Monday, January 2, 2012
Tirol Premium Ichigo Daifuku Chocolate
Ichigo (strawberry) daifuku is one of the most popular Japanese traditional sweets. When my husband and I were doing one of our day trips to a random unimportant train station, we ran across a shop that was lovingly hand-crafting them behind a window in Nishi-Ogikubo. Daifuku is a bit of pounded rice cake (like very soft taffy in texture, but bland in taste) which is filled with sweetened mashed beans in most cases, but sometimes contains other things (like mashed chestnut). The classic strawberry daifuku has a thin layer of mochi filled with beans and a whole fresh strawberry pressed into the center of it.
I think the bit of fresh fruit is quite appealing to many Japanese folks, but I'll be honest and say that I like everything but the strawberry. There's a real jarring experience when you eat a daifuku and run into a squishy, juicy strawberry in the middle (fresh, but often not quite fresh enough). I love real strawberries and I love daifuku, but just not the two together. However, I was curious to see how Tirol would represent this treat in their candy.
This smells like fake strawberry and the first bite tasted like disappointment. It had that soft, white chocolate thing going for it, but fortunately it was not too incredibly sweet. The main problem is that the strawberry was muted to the point of being a background flavor for all but the last of 4 tiny bites (at which point the accumulated flavor kicked in) and the kick of the tartness of a real strawberry. The second and third bites revealed some of the daifuku aspects. There was definitely a bit of a mochi thing going on which came to the forefront by the end. Frankly, it was reminiscent of balls of hot mochi floating in soup rather than the cold mochi used in daifuku. While I wasn't entirely happy with the soft white chocolate, I did like the textural contrast of the gummi center and the "mochi" portion. It made this slightly chewy.
Real ichigo daifuku doesn't taste anything like this. That is, in part, because the real deal includes a generous amount of red beans and the aforementioned real strawberry. There was nothing beany about this. It was fake strawberry and some sweetness mixed with a bit of mochi flavoring. It had adequate depth of flavor and texture variation, but it was all a little too little too late because it took so long to build up on the tongue that it was finished by the time the flavors poked their heads through.
I'm torn about recommending this because I didn't think it was all that great. On the other hand, it was "interesting" and these candies are only 20 yen for a smallish square (and only 60 calories). If you see one, the "costs" of sampling it for the experience alone are very low and it's worth it just to try. However, if you want to have something you're likely to be bowled over by, I'd say give it a pass. It's not bad at all. It's simply just not that good.