Friday, October 8, 2010
Heiwa Soba Boro (buckwheat cookies)
Back home, buckwheat is something I have mainly experienced in pancakes. It's one of those flavors that takes on more appeal as you get older because it has a heartier, earthier flavor than baked goods made with white flour. I first experienced these cookies when I was working in a Japanese office. Occasionally, office ladies would give them out as a treat at tea time, or they'd keep a stash in their desk which they'd offer a few of to me or others who happened to glance at them when cookie was heading to mouth. An errant look in the wrong direction and they'd feel obliged to surrender one to onlookers.
I picked up this bag for a mere 99 yen ($1.16) at Okashi no Machioka. The maker, Heiwa Seika, seems to deal only in these types of cookies in various sizes and packaging. You can find them almost anywhere in Japan though for a similar price, and perhaps from a different manufacturer. With many traditional and "grandma's snacks" like these though, there is almost no variation between the taste and quality of the products. If these interest you after reading this review, pretty much anything that resembles these will taste the same.
These cookies smell like the whole grains they are made with. There's also a hint of a "burnt" smell but not the type you'd associate with blackened foods. It's more like something roasted to the limit. It's a nice smell, but not the classic buttery bakery smell that you might expect from a western-style cookie.
The texture of these is dictated to a great extent by the copious amount of egg used in them as well as the sugar. They are light and crispy in a pseudo-meringue type of style. They are airy but not in an insubstantial way. The texture is like the love child of a meringue cookie and a biscotti - super crunchy, but easy to bite into. The flavor is of burnt sugar with a slightly caramel sense (without the buttery notes) and of the whole grain buckwheat the whole wheat flour. They are rather lightly sweet.
The bag I bought had 56 cookies, and I counted them so that I could do calorie counts very precisely. Each is about 4 cm (1.6 in.) in diameter and 11 calories. The ingredients list is short, whole wheat flour, sugar, eggs, buckwheat flour, and leavening agent. Most of the flavor is coming from the way in which the cookies are cooked and how it affects the sugar.
These are a unique but very tasty cookie. They may not be suitable to everyone's tastes, but I love them. For me, the texture plays a much greater part in my enjoyment of all foods and as a lover of meringue cookies and earthier flavors, these really strike a favorable chord with me. If you love very refined tasting treats full of white sugar and flour, these probably won't do much for you, but I really liked them and will definitely be getting them again and again. Note that they also have a very long shelf life so they'll keep for quite awhile and are good for on-the-go snacking or taking home as souvenirs.