The "Tanita Restaurant" brand of 100-calorie desserts has been on the shelves for awhile in Japan and I'd been hoping to get around to sampling one of them for quite some time. The main thing stopping me was the boring nature of the standard offering. It was pretty much flan or plain pudding with caramel sauce. I like flan as much as the next person, but this is a country that is drowning in plastic tubs of thick pudding with various types of burnt caramel sauce on the bottom. It's a real yawner as a taste option. It's on par with the never-ending stream of strawberry KitKats in terms of the lack of excitement it creates in me. Though vanilla pudding with orange sauce is hardly an exotic flavor combination, it is more interesting than what I can buy at nearly any kiosk, convenience store, and market in Japan, so I took the plunge. Since buying this, some more interesting flavors have come around (e.g., Japanese pumpkin), and I may get to one of those later.
The main selling point of the Tanita Restaurant recipes is that they are low calorie and supposedly delicious. This is a collaborative effort between food-making giant Morinaga and a maker of health-related products called Tanita. Tanita provides a cookbook with meal recipes that are under 500 calories and Morinaga gives you a chance to chase that healthy home-made meal with a processed dessert. The web site for this dessert promises that it gives you a 50-80% reduction in calories.
You can buy these desserts pretty much anywhere, but I picked this one up for 100 yen ($1.30) at a Lawson 100 convenience store. It contains 85 grams (about 3 oz.) of thick, custard-style pudding with an orange sauce on the bottom. You can see a lot of little black specs in it which I imagine are real vanilla beans. This is surprising given that this is a pretty cheap dessert, but the flavor bears out the real vanilla flavoring. The sauce has very mild orange flavor. The pudding is quite sweet and has a slight bit of powdered milk flavor. The texture is creamy but quite solid. You can tell that this was thickened with gelatin to give it some heft. Surprisingly though, it does not have any artificial sweeteners in it, though it does contain high fructose corn syrup.
This is a surprisingly tasty little dessert and well-worth the calories and cost. While it is made with a filler (seaweed-based gelatin, agar agar), it is creamy enough to have a nice texture and the vanilla really shines through. If I had to come up with a complaint, I'd say it is that the orange sauce should have a stronger flavor profile, but I wasn't particularly bothered by its subdued nature. If you're calorie conscious and seeking a pretty nice little dessert, I'd definitely recommend giving this a try.