Monday, January 16, 2012

Pumpkin Cheesecake KitKat

Quite some time ago, I got an e-mail from a reader who wasn't keen on my coverage of extremely strange Japanese snacks who said that he wasn't really interested in that sort of weirdness, but rather in things like the unusual Pepsi and KitKat flavors. I can understand that as many people may prefer to hear about novelty a few standard deviations from the norm rather than gag-fodder that they'd never eat. Unfortunately, if I focused only on those types of variants on popular and accessible snacks, I'd be making only 6 posts a year. 

One of the problems with not living here is that you get a distorted view of how often odd variations on popular food products come out, because other non-Japanese snack blogs only talk about such things. The truth is that that KitKat parade is populated mainly by strawberry, green tea, and various types of chocolate (fudge, semisweet, bittersweet, dark) than by edamame, ginger ale, and other extreme odd flavors. The triumvirate of the aforementioned flavors, especially strawberry, are the boring band members marching along and the really interesting stuff is like Santa Claus at the end of the Thanksgiving Day parade. You watch a bunch of people blowing into brass instruments and beating drums with a yawn and all you really care about is the fat guy in the red suit.

Fake mom and daughter are going to "fight" (with fists, apparently) to make sure fake daughter passes a test so she can get into a good school. 

At any rate, it has been a long, dry season on the Japanese KitKat front. At present, Nestle Japan is gearing up their PR campaign to sell to parents and kids for the studying season. The offerings they are focusing upon are adult sweetness KitKats (mild, dark chocolate), green tea matcha, and the umpteenth variant on strawberry (strawberry tart). They're also offering bags of white and plain KitKat minis in different packaging. Yes, I'm tired of watching the majorettes shaking their batons, too.

This pumpkin cheesecake KitKat was released some time ago, but I resisted buying it because I didn't want to buy a big bag of minis knowing I may not care for them. Don Quixote, the store, not the hapless avenger who attacked windmills, persuaded me to try a bag when they offered it for a mere 138 yen ($1.80) for a bag of 9 mini bars. Each mini bar is about the size of 1.5 regular KitKat fingers and has 68 calories. These were designed for Halloween, but were still available in abundance and at full price in shops in my area throughout the new year. In fact, most of them had larger bags for about $6.50 and that was a big reason why I didn't opt to try them until now. Each bar is individually packaged and there's a white space on the back that one can write a message on. I'm not sure what that message would be; perhaps you could say, "here is one bar from a bag of 9 that I could not consume on my own." 

Getting to the bars themselves, one of the reasons I was not necessarily keen on these is that "cheesecake" translated into actual flavor in the Japanese KitKat world usually means "tastes like sour powdered milk" and "pumpkin" (kabocha) is usually "strong vegetable flavor that feels rather out of place with all of that sugar'. My past experience left me anything but encouraged. 

The scent when you take a whiff of the bar is familiar yet hard to pin down. I think it may merely be that my olfactory senses are tuned to the scent of such kabocha-based treats after so much experience with them. They smell good, but unusual at the same time. The flavor is a balance between Japanese pumpkin and a custard flavor. I'm pleased to say that none of the yogurt/sour milk flavors in other "cheesecake" KitKats is present in this. One of the ingredients is "natural cheese", but the pungent elements are either masked or so subdued as not to register. This is quite sweet, but not in a cloying way, at least not if you stick to eating only one mini. My guess is that it might accumulate and become overbearing if you eat more than one at a sitting. 

With a surprising well-rounded combination of tastes, this was quite pleasing, albeit still rather sweet. Like most KitKats, the chocolate coating is slightly on the softer side with fresh, crispy wafers inside. The textural balance of a real KitKat is almost always superior to any knock-offs. It's the one thing Nestle always scores on. My feeling about these is that they are a pleasant digression, but definitely not part of a steady sweets rotation. I would buy them again, but likely only once a year. Chances are that they'll be back, however, because Nestle often rotates the same flavors in seasonally. Though this is no flavor "Santa Claus", it's definitely a bit more interesting than a mere member of the marching band.


Japan-Australia said...

A classic and so good around Halloween :)

Japan Australia

Me said...

I did not have high hopes for these, after my previous experience with "plain" pumpkin kitkats, but I thought these were fantastic. Very tasty-- even though I don't think they quite taste like pumpkin or cheesecake!