Thursday, July 20, 2006

Candy Source: Aji Ichiban

Aji Ichiban is a chain of stores that sells dried and cured fruits as well as candy by the pound.

imageI 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.

image

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.

imageThere 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.

Aji Ichiban
188 Lafayette St.
New York, NY 10013

POSTED BY Cybele AT 6:09 am Tracker Pixel for Entry     New York CityReviewChewsGummi CandyHard Candy & LollipopsMarshmallowSour7-Worth ItIndonesiaJapanThailand

Comments
  1. Hmm…No taking of pictures in the store?  I guess Aji Ichiban is not so ichiban.

    Comment by Marvo on 7/20/06 at 6:55 am #
  2. Mmm, Pudding Marshmallow sounds good!  BTW, I got an email from M&M’s today telling me that dark chocolate M&M’s will be in stores *today* as a permanent item.  I haven’t seen them yet, but am hoping they will be making the peanut ones, too.

    Comment by Julilla on 7/20/06 at 8:53 am #
  3. I don’t care how bad they are, I want a Pudding Marshmallow…They look awesome.

    I’ve tried Hi-Chu/Chew, the Yogurt and grape ones are amazing, like space capsules. They make you feel so futuristic.

    Comment by GTO on 7/20/06 at 10:03 am #
  4. mmmm i’m having some of those kasugai jellies right now [apple, strawberry, pineapple, mango and lichee - in order of favs] i guess i just prefer the original fruits? anyways love the pics as always! :D

    Comment by silexelis on 7/20/06 at 11:07 am #
  5. There are at least 2 locations in Chinatown in NYC. There might even be a 3rd one (I walked by it one day , but it was closed). 
    It’s such a fun store to go to b/c they always have sample bowls for most of their preserved fruits, flowers, fish and meat snacks available. 

    I think the location that you went to is actually bigger than the one on Mott Street (right near the intersection w/ Pell), and I’ve found the service at the Lafayette Street one better (more accurate scooping), but I never tried to take pictures smile
    The people working at Mott Street always overfill my bags w/ whatever preserve snack I’m getting.  If I ask for 1/2 lb, I end up w/ 1 lb or sometimes more!

    Both of the locations also have slightly different products when I’ve been. One of my favorites is the dried strawberries yummm!

    Comment by Michele on 7/20/06 at 11:10 am #
  6. My friend took me to one of these stores when I visited her in L.A.  I love dried plums, so I stocked up on as many varieties as I could.  Yummmmmm…I didn’t even notice all those other candies.  Thanks for pointing those out :o)

    Comment by Susan on 7/20/06 at 11:29 am #
  7. You can get bags of the Kasugai gummies in lots of flavors at Mitsuwa or any other Japanese grocery here. Same with the filled marshmallows (I’ve seen grape and pudding anyway).

    Comment by Grace on 7/20/06 at 1:09 pm #
  8. I tracked this place down after your first mention of it back when you were planning your NYC trip. I then checked out the same NYC store during one of my past trips into the city. Wheras I didn’t get barked at by the woman behind the counter (I didn’t try taking pics though) I was FOLLWED throughout the entire store by one of the sales ladies. She just was a second shadow the *entire* time I was in the store. I had so much fun looking at everything, and I think they were confused as to why I left empty handed (I’ve tried most of the stuff they had before and they were kinda expensive). I am still baffled why I was hovered around so though….. hmmm. But it’s a very cool place, I think I’ll go back just to look again!

    Comment by Sera on 7/20/06 at 4:53 pm #
  9. I own The Dessert Cafe website and I sell gourmet desserts, would anyone have a suggestion of a gourmet candy that would be popular to sell on the net.

    Thanks for any suggestions.

    Comment by Jane on 7/21/06 at 11:57 am #
  10. I see there is one near me… WOOHOO!!  The actual address was listed also.

    Comment by Grommie on 7/24/06 at 10:24 am #
  11. Cybele's avatar

    Grommie -  hurray!

    Sera & Grace - yeah, there were plenty of things that I’ve seen elsewhere. The cool thing is that I got to pick out just one or two pieces instead of a whole bag like you have to get at someplace like Mitsuwa.

    Susan - I probably wouldn’t have noticed the dried fruit if someone didn’t tell me ahead of time!

    Michelle - I definitely would have noticed dried strawberries, that sounds good!

    silexelis - I like the traditional Kasugai too, especially the pineapple ones.

    GTO - don’t worry, pudding marshmallow is okay ... it’s mango marshmallow you should be afraid of.

    Marvo - so what does Ichiban mean?

    Julilla - I’m going to keep looking for peanut dark ones. I’m also going to try the plain dark again.

    Comment by Cybele on 7/26/06 at 7:00 pm #
  12. When I was in Guilin, China (south China) last year ran across some marshmallow treats that were awesome! They were shaped like little swirls (twists of color and white), 100% marshmallow without any filling or coating. They had lime, grape, and orange all in different bags. I brought some back for my nieces, and ended up saving a bag or two for myself. The orange ones were my favorites; they tasted just like an Orangecicle!

    Comment by Brad on 9/20/06 at 4:48 pm #
  13. I have been unable to locate a Aji Ichiban in southern California.  Any idea where one is located?

    Comment by Brenda on 1/12/07 at 11:29 am #
  14. I lived in HK for the summer and the aji ichibans there are a lot cheaper & have a larger variety. someone needs to open one up here to mimick them, there are these gummies that say “100% ___” on them and come in like apple, orange, strawberry, mango, and BLACK CURRANT which is absolutely yum. If anyone’s seen them, I’m in definite candy withdrawal and need more…

    Also, for the hi-chew eaters, there are these hi-chews that have these gummies dots that are like distributed throughout the hi-chew… if you go to asia and buy hi-chews at the 7-11 or whatever, the ‘gummy hi-chews’ are right next to them—soo addictive as well (:

    Comment by linda on 1/18/07 at 3:40 am #
  15. There is an Aji Ichiban store in San Gabriel, southern California.  The address is 140 W Valley Blvd.  It’s in the same shopping center with 99 Ranch Supermarket.  It is not a big store, but it is enough to satisfy some cravings.

    Comment by Tracy on 2/09/07 at 2:08 pm #
  16. Okay so my local Asian supermarket carries individually wrapped candies much like those marshmallows. Only, they are jelly-filled glutinous rice, and not marshmallow. So, they are sort of like mini daifuku. They are incredibly tasty and they stopped carrying the fruity assortment. Now, they only have the black kind. I wish that I could find more info on them, what they’re called, to find some more online.

    Comment by Theresa on 4/23/07 at 1:40 am #
  17. Hello! Thank you for reviewing Aji Ichiban. I’ve been going there since I moved to NYC three years ago. Unfortunately, “theft of display” is a huge problem in New York, where competitors seek to undercut each other by copying their successful store-layouts. This is why a lot of boutiques in NYC will not allow photos, most notably Pylones in SoHo.
    Their items are overpriced due to the fact that there are some items on which they lose money in order to keep their prices even across the board. You are right on: Ichiban is perfect for those looking to try very different things. I recommend the seasonally-available Honey Roses, which are real candied roses that taste like sweet raisins.
    Regards,
    Emily

    Comment by Emily on 11/09/07 at 6:19 am #
  18. it says you can order online, but i haven’t found a way from their website. is there something i’m missing? my friends send me candies from aji ichiban all the way from new york, but i can’t get any where i live! :(

    Comment by Sam on 1/06/08 at 9:58 am #
  19. I live near Chinatown, and I stumbled across that shop once. They nearly scared my friend and I away. We were browsing, since most of the stuff was new in there, and they kep following us around. Very disconcerting. I also tried some of the dried fruit samples and most were salty - yick. Somehow we did manage to buy a few wrapped candies, though - while they stood there giggling at us.

    Comment by Lisa on 12/08/08 at 4:52 pm #
  20. Jeez my English is better than that - meant “my friend and me”

    Comment by Lisa on 12/08/08 at 4:55 pm #
  21. In New Zealand we have something like one Aji Ichiban store and my favourites are the mochi balls! And also I love the strawberry and pudding flavoured marshmallows <3

    Over here the salespeople tend to be slightly more friendly. At least they don’t follow us around.

    Next time I’ll try some of the dried stuff!

    Comment by Natalie on 12/30/08 at 2:04 pm #
  22. The pudding marshmallow is excellent. I have found a cheaper version—not as puffy as the Aji Ichiban but same flavor and more cost effective in two stores: Chung May grocery in Philadelphia’s Chinatown, and also at the giant Asian grocery store (might be called “99”?) in Milpitas, California (near San Jose). Much cheaper and feeds the fix you need.

    One of the best Aji Ichiban “candies” I’ve tried I have never found anywhere else, and I WANT them…it is a round soft biscuit with an inside filling of a green tea paste or red bean paste. Not very sweet. Almost the texture of the “soft baked” cookies we have here in USA. there may be other flavors. Does anyone know where else I can get these? I dont live near an Aji store anymore!

    Comment by rageshwar on 4/03/09 at 7:07 pm #
  23. I would like to know how I can order dry salted plum and other dry product online. I’ve bought some from the store in chinatown in ny.

    Comment by thu ung on 11/09/09 at 2:18 am #
  24. i like to buy some pork jerky on line but can’t find how to do it pls email me to tell me how

    Comment by peter on 2/14/10 at 2:35 pm #
  25. I ATE THE RED BEAN CANDY AND IT WAS TERIBLLE !!!! WHO WOULD EAT SUCH A THING RED BEAN FLAVORED CANDY AND OTHERS ,DONT I REPETE DO NOT WASTE YOUR MONEY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Comment by tina revera on 5/20/10 at 8:18 am #
  26. Uhm…tina revera, your spelling and excessive use of caps are terrible. Besides, red bean candy is the sex. So is Aji Ichiban. People, if you are to waste your money, let it be on red bean candy.
    Anyhow I have been unable to locate a store here in Canada, but in Hong Kong buying loads of candy from there is something of an essential experience.

    Comment by Victoria on 1/24/11 at 8:04 pm #
  27. Is there any Aji Ichiban shop in Malaysia?

    Comment by Rowena on 6/17/11 at 8:37 pm #
  28. good evening, my name is christian from indonesia.. i want to open aji ichiban store in indonesia, what should i do to make it happend… thank you

    Comment by christian on 1/16/12 at 2:28 am #

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