Wednesday, June 23, 2010
Lotte Kagoshima Sweet Potato Cake
While stumbling around Okashi no Machioka snack shop, I noticed that there seems to be a new line of snacks featuring a graphic of a stern-looking Japanese gentleman in old-style garb. The man who is represented is Ryoma Sakamoto, a political revolutionary in the mid to late 1800's. Is it me, or is that sort of a weird thing to put on a box of cakes? This particular line of Lotte snacks represent areas of Kagoshima prefecture associated with Mr. Sakamoto and were released on June 22.
There are 6 snacks in this campaign, and I'll be reviewing at least two of them. Besides these sweet potato cakes, I also bought a box of yuzu (Japanese citrus fruit) cookies, but there are also purple potato Crunky chocolates, Toppo castella-flavored pretzel sticks (like an inverted Pocky), and some yuzu gum which I haven't located yet. In fact, I seriously considered doing a Ryoma Sakamoto snacks theme week, but most of these items are multi-packs and I could't finish them off for weeks if I bought that many of them. And frankly, doing a week of snacks themed around a guy who was assassinated at 33 and whose Smith and Wesson revolver is picture on his Wikipedia page is just too damn weird.
There are 6 cakes in the box and I paid 198 yen ($2.19). That price will probably go down as the product line rapidly ages. The back of the box shows a statue of a proud and tall Sakamoto with what looks to be a tiny Japanese woman slightly behind and off to his left looking on in admiration. I'm guessing this statue is in the area where the sweet potatoes used in this confection are from. Frankly, it looks a bit sexist in design to me as it brings to mind the idea of women walking 7 paces behind men in old feudal Japan.
When I unwrapped the foil packet and gave these a sniff, they smelled excellent. There was a definite good whiff of Japanese sweet potato. The first bite revealed what seemed to be brown sugar and buttery notes as well as sweet potato, though I will note that these use margarine (not butter). The second bite, however, actually wasn't quite as good as a strange flavor seemed to be revealed. The flavor seemed similar to coconut, but wasn't really quite the same. By the third and fourth bites, this flavor dominated and I couldn't detect the sweet potato much. I wonder if that weird flavor was a result of the use of "natural cheese" (probably Gouda if I know Japanese snack makers, and I do). Note that these are colored with anatto in order to bring them closer to a potato color. There is no real sweet potato in them, but rather a powder. Oddly, they also have cocoa powder in them.
These were fine, but not quite what I expected. Certainly as a generic sweet they're fine, if a bit oddly seasoned. The texture is moist and they're a bit fatty. Each small (16.5 gram/.6 oz.) cake is 77 calories, which isn't bad even for a morsel like this. I just wish the sweet potato flavor weren't diluted by so many other tastes. I will slowly eat the remainder of the box when I am in the mood for cake, but I'm quite certain I wouldn't buy these again.