Thursday, February 24, 2011
Sun Lavieen Monkey Banana
If I were a typical American kid, I'd think this was the sort of treat designed to sneak something into me that I wouldn't want to eat. In this case, the food of dubious value would be white beans. They happen to be the first ingredient in the list for these castella-based cakes. For those who don't know, castella is a type of Portuguese sponge cake that is very popular in Japan.
My husband spied these at Peacock supermarket and decided he wanted to give them a go. At only 100 yen ($1.20) for a 70-gram bag (2.5 oz.), I was game to invest. Besides, anything with "monkey" deserves a few brownie points and "banana" is an added bonus. I'm not sure, incidentally, what these do to earn the good name "monkey", however. They don't look like monkeys. They don't taste like monkeys (that I know of). And, unless Japanese monkeys are fed a diet of white beans and castella, they aren't monkey food.
This was more first sampling of a product made by Sun Lavieen. I checked out their web site and they make a variety of cakes designed to sit on shelves for a prolonged period of time without spoilage as well as some chou-based, eclair, and waffle offerings which are in the chilled sections of markets. All in all, they appear to be a youngish (by Japanese standards, established in 1963) mid-size company (290 employees) that fills a certain niche. The thing which most distinguishes them from other companies is that they appear not to have any cartoon mascots. Their motto is "we propose stylish tea time by delicious confectionery."
The expected issue with these was that they would be dry, and they are. In fact, they're exceedingly dry both because they are castella and preserved. The flavor is of fake banana, reasonable sweetness and the usual cake and margarine mixture. Note that there is no actual banana in the ingredients list.
I'm not sure who would enjoy these, not because they are truly bad, but because they are not very good. Mainly, they are dry and not sufficiently flavorful in nice ways (fake banana doesn't count as "nice"). About the only thing they have going for them is that each ring-finger-sized cake is only about 35 calories and they'll probably last awhile without spoiling or getting any drier even after being opened. I imagine these also would be good as part of a trail food kit that you can toss in a pack and carry around for several days. Aside from that though, I can't imagine pondering having these again, though my husband and I may slowly finish the bag.