Friday, February 24, 2012

Genghis Khan Caramels

When my husband and I decided to leave Japan, my focus on food reviewing changed. Not only do I expect to cram in more reviews of fresh food before it completely drops off my radar, but there are certain "staples" which I thought I should review and would get around to one day whose time has come. The time had definitely come to sample these nearly infamous "meat" caramels.

Like many strange foods, these hail from Hokkaido in Northern Japan. I don't know if we're supposed to believe rampaging hordes of Mongolian warriors once trampled their way through leaving behind lumps of sweetened meat sweets or if this is a reference to a particular food in Japan. This is a country which calls an "all you can eat" buffet "Viking", after all. They do seem to have a thing about warrior groups and their food.

Since I am not a particularly big meat fan (these are supposed to be based on lamb curry), I faced this with some trepidation. Of course, even if I was the sort of person likely to tuck into a bit of sheep flesh, I'm not sure having it in caramel form would light my fire. This is a truly strange concept, but most cultures have their oddities in this regard. America has a garlic festival in which garlic ice cream is on offer. Garlic ice cream is eminently more practical than meat candy, however. If you're a woman who has suffered a back break from your vampire boyfriend and you don't want him to come around, you can console yourself and ward him away with said cool, creamy sweet.

I've written a lot of descriptions of many flavors and it's always somewhat challenging to convey in words what occurs on the tongue. This one is one of the harder ones to really describe since any mention of meat or meat flavors is likely to incite the concurrent smell and textural aspects in the sensory memories of the reader. One thing you do realize when you try a lot of faux items, like cheesecake yogurt, is that the texture plays a huge role in how you enjoy something. In the case of this caramel, it is less offensive for not being saddled with meat aspects aside from a certain savory note. Sugar on meat is disgusting, but a caramel flavored with meat flavorings doesn't have to be quite so gross. Honestly, this was pretty good. It mainly tasted like caramel with a bit of the flavor of the part of a piece of meat that is caramelized with cooking. You know, the little bits which get just a bit burnt near the edges and carry a certain chargrilled meat flavor? Dilute that by at least 70% and that's what this has going for it with just a hint of meatiness.

While this absolutely was not disgusting or bad, it's really not my cup of tea either. A snack doesn't have to be bad for me to be indifferent to it. It just has to not be to my tastes. As a novelty and particularly as a "weird" food souvenir that won't totally gross people out, this is a great little snack, but as a repeat eat, it's not going to make it into my rotation.


Marvo said...

If this was an American product, it probably would've been called Genghis Khan Karamels.

Japan-Australia said...

A very interesting combo! I enjoy the dish Genghis Khan and I enjoy the vaious caramels in Japan but not too sure about them all together. Worth a try just for the experience :)

Japan Australia

Orchid64 said...

Marvo: I wonder if it'd be somehow racist in America. I'm not sure how far political correctness goes. Are we allowed to associate meat with Mongol overlords without casting some sort of aspersion on the people of similar origin? (I kid, of course.)

J-A: never tried the dish, but I imagined that was what this was named for!

Thanks to both of you for commenting!

Rodzilla said...

I would definitely try them. Like you said, there are plenty of popular savory/sweet caramelized just don't often see the "meated" caramels :D

Ra said...

Are you going to try octopus meat sometime before you leave? :)
Take the challenge, I say!

Ring of Fire said...

They call the dish Genghis Khan because the dome shaped grill that the dish is cooked on apparently resembles the hats he and his warriors wore... According to my host family in Sapporo.

Orchid64 said...

Rodzilla: A student brought me some takoyaki and I thought it was actually pretty good. I'm not sure if I'd want to eat it often, but I certainly wouldn't turn my nose up at it!