo inside the marshmallow (I’m not sure what that’s supposed to be).
Inside the box are eight individually sealed pieces. There’s a huge variety. As far as I can tell: a grape octopus, a pineapple roe, a raspberry tuna, a green apple something (looked kinda like edamame, but you don’t usually have that on rice), a berry shrimp ... I think that’s about it. I’m guessing the variety differs depending on random chance. There’s a little guide on the inside of the lid ... in Japanese, but at least it shows you all the varieties.
The gummi part is very fragrant, soft and fresh. The marshmallow is a really nice complement to the tart gummi, but the chocolate center just kind of ruins it for me.
As a gift or stocking stuffer, this is great. It’s novel and well packaged (easy to wrap) and the images on it are really cute. It’s a little expensive, but I’d be willing to buy something like this for the right person. For just eating, I’ll probably stick to regular gummi bears.
Interesting fact from wrapper: no MSG!
Rating - 7 out of 10 (because of the price and funky chocolate filling)
Thursday, July 14, 2005
Name: Dars Bitter Chocolate
This was one of the purchases from Japan I was most worried about ordering through the mail because of the summer heat. Luckily it made the trip in perfect condition.
Morinaga makes excellent consumer chocolate and for a decent price. I’ve had their Hi-CROWN chocolate and liked it very much. This one is about half the price and still comes in a snazzy package great for sharing. (In fact, I shared about a third of this with others.)
Inside the box is a mylar sealed tray with an array of a dozen chocolate nuggets, each a diminuitive bite of chocolate. Because I ordered this directly from Japan, there is no English wrapper on it and I can only glean a few things from the packaging. One is that it’s 45% cocoa solids and the other is that it’s dark chocolate. I have to say, if they’re not putting a lot of sugar in it, and it’s only 45% cocoa everything else must be cocoa butter and that’s a good thing. This is exceptionally creamy and smooth dark chocolate with a wonderful smokey chocolate flavor with a slight cognac note to it. Not too sweet and not at all grainy.
Bonus to Morinaga for putting a freshness date on there too.
Rating - 9 out of 10 ... if only I could find it easily nearby
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.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.