Monday, July 30, 2012

Fist Soybean Flour Dumpling Candy

Sorry for the partial picture. I lost track of the picture I had of the bag before opening and had to crop a shot of it from among a bunch of other things I bought. I'm sure it makes a huge difference. 

I think it's important to say that the title of this post is not my translation of this item. It is the one that is written on the package. It's proof that crummy translation is done even when a big corporation is behind it, in this case, Daiso Japan, and has the resources to do better. I had the feeling that someone plugged the Japanese into Google translate and dutifully just wrote down the first thing that came up.

I bought these not because they have a funky translation, but because they are kinako (toasted soybean flour). It's not wrong to say that going to the Daiso Japan approximately 4 months after leaving Tokyo brings actual tears of nostalgia to my eyes. It's almost like stepping back into a Daiso back home in Asagaya, except that this one has a lot more cheap, tacky figurines than that one and sells food. My local one never offered any snacks as the one in Mountain View, CA does (and I thank it wholeheartedly for that). I paid $1.50 ($1.91) for these at that shop. 

In Japan, I was a fan of pretty much all things kinako and this was the only food item that featured that nutty dusting of food goodness that I came to enjoy. Unfortunately, upon opening the  bag, my affections immediately began to waver. It was like falling in love from a photo and finding that the minute the object of my admiration opened his mouth, he had bad breath. The contents smell very funky, like weird organically produced and fully sustainable glue products. Though scent is not the only important thing, it tends to tell you something about the taste.

Though I was not encouraged, I popped one of the pea-sized morsels into my mouth. From external appearances, I wasn't sure if the texture was going to be hard or soft or chewy or crunchy. They look like little sugar-covered hard candies. The true texture is that of an extremely dense ball of Play Dough, or at least what I think it would be like. I never actually ate my toys as a child, though I do know that some kids did nosh on their colorful balls of putty. 

The flavor is not particularly strong. It does taste like kinako to some extent, but there's a weird aftertaste and the flavor doesn't feel like it is punched up enough. It tastes like bland flour with just a hint of sweetness. This is rather surprising since the ingredients are soybean flour, sugar, starch syrup, sesame, oligosaccharide and salt. That's a lot of sugars for a relatively bland flavor hit. It does all translate into a lot of calories though. If you are so hungry and desperate that you'll eat the entire 110-gram (3.88 oz.) bag at once, it'll set you back 385 calories. I didn't count the total number of tiny dumplings, but I'm guessing each one is between 10-15 calories. Chances are, you'll never get past 50 calories at one sitting as these are far from "more-ish". 

The company that makes these, Takadaya Kinako, recommends that you "gently warm" them in the microwave. I threw three dumplings in the microwave for 12 seconds and, though they did not get particularly hot, they smelled like they were burning. Even though the temperature was such that there was no risk at all of scorching my mouth when I popped one in, one of them still tasted slightly burnt. While warming them did improve the texture slightly, it really wasn't that much better and it had a negative impact on the taste.

These are not good, really. I'm probably going to slowly eat the whole bag over a prolonged period of time because I love kinako so much that I'll consume them out of nostalgia for that particular flavor, but they really need something more than they've got both in terms of texture and flavor. My guess is that they could have used more salt, but even possibly more sugar, or some medical marijuana... something to make the experience of eating them more joyful. 

This is marketed mainly as a healthy candy and the company says you can give this to your children and not feel bad about it. They mention oleic and linoleic acid as well as various vitamins and minerals, fiber, and protein. I'll grant that it may indeed be healthy, but I'd argue with the notion that it in any way resembles candy. If you're looking to substitute something uniquely Japanese for a protein bar or energy bar, this might be your snack. It's got a real similar feel to it as a Lara bar or Clif bar in that it is a doughy clump of protein-based stuff. If you're looking to entertain your taste buds, I'd suggest heading off to more flavorful pastures. 

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