Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Tomatsu Yuzu Mochi "Cake"
Brand loyalty is a useful thing. You get an idea of whether or not a particular company's new products will be worth sampling or not based on knowing its brand's offering. This is something that you can easily take for granted when you're in your own culture and have lifelong experience with a company's line. For instance, we know what Hershey's chocolate tastes like, so we have some idea what every new chocolate will taste like because they use the same basic mix.
One of the continuing list of benefits of this blog is that I'm actually learning about and coming to know Japanese brands in a way I never would have before. I've learned that there are companies whose products I can rely on for certain things (Kameda Seika for sembei, for instance) and those who aren't likely to offer me a positive experience (Ito En for beverages). That's not to say everyone would find the brands falling into the same categories as I do, but just simply that this is how their respective formulas and recipes suit my tastes.
That being said, it's always nice to come across a new brand dealing in a type of snack I don't often frequent. One of those types of snacks is variety packs of traditional Japanese snacks. Part of the shelf at my local markets tends to be devoted to bags with a hodge-podge of individually wrapped bits of jelly candies, bean-filled monaka, and tiny marshmallow and cake treats. I don't review these for two reasons. One is that the quality of these variety packs tends to be low and the other is that reviewing them requires a tremendous amount of effort relative to dealing with individual treats. It takes me weeks sometimes to complete a variety pack review.
The company that produces these yuzu mochi treats, Tomatsu, is one of the manufacturers of these types of variety packs. They call them "mixes". I guess it's like a bridge mix type of idea only with a lot more red bean jam rather than nuts or chocolate. After perusing their site, I noticed that I don't really see much by them locally, which I believe is unfortunate.
These are roughly translated as "cakes", but what they really are are soft little blobs of pounded rice that are sweetened and have very tiny bits of candied yuzu in them. The citrus element (the yuzu - a Japanese citrus fruit which is between a grapefruit and an orange in taste) is reasonably pronounced without being overdone, as is the sweetness, though you can't really smell the yuzu when you give the mochi a sniff. Unlike some mochi, this is not painfully chewy. It's easy to bite off and there's little danger of choking on it. They're soft, and slightly heavy for their small size (roughly 1 inch/2.54 cm wide and slightly longer). These are a very well-made treat.
I really liked these. The flavor is very well balanced and the texture interesting. The only thing that kept this from being a "very happy sumo" rating is that they are dense on the calorie front. One of them is 49 calories and it is two small bites of pleasure. For the same number of calories, I could have two Hershey's kisses or for just ten calories more, I can have two Tirol chocolates. There's something distinctly unsatisfying about the calories on eating flavored rice cake being so high. Still, I would recommend these to anyone looking for yuzu treats, but especially if you also like mochi. I'd even consider giving these as souvenirs to friends back home if I felt their tastes were moderately varied.