Friday, November 2, 2012
Tolteca Japanese Peanuts (Regular)
On my other blog, I mentioned that there are lot of things in Japan which are labeled as "American" which an actual America would not recognize as part of their culture. This includes, but is certainly not limited to, "American coffee", which is what the Japanese call anemically watered down and weak brew. My experience with American coffee is that it is utterly rank and disgusting (cheap supermarket stuff sold in big cans) or fairly good (coffee house stuff like Peet's). It is generally not weak, though I wouldn't be surprised if some places are selling a puny distillation in order to save money, especially places with low prices and bottomless cups.
I figured that it is only fair that, if I'm going to point out all of the stuff that is labeled as American which is not actually American, I should also recognize that there are things in the U.S. which are labeled as Japanese which are not recognizable as being so. When I saw these "Japanese peanuts" in a local liquor store (no, I wasn't getting loaded, my husband wanted a beer to drink with dinner), I knew that this was a chance to even the score. I lived in Japan for 23 years and never saw a peanut that looked like these, and I see them for sale all over the place in California stores.
Word is that these were invented by a Japanese immigrant in Mexico, but I could not verify the truth of that story. I can say that these appear to be of Hispanic origin and are sold in areas which carry a lot of Mexican food. They're also usually pretty cheap. I bought this 4 oz. (113.4 g.) bag for $1.29 (104 yen).
When I opened the bag, they smelled vaguely of peanuts. Though the ingredients list includes soy sauce, I didn't really smell that component. It seems that the shell masks some of the nut scent, but not all of it. The outside of each peanut is coated with a smooth, super crunchy shell. It doesn't taste particularly salty or strong, but there is about the tiniest whisper of soy sauce, sugar, and flour (wheat an rice) flavor there. Frankly, I had hoped for a stronger flavor on the coating.
It seems that the coating on this particular brand and variety of Japanese peanuts mainly lends texture. You get a pretty good solid crunch and a bit of a shattered mess if you don't pop it into your mouth all at once. While there was certainly nothing so "wrong" about these, I wasn't compelled to think I'd want to buy them again. In fact, I'd strongly prefer regular peanuts if for no other reason than they'd be saltier than this and not offer so much in the way of useless carbohydrates. That being said, there are spicy "Japanese peanut" varieties out there which I believe may hold greater promise. If these weren't invented by a Japanese immigrant, then I imagine that they are "Japanese" mainly because they incorporate soy sauce and rice flour. The only thing I found particularly Japanese about them was that they were bland, and the Japanese tend not to like very strong flavors.