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.


12 comments:

Chili Pepper said...

Haha yep I wondered about these. I'm a Puerto Rican American so I've seen these around a lot in latin markets, and wondered where the Japanese label came from~
Interesting misconceptions about food around the world...some misconceptions are kind of sad though. Like, most Americans think of Japanese food as gourmet/expensive food (eg. sushi) and Chinese as cheap junk food but I've tried really amazing *real* Chinese cuisine that's nothing like Chinese American food! Likewise most Japanese restaurants in my city are not Japanese owned but rather Chinese/Korean owned ironically, and they don't taste very Japanese at all. They just make everything greasy and add some Teriyaki sauce--which I've heard is not even that popular in Japan! XD
If you wanna try the real, legit food from a country I guess you have to go there yourself or do some research.

Chili Pepper said...

Haha yep I wondered about these. I'm a Puerto Rican American so I've seen these around a lot in latin markets, and wondered where the Japanese label came from~
Interesting misconceptions about food around the world...some misconceptions are kind of sad though. Like, most Americans think of Japanese food as gourmet/expensive food (eg. sushi) and Chinese as cheap junk food but I've tried really amazing *real* Chinese cuisine that's nothing like Chinese American food! Likewise most Japanese restaurants in my city are not Japanese owned but rather Chinese/Korean owned ironically, and they don't taste very Japanese at all. They just make everything greasy and add some Teriyaki sauce--which I've heard is not even that popular in Japan! XD
If you wanna try the real, legit food from a country I guess you have to go there yourself or do some research.

SusieTron FiveThousand said...

My hubs carrys pocket food (I think he has low blood sugar but damned if he will go get that checked) and as of late he carries Barcel brand Japanese peanuts. His cousin lives in Japan and has never mentioned these snacks. But now that you mention it on your blog I have seen these Japanese snacks offered primarily in Spanish labeled packages or Mexican distributors. (Our friend gave us a ton of these peanuts as he works for a distributing company.)

Orchid64 said...

Chili Pepper: Thank you for your very interesting comment (and for reading this blog!).

I think we tend to perceive food based on its price and availability around us and Chinese food has been around in the U.S. longer than Japanese (and it does tend to cost less than other restaurant food). I agree that American-Chinese food is very poor, but I wasn't exactly thrilled by Japanese-Chinese either. I think a big part of it is that it's modified in other cultures both to suit tastes and reflect the limits on buying some ingredients. I'm sure there is amazing Chinese food out there, but I haven't found any in two countries, despite going to restaurants in Japan that were clearly ran by Chinese folks.

I haven't gone to a Japanese place in the U.S. since coming back and I'm rather disinclined to do so. I've seen pictures of American-style sushi and had tonkatsu here about 22 years ago which was not very good. I've also noticed that teriyaki is a big component, and, you're right, it's not that popular in Japan.

To be fair, this affects other cultures as well. Japanese people think what they call curry is Indian, and I'm pretty sure it's got nothing to do with Indian cuisine. ;-)

Orchid64 said...

Susie: I think these are probably a pretty healthy snack that provide more protein than others. However, I'm not sure that the added coating really does much other than add extra carbs and texture. That being said, given how fatty all nuts are, I'm not sure that's a bad thing. ;-)

Thanks for commenting!

Lu said...

This kind of snack is very popular here in Mexico, and the name of the brands are fabulous: Karate, Nishikawa, Nipon, Kiyakis.
Though, here they are a little bit diferent, the shell isn't that thick.
I just read that Yoshigei Nakatani created it in 1945, here in Mexico City.

Sophie-Marie said...

Hey! Those peanuts actually exist in the Middle East, they're called "cri-cri" (because they're crunchy). I like them so much, they're delicious! There is also a roasted salty almond version.

Lizabet said...

I LOVE these things. It was for something similar that I first contacted you! Although, the ones I can buy have sesame seeds and a stronger soy flavor along with a touch of sweet - quite addictive.

H.W. Fan said...

Aren't these a similar thing :

http://www.denroku.co.jp/cgi-bin/products/productsdetails.cgi?category=mame&code=0004

Vastly superior flavour wise but same coated with flour peanut thingy going on here..

Orchid64 said...

I guess it depends on how you define "similar". I can't tell from the picture or description (I'd need to eat one or see a cutaway of it), but it's soybeans, squid, shrimp, and peanut. The Japanese calls them "shrimp peas", and usually "peas" means that what is inside the coating is soybeans (not peanut), and I can't tell if they are the same even if the basic concept is similar. I did have coated soybeans in Japan (and reviewed them), but this didn't really bring that to mind because the coating was thicker and the flavor profile much shallower (and these are peanuts and those were soybeans, which are very different in flavor). That review was here:

http://japanesesnackreviews.blogspot.com/2010/02/alix-goma-soy-beans-setsubun.html

Without seeing them or what was inside them or tasting them, I can't say for sure if it's a similar deal. I learned that, in Japan, what you think you see isn't necessarily what you get sometimes (and sometimes it is... ;-) ).

Thanks for the link and for commenting!

H.W. Fan said...

No worries, always enjoy reading your blog! I hail from another part of asia but we have access to decent japanese import snacks.

A similar product reviewed:

Http://www.autho-rity.info/2011/03/22/kasugai-ika-pea-squid-flavour-peanuts/

Love Pitbulls said...

The funny thing is: in Israel they're called American peanuts!