Tuesday, May 19, 2009
Cheese Potato Otsumame Arare
I was drawn to this snack by the picture of the baked potatoes covered in gooey cheese. While I wasn't entirely fooled into thinking that a bunch of little pellets flavored with whey and cheese powders was going to fill my mouth with the flavor of cheesy baked potato, I figured I'd see how close this came. Incidentally, this is another one of those snacks which is designed specifically to be consumed with alcoholic beverages (otsumame). There is an endless parade of them in Japan.
"Arare" means "hail" in Japanese. It's used in reference to food to indicate that something is being produced in little pellet-like pieces. I guess this is supposed to make them easier to eat when you're too drunk to bite off bits of a potato chip without having it crumble into your lap, or your beer glass. Japanese snack manufacturers are so considerate.
The bag is full of small pouches of what are essentially sembei (rice cracker) pellets and peanuts. Each pouch is 12 grams (.4 oz.) and contains a very small portion of peanuts and tiny cracker bits. The amount pictured above is the entire content of one little triangular packet. This portion contains 63 calories, which seems like a lot for such a tiny amount. The peanuts are average in size and comparing them to the sembei gives you a good idea of how small the pellets are. The entire bag cost about 170 yen, or about $1.60 or so in U.S. dollars.
Despite the fact that potatoes are on the cover, glutinous rice is the first ingredient, followed by peanuts. "Potato powder" and smoke flavoring are added in addition to cheese powder, yeast extract, and other seasonings. The smokey flavor is what hits you the most when you bite into these. It's somewhat surprising that they don't smell like much of anything given how intense the smoke flavor is. After the first nibble, the smoke flavor gives way to more of a cheesy bite. The peanuts are blanched so they aren't too intense. It's a nice mix. The texture is pleasantly crunchy.
I liked these, but I'm a bit dissatisfied with the wastefulness that comes along with putting nine tiny plastic packages in the bag. I'm all for portion control, but this is such a small amount that I have the sense that they are more for handing out at parties than for personal snacking. I imagine most people would want just a little more than what is in one package. I'd consider buying these again if I were in the right mood or if I wanted to exercise extremely judicious control of my eating.