Tuesday, October 5, 2010
Imuraya Cinnamon Rusk
I didn't think I would be taking part in the whole rusk fad that is still raging out of control in Japan, but cinnamon treats of any kind are relatively rare here. For those who don't know what a rusk is, it's essentially a dried out piece of bread like zwieback or melba toast. The fad in Japan has leaned largely toward dessicated bits of French toast slices coated in copious amounts of sugar. I was given one and found it relatively vile. It was like a sugar-coated crouton slice.
The thing that compelled me about this rusk was not only that it was cinnamon, but also that it is made with Portuguese cake, castella, instead of bread. I've had castella in Japan before and it's not my favorite because it's sticky and relatively bland. The texture is a bit strange for cake as well as it has a unique crumb that I personally do not care for, but I can see how it may be appealing to people of different tastes.
This is my first time to review something by Imuraya, a company which produces a wide variety of more traditional Japanese foods including jellies, youkan (blocks of sweetened bean paste), and, unsurprisingly, castella. A lot of what they sell is the sort of stuff which newcomers or those with little experience with Japanese food might shy away from.
Since rusk is dried out, the usual textural components of castella almost certainly weren't going to apply so I gamely picked up this bag at Inageya supermarket for about 130 yen. There are eight 7-gram pieces in the bag. Each is about the size of three jumbo croutons stuck end to end and individually wrapped. There are 30 calories per rusk.
When you open the packet, it smells like cinnamon and coconut though that is not one of the ingredients. My guess is that some preservative or flavoring that is giving off a coconut-like scent. The first ingredient is eggs followed by sugar then flour, sugar water, and cinnamon. The texture is very even and crispy. It is perfectly dried out and easy to bite into. It isn't as hard as a bread-based rusk.
The cinnamon flavor is admirably strong and this is sweeter than usual for castella. It is a lot like eating a very finely made, sweet crouton and has hints of sweet sopapillas or the type of cinnamon and sugar coated fried flour tortilla bits that you get from places like Taco Bell. Of course, these aren't nearly as bad for you or as decadent. Mainly, it's the sweetness, cinnamon, and crunch that they have in common.
The back of the bag recommends you eat these with jam or by dipping them in milk. They are already so sweet that I don't think that jam would be a good idea. I tried dipping them in milk and coffee but they sucked liquids up like a sponge and practically disintegrated. The texture is too fine for dipping. They don't turn to mush, but rather practically turn to nothing so that was not a good way to enhance the experience.
For a rusk, these are pretty good, but ultimately nothing spectacular. I will slowly and enjoyably finish the bag, but I can't see buying these again. It's not that they are bad at all. They are pretty nice. They're just not really all that exciting or impressive.