Monday, June 25, 2012

Meiji Double Choco Pucca

If the Japanese were as infantile and competitive about trivial lifestyle choices as some Americans seem to be (e.g., "Coke vs. Pepsi" battles), there'd be one camp for Meiji's Pucca chocolate and pretzel combo and another for Glico's Pocky. On the Pucca side, there is a wafer-thin fish-shaped unsalted pretzel which has a buried treasure of creamy sweet filling inside. On the Pocky side, you have a similar pretzel rod coated in a sweet chocolate-based coating. What you like depends on personal tastes, but I've always loved Pucca and been relatively okay, but not had any particular passion, for Pocky.

Since returning to America, I've seen Pocky a fair amount in run-of-the-mill supermarkets, but generally only in two flavors - regular chocolate and strawberry. They're also pretty expensive relative to the Japanese price, but I guess that is to expected since they are imports on this side of the planet. I've never reviewed either of these basic flavors, though some day I should. Pucca is a far more elusive catch, but I found this double chocolate flavor at the Daiso Japan in Mountain View, CA. It was not only a delight to find an old favorite on offer, but also very reasonably priced at $1.50. That beats the best Pocky price I've encountered by at least a buck.

I checked Meiji's site for Pucca and they don't list this double chocolate variety as being available in Japan, though I'm sure it has been on offer at some point in the product's history. As an aside, I'll mention that "honey milk" is the only flavor on the site in addition to the regular chocolate kind in a plain pretzel wrapper. The box, which is multi-lingual and lists information in English, Chinese, and Arabic says that this was made in Singapore. The thing is, I'm not sure that the Pucca made for the Japanese market also isn't made in Singapore, Taiwan, or some other country in which labor is cheaper. It isn't uncommon for products in Japan to say, "made for (name of company)" rather than "made in Japan." 

The question is, is this the same sort of Pucca that I enjoyed in Japan and the answer is absolutely, "yes". The flavor of the chocolate is stronger than regular Pucca, as is to be expected with double chocolate. This masks some of the rye flour flavor of the pretzel (which I love), but that's okay because it gives back a slightly intense semi-sweet chocolate flavor. It even carries that familiar coffee-like aftertaste of Japanese chocolate that I know so very well. The center is creamy and smooth and, if you don't gobble this down too fast, it will melt decadently on your tongue. These are insanely fatty and eating the whole box of 18 thumbnail-size fish at once will set you back 264 calories. The flavor is so nice and strong though that I was satisfied after 4 or 5, though it would be easy to just consume them all.

The good news is that I found an on-line resource for these which is economical and accessible to many. You can buy these from a place called eFood depot for $1.19 a box (cheaper than what I paid!) or a 4-pack for $4.60. They also carry Pocky and Pretz if your door swings that way. However, I'll stick with the Pucca.

Image from Meiji's Pucca web site

There's a cute little character gallery showing Pucca characters made up in different ways on Meiji's Pucca web site (including a somewhat politically dubious "afro Pucca"). If you're into cute Japanese characters, you might want to give it a peek

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