Thursday, September 11, 2008
Soft Cream Koala's March (Koala No Maachi)
Some food items in Japan are very much flashes in the pan. You see them for awhile and they vanish forever. Others have been around for a long time and never seem to go away, even though you never buy them. The Koala's March brand of tiny biscuits (cookies) is one such item for me. Way back when I first arrived in Japan in 1989, I bought a box of the chocolate variety and sampled them. I didn't buy another box again until recently when I was lured in by the "soft cream" variety with it's strong vanilla flavor connotations.
The Koala's March biscuits only pre-date my arrival by about half a decade. They were created as part of the Australia boom back in the 80's and originally showed koala bears playing musical instruments. The "march" part of the name was supposed to be related to "marching band", I guess. Originally, the number of cute little bears on the cookies was small, but has since expanded to nearly 300 designs.
When I looked at the cookies in the foil packet, I noticed a lot of the designs included Japanese characters (kanji). I wondered if they were doing this to teach kids kanji. I believe these biscuits are marketed mainly toward children because they're so cute and quite sweet. However, in Japan, it's hard to tell since a lot cute things are marketed toward adult women, especially those in their 20's.
The cookies are very tiny. I'd say they are akin to a Hershey's kiss in terms of volume. The outside is a crispy, flavorless cookie with a small hole in the back where the filling was pumped in. The filling is tooth-achingly sweet and carries a very intense (likely artificial) vanilla flavor. When I say they hurt your teeth, I'm not kidding. The filling is like thick, dried-out frosting. It's a little soft, but dense. While the crunchiness of the cookie outside is very satisfying and the textural contrast between the filling and cooking is nice, the filling spoils the experience. That being said, I think kids may love these since their tolerance for very sweet things is higher than that of the average adult.
Each box of biscuits is 55 grams (nearly 2 oz.) and there are tons of little cookies in one box. They are very cheap at 100 yen per box (93 cents USD). Though I think it'd be impossible to consume an entire package in one sitting, it'd cost you 300 calories if you did. Given the high cuteness factor and sugary nature, these would probably be a good souvenir for kids if you didn't mind the fact that they are fairly toxic nutritionally. The ingredients include a lot of the usual suspects (flour, sugar, fat, caramel coloring, whey powder) as well as the surprise addition of cocoa butter.
If it's any consolation, the Australian Koala Foundation receives benefits from the sales of these cookies. Your tooth decay and expanding waistline can help save the lives of koala bears. Personally, I'm glad to give them my 100 yen, but I'm going to throw away the rest of the cookies.