Thursday, January 7, 2010
Yuzukoshō Gourmet Cheetos
Cross-cultural differences are usually recognized mainly when they are broad and obvious like the fact that Japanese people bow and Americans shake hands. One of the reasons I continue to be interested in Japan (or other cultures for that matter) is that I want to know and understand the subtle differences. I think that the aggregate of those types of differences paints a more detailed and vivid portrait of a different culture than the most obvious differences.
What does this have to do with something as pedestrian as Cheetos? Well, this bag of Yuzukoshō (a fermented spicy seasoning made with Japanese citrus fruit like a lemon and chili peppers) salted corn snack has as a selling point that it contains 100% dark meat pork extract. It fascinates me that this point is so appealing that it's put on the front of the bag in fairly prominent letters. The Japanese clearly value the origin of their pork extracts more than I do.
My husband quickly grabbed these Cheetos, a 70 gram (2.5 oz.) bag, at our local 99 yen store while snapping up other interesting-looking goodies. He didn't pay much attention to what it said. The skewers of grilled meat pictured on the package suckered him in. If he had known it was yuzu and chili, he wouldn't have bought it.
When you open the bag, the strongest scent is of the chili, but also black pepper. The Cheetos look to be liberally sprinkled with it. The flavor is very intense in four layers. There is the sourness of the yuzu, the heat of the pepper and chili, salt, and also sugar. The mix of sweet and salty with sour is actually quite nice, but the sweetness component (which is actually the sweetener Stevia) is amped up a bit too high for my tastes. In general, I like very strong flavors, but this tastes a bit too close to a spice bomb for me. My husband also felt the flavor was too "sharp". These would probably be better if the flavors were at about 70% of their current intensity.
In the end, we'll eat the whole bag (386 calories) because they're not bad at all. I'm guessing they'd be better with a drink of some sort close and hand or as an accompaniment to food so that you could give your taste buds a rest.