Wednesday, March 3, 2010
Doll Festival Corn Puff Snack
March 3 is the date of the "Doll Festival" holiday in Japan. In keeping with my efforts to sample more food associated with special days in Japan, I picked up this bag of corn puff snacks for 98 yen ($1.08) at a local green grocer. I've seen these types of puffs everywhere in different packaging, and I'd be very surprised if there was a significant difference between brands. They all look the same.
The Doll Festival, or 雛祭り, Hina-matsuri, in Japanese, is an old festival which has little real meaning these days. Mainly, people with daughters put up a large display of dolls that represent a royal court. That's the reason the bag of corn puffs pictured above has an elaborately dressed couple. They represent the emperor and empress dolls in the display.
The dolls used to have a spiritual meaning, but these days they're like Christmas trees in that there was an original meaning that is no longer considered or even known by most people. I've talked to students about the dolls they had in their displays when they were little girls and they told me that they were pretty, but they weren't allowed to touch them or play with them. The dolls are generally quite expensive and some of them are passed down from generation to generation. Depending on the type of dolls and how elaborate the display, they can cost well over 100,000 yen ($1,108).
There are a wide variety of sweets associated with the holiday, but the most common consumer ones that are sold in markets and convenience stores are the type of corn puff I'm reviewing and a block of tightly pressed little balls (made with rice, I believe). They're like a uniform popcorn ball made with tiny peas instead of popcorn. I've had the little bricks of compressed rice and I do like them. They are available year-round, but the Doll Festival version is pink, white, and green. The kind that you can buy any time are less pretty, but taste the same. I hope to review them some time in the future.
These little puffs are varied in size. The little ones are like a slightly inflated grain of rice. All of them are the same. The ingredients list includes sugar, flour, rice, and corn grits. There were 70 grams (2.5 oz.) in the bag that I bought. I think it might be about two and a half cups if you measured it out. Unfortunately, there was no nutrition information so I can't say how many calories they contain.
These don't smell like much of anything, though there is a vaguely cereal-like scent. This isn't surprising since these puffs are essentially a version on a corn-based kid's cereal. They're not quite as crisp or sweet as something like Corn Pops, but the flavor is so similar that you could probably eat these with milk and think you were having breakfast on a Saturday morning in your childhood.
If you're the type of person who likes eating crunchy sugar cereals dry out of the box (and who isn't), then you're likely to enjoy these. They're not exactly the same as the stuff back home (assuming you grew up where I did - I can't speak for cereal in other countries), but they're very close. These are good and I enjoyed them, but I have to imagine you could put away a lot of it mindlessly and pack in the calories. You'll enjoy it, but your waist might not.