Friday, November 4, 2011
Living in a foreign culture, and trying hard not to be too ethnocentric makes me frame my gustatory experiences differently than I did back home. One of the things which always rubs me the wrong way is the elevation of one culture's choices over another. In particular, the idea that Japanese cuisine is carefully designed for health concerns. A culture doesn't decide to eat fish, seaweed, soy, and rice because of nutrition. They do it because that is what is available in their particular geography. The food culture grows around the available resources, not concerns about nutritional purity. Tastes fall into line with that culture's readily available options because humans like what is familiar.
Traditional Japanese cuisine is a combination of the elements which were easily attainable within the island's borders, but since the world has become a smaller place and food culture is widely shared, new options are constantly being injected into the Japanese diet. Developed countries have the extreme luxury of being able to mix and match a plethora of food options. I doubt that things like cookie chocolates would exist in Japan if it weren't for the influence of European baking culture. Of course, chocolate wouldn't be here without the Americas. Thinking about it this way, it doesn't seem like this product is very "Japanese" at all.
When it comes to chocolate, confectioners can't seem to decide if they want to sell esoteric combinations (like chili, sembei, etc.) or stick with traditional pairings that are known winners. With Dars, which is better known for its fatty, creamy chocolate, Morinaga decided to "mix it up" a bit by adding something textural. I was, frankly, a bit dubious of this entry in a long line of cookie chocolates, particularly considering my favorite way to consume Dars is to put it in my mouth and allow the creamy chocolate to melt on my tongue. That's definitely not going to be the case with this one. You can find these pretty much everywhere that carries Dars (convenience stores, markets) for the time being. It's usually 100 yen ($1.25) for a box of 12 small pieces.
Each little square is the same size as a usual bit of Dars. It has a volume not too dissimilar to a Hershey's Kiss and a calorie count which matches (19 calories per piece). There is a generous amount of crunchy cookie, but not so much that it isn't nicely held together by the chocolate. The scent is nice, but not intense. You can tell just from the smell alone that this isn't going to be anything near dark chocolate. The chocolate is sweet and milky, but not cloying. The cookie bits are crispy, buttery and rich and help cut through any overpowering sense with the sweet candy.
Most of the time, the cookies don't play much of a major roll in the flavor of the chocolate. They are just studs of texture which undercut the intensity of the chocolate. In this offering of Dars, I think they actually contribute 50% to the overall enjoyment of the candy. That being said, these are not for people who like less sweet candy or intense chocolate. This is good for those who like things milky.