I mentioned in a previous post that one of the nice things about buying Japanese products in America is that they save me from having to translate the ingredients. While I can read a lot of the characters representing common ingredients now without trouble, there are, at times, unusual things which I need to look up and a bit of time is now saved. That being said, there is a new problem associated with the translations. The English labels are slapped over the information in Japanese such that I have to try and scrape them off to get to the Japanese when I want it. In this case, I wanted to see the name of the company that made the product (not the importer, which was all that was listed in English). I spent five minutes carefully scraping at the residue hiding the information I wanted to extract. Of course, I'm pretty sure nobody but me cares who makes the food I review, but now that I've gone to all this trouble, I'm going to talk about it.
These are made by a company called Taiko Confectionary and it's a company I've never sampled a product from before. They're one of those businesses that is so small that they have little web presence beyond a couple of basic reference pages with addresses and phone numbers and a map. That means, unfortunately, that this product may be hard to find outside of where I located it in the U.S. (Daiso Japan) or in Japan.
These are called "sweet potato cookies", but they're really not a cookie. They're much more akin to the "bo" or "stick" snacks that are sold to children in Japan. That being said, the ingredients list is certainly in the realm of what suits a cookie. The first ingredient is sugar, followed by wheat flour, bread crumbs, corn grits, starch syrup, vegetable oil, sesame seeds, and only then sweet potato. So, there really isn't much sweet potato in these.
These smell very strongly of black sesame seeds. Each tube is hollow and super crunchy. The hole in the center makes them much easier to eat, though, if you are not careful, it's easy to bite into it the wrong way and send a shower of crumbs into your lap. They are very sweet and those who are sensitive to especially sugary treats may find them overwhelming. Despite being quite sweet, the intense flavor of the black sesame and the somewhat more delicate flavor of sweet potato come through well.
I often complain about "too sweet" sweets and this definitely has that potential, but it worked for me on multiple levels. First of all, I love the crunchy, crispy texture and find biting into one of these very satisfying. Also, there is a sort of shellacking on the outside of them which I'm sure is part of the heavy sugar concentration that works both visually and for the texture. I think that, if these weren't so sweet, there might be a danger of the flavor being flat. Sugar, like salt, is a potent flavor enhancer and works well when optimally applied. I think this is pretty nicely balanced, but it may be too much for some people with different tastes.
Despite all of the sugar, they are only 60 calories each for a cookie as long as the span of my hand up to my longest finger (about 6 inches/15 cm.). You get a larger size I guess because they are hollow, but it does feel like a pretty substantial treat and pairs well with tea or coffee. I paid $1.50 (120 yen) for these and will absolutely stock up on them again when I find myself at the Daiso Japan. I loved them. They may be pure junk, but they are tasty as all get out.