Monday, March 11, 2013

Ginbis Tabekko Animal Biscuits Coconut

When I was growing up and it came time to wrap a gift, I got out the paper, scissors, and wrapping paper and did a very basic wrapping job. One of the cool things about living in another culture is that the possibilities of carrying out even a small activity like wrapping a gift are expanded. Not only did I learn that there were all sorts of paper-saving nifty ways in which to wrap gifts that the Japanese employed and Americans hadn't thought of, but I learned that you didn't even have to use paper. 

Traditional Japanese wrapping cloths, furoshiki, can be used to wrap a gift in such a way as to make the wrapping itself a part of the gift. What is more, it can be reused by the receiver to wrap a future gift if he or she so desires. While it is possible to reuse wrapping paper if you're careful about how you unwrap, it's got nothing on a piece of nicely designed material.

Behold, my bunny folded-furoshiki. 

The awesome thing about furoshiki isn't necessarily the fact that it is ecologically sound and unique, but that you can wrap things in a wide variety of ways. This makes wrapping oddly shaped things easier and more interesting. Recently, I decided to use a furoshiki to wrap a gift. This was mainly because I didn't have a proper box, but also because it seemed like a more stylish option to boot. Among the choices was one in which you could tie it up like a rabbit. Though I'm not particularly good with tying knots, I did manage to pull off a rabbit-like wrapping. Trust me when I say that it's not as easy as it looks, but it's also not as difficult as doing origami.

Why am I talking about furoshiki in a review of Ginbis biscuits? Well, I was thinking about how I could have chosen a wide variety of folding techniques, but the one that appealed to me most was one that resembled an animal. I was also thinking about an episode of Archer in which he's carrying around leftovers in a foil-shaped swan. And just yesterday, I read a review of taiyaki on Serious Eats in which they were saying it was better than imagawayaki because it was shaped liked fish. Things are better when we shape them like animals. 

Perhaps it is a form of playing god (behold, I have forged an animal with cookie dough and my mighty, mighty hands) or simply the sense that we've created a low form of art, but humans have been trying to make animals out of food-stuffs and material-stuffs for many moons. In the middle ages, they used to grind up the meat of one animal and shape it into another animal ("farcing"). 

Ginbis biscuits are the equivalent of animal crackers in the U.S. and, frankly, part of the appeal of such things is that they are shaped like animals. If the makers of Cheez-its had been clever enough to shape their crackers like elephants or bats, they could have taken over the world (since Cheez-its are superior to Goldfish crackers). Their shortsightedness cost them the opportunity to experience world domination. 

Getting back to the matter at hand, I've reviewed the butter version of these cookies before and found them quite enjoyable. Like their butter counterparts, they are thin and a cross between a cracker and a cookie. There is a light sprinkling of sugar on the top and the flavor is very well-balanced with a strong but not overbearing coconut flavor and a light sweetness which is present enough to say "cookie" but not cloying. Because they are so thin, they are pleasantly crispy and make a great companion for tea. The entire 1.8 oz/50 gram box has 260 calories, so don't let the light nature of them fool you into thinking they're low calorie. Portion control is definitely recommended and will take a bit of willpower considering that the impulse to just toss them into your mouth one after another will be high.

The cool thing about these cookies beyond their pleasant taste and texture is the cultural aspects of them. The names of various animals are written on them in English and the back of the box has the English with Japanese translations. I find it fascinating that someone decided that it was useful to teach Japanese kids what a "macaw" is (confession, I'm not sure of what a macaw is). Each animal listed on the box is represented inside as a blobby cracker shape, and some of them are abbreviated in utterly unhelpful ways. For example, there is a listing for "M-Duck" (which is, I'm sure what is written on the cracker). If you read the Japanese, you see that this stands for "Mandarin Duck". Okay, do kids need to know what a mandarin duck is in two languages?

The funny thing is that I actually learned something by reading the back of the box. One of the animals listed is "peafowl", which apparently is the proper way to refer to peacocks and peahens as a type of bird. So, beyond enjoying these light, crispy cookies, you can educate yourself about names of animals that you may not have known about. I bought these at Daiso Japan for $1 (about 100 yen), but they can be picked up at many Asian markets for a similar price or purchased online at places like the Asian grocer


BradleyNASH said...

Hands down, the coolest animal crackers ever... oh and that bunny was a cute touch too!

Amazing folding bunny too!

Loving this blog as usual!

Orchid64 said...

I agree that they are the coolest crackers. The only down side is they can be a little oily, but it's not a problem for me!

Thanks for the bunny compliment, and for your comment!

BradleyNASH said...

Oily doesn't seem like a 'good' trait for cookies, or for most foods... I agree. However I've had similar issues with other Coconut confections? Maybe the Coconut Oils? I am not sure, thanks again and also for linking me on your page, it helps!