Friday, May 24, 2013

Fumido Kanoko (chestnuts in chestnut paste)

One of my students brought me a sample of the "kuri kinton" that her family had for the New Year's holiday as part of their traditional holiday "o-sechi". Those are more Japanese words than I usually put in a sentence, so I'll say that it's just chestnuts in a sweet puree made up of sweet potato and chestnut that is served as part of their traditional elaborate holiday meal(s). I loved what she gave me. In fact, I raved about how good it was because it had two great tastes that taste great together.

When I left Japan, I lamented to her that I'd never see the likes of kuri kinton again. I was wrong, sort of. I did see it again, but at a price that justified the "kin" (gold) in kinton. Fortunately, this student remembered my love of said dish and, as part of her goodbye gift to me, she gave me a box that contained two cans of "kanoko", which she said was like kuri kinton and would keep for up to a year. 

When I got to the U.S., in a fit of nostalgic craving, I had one can in the first month of my stay at Lopez Island. I stashed the other away and had it a little over a year later, but it was none the worse for wear. It kept well in it's stylish tin can, and tasted every bit as good as the first can consumed a little over a year earlier.

This is made by a company called Fumido which makes a variety of very Japanese types of sweets and sells them largely at department stores, but also offers them online. They are beautifully packaged and don't come cheap. One can is 1,260 yen or about $12.60. Two are 2,520 yen, which shows you that there are no economies of scale (as is so often the case in Japan). This means my student spent some pretty pennies, or yen, as the case may be, on this gift for me.

The contents of the can are large halved and whole chestnuts resting comfortably in a thick paste of chestnut and sugar. Fumido makes it a point to let you know that the chestnuts are domestic (from Japan) and that there are no chemicals whatsoever added to it. It is simply chestnuts and sugar, so, while it may not exactly be "health food", it's not full of artificial badness either.

What it is full of is chestnut goodness. Each can contains 260 grams of paste and nuts and 100 grams is 257 calories. That's a whopping amount of energy, especially when I had to restrain myself to eat the can in 3 sittings. It packs a caloric punch, but it is decadent and delicious with the mild chestnuts and the smooth paste having the right level of sweetness and nutty flavor. It's a simple, but warm and enriching experience.

If I could buy this again, I absolutely would. If you're going to Japan or are in Japan and want to buy someone and delicious gift, this is a great fit if you know they like chestnuts. Yes, it's expensive, but for something which is an elegantly presented slice of Japanese cuisine and culture that can safely stick around on a shelf for awhile, it's well worth it.

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