Sunday, February 8, 2009
Ezo Brown Bear Strawberry Milk Chews
So much Japanese candy is adorned with cutesy little cartoon mascots. It's almost refreshing to see a ferocious, snarling bear on the front of one the them. In fact, I really wish I could send a case of these to Stephen Colbert. I'm sure they'd be all the more appetizing to someone with his unique appreciation of the less cuddly nature of bears. Some might doubt the marketing value of putting a creature that looks like it would enjoy nothing more than mauling you on a box of sweets, but it can't all be Pikachu and Totoro.
These candies are a souvenir from Hokkaido, though we picked them up at a candy shop in our neighborhood in Tokyo. Somehow the whole Japanese regional food obsession seems a little less understandable if you can get these types of things anywhere outside of their specific regions. The box has one of those long-winded statements in English that you sometimes find on Japanese products. For the record, most of these assertions are earnest and about nature preservation or appreciation. I'm told this sort of thing plays well with the locals, but mainly as a decorative element as most Japanese folks don't bother to read the English (or understand it). To me, these statements have always come across as a bit corny, but they're not there for the likes of me.
These are made by a company called Dounan. The company is located in Hakodate in Hokkaido (northern Japan) and was established in 1919. Their Ezo Brown Bear line includes 3 flavors of caramel chews and a few chocolate bars. They make a variety of caramel "chews" as well as a few drinks and other sweets. One of the more interesting items they make is chocolate-covered freeze-dried strawberries. If I could get my hands on them, I'd love to try their corn chocolates and caramels. The corn chocolates look like little cobs and are just darling. Everything they make can be purchased via mail order from their web site if you can understand Japanese, though I'm betting they only ship domestically.
The box contains 18 strawberry milk chews which are 1.5 cm (.6 in.) x 2 cm (.8 in.) in size and wrapped individually in wax paper. The box could easily fit 20 candies because there's a long gap at the top, but I guess that they're being a little cheap or someone didn't design the box properly. The candy smells faintly of real strawberry and each is firm to the touch. When you put them in your mouth, they're slightly sweet and a little tart. They're pleasantly chewy and easy to bite into. There's a hint of milky flavor as well. They're like a soft Tootsie roll in terms of texture. They're not as slick or gum-like as a Hi-Chew.
These have a very good and natural strawberry flavor. It's mild because of the milk, but the flavor is clearly present and well-balanced. These are definitely worth a try. Even if you hate strawberry, you should buy them for the nifty box.