Monday, November 10, 2008
Kinako Mochi Premium Chocolate
There is a company in Japan called Tirol (チロル) which specializes in selling tiny portions of individually wrapped candies. Each candy is about an inch square (2.54 cm.) and has a colorfully designed, unique wrapper. You can buy the small bits of candy individually for about 30-40 cents each (25-40 yen), in multi-packs, or in packs of the same flavor with multiple squares. The most common way to see them on store shelves is as individual squares. There's a gallery of their flavors both past and present here if you'd like to see the wide variation.
These small candies were originally created to allow poor children to buy sweets in the early 60's. The intent was to sell them for 10 yen, but the company had difficulties creating a candy for that price since the materials they used cost 15 yen. Eventually, they were able to make adjustments to bring the price down. However, the oil shock of the 70's pushed the price up to the 20-30 yen levels.
These days, these tiny candies are an interesting way of sampling and keeping portions under control. When I first saw this variety, it was being sold in a big bag and I didn't want to buy so many of an untested sweet. Fortunately, I ran across individual squares for sale at a convenience store and now I wish I had bought the bigger bag instead.
Kinako is toasted soy bean flour and is used for a variety of purposes in Japan. Mochi is a stretchy form of pounded rice best known as the New Year's celebratory food which some people choke to death on every year. If you ever watch hand-made mochi making, you'll see that it takes a great deal of elbow grease. Up until I tried this candy, I didn't realize why Japan had little or no peanut butter-flavored candy or cookies. Now, I know that they don't need it as kinako is so close to peanut butter in flavor that it would seem redundant to have both. I'm guessing kinako is probably nutritionally better for you than peanut butter.
When you open the package, you get a strong whiff of kinako and a beautifully formed molded square of light brown chocolate reveals itself. When you bite into it, the coating is cool, creamy and so much like peanut butter that you'd swear it was Mr. Peanut himself being ground for your eating pleasure. The mochi in the center is a little bit tough to bite through, but not in a bad way. There's just a slight texture shock as you go from easily cleaving the soft coating to the denser, chewy mochi. After a bit, the chocolate disappears and you're left to finish off the little bit of mochi.
This was a surprisingly good treat with excellent texture and taste balance. It has just the right amount of sweetness and a good balance of chocolate to mochi. It's only 49 calories, though it is just a small morsel. If you can get your hands on this, give it a try. I'd also recommend socking some away for later when this limited edition vanishes. The expiration date on mine was for August of 2009 so it should stay good for awhile.