Monday, December 10, 2012

Taiko Milk Caramel Sticks

I've had the empty bag from this package of milk caramel sticks ("bo") in my desk drawer for about a month. The reason for that is that I consumed them happily and quickly and did not quite get around to reviewing them. I wasn't exactly waiting for any particular reason, but since this appears to be a (hopefully) permanent fixture at Daiso Japan, I favored reviewing things with limited availability over this uniquely Japanese cookie.

The reason I'm getting around to it today is not that I don't have other things to review. The truth is that I do, but I caught a cold and my sense of taste and smell have been obliterated. I can't give anything new a fair shake right now so I'm reliving the tasty memory of these cookies. After you've eaten a whole bag (not all at once, mind you), it's rather easier to recall their flavor.

I've mentioned in previous reviews that I'm not the biggest fan of caramel, so this was my last choice among the Taiko tube-shaped cookies at Daiso Japan. Previously, I reviewed their sweet potato and brown sugar varieties and enjoyed them both. There's something about their texture and balance of sweetness that really appeals to me. They're simple in terms of flavor, but not in a bad way. The sense I get from them is one of nostalgia, but not for Japan or Japanese things. It's nostalgia that relates to times when food was made in a much simpler way rather than formulated for maximum appeal from teams of focus groups and test markets. I just get the feeling someone made these and sold them without tweaking them to death to optimize sales. 

Though sometimes "simple" can mean poorly formulated, but I really do think these are made well with their pockets of airy crispness and sugary outside. The caramel flavor is very subtle, and while quite sweet, they are not cloying. The package says they are "gentle" milk caramel flavor and I say they are all the better for that. In fact, I'd rate them as second the sweet potato version (which were sweeter, but had a flavor I enjoyed more). If you add in the fact that each cookie is about 6 inches long and only 52 calories, you're looking at a sweet treat that gives a lot of satisfaction for a low calorie price.

This is one of those unassuming treats that looks rather dicey to those who can't read Japanese and are unfamiliar with this style of snacks, but these are delicious and I would invite anyone with access to them to pick up a pack and try them in one of the three available flavors. I can't guarantee you'll like them, but there's a very low chance you'll hate them. For only $1.50 (124 yen) a package, it's not much of a risk. 

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