Monday, June 17, 2013

Morinaga Kinako Mochi Choco Ball

Candy makers speak in a sort of code. As children, we come to understand this code, but, as an adult, I had completely forgotten about the spycraft of sweets marketed toward the short set. For instance, "hot" in candy code often means, "strong cinnamon". It does not mean that chili is infused into the mix. That is only the case for candy designed for adult buyers and candy snobs who think that mixing hot stuff with sweet stuff is the bee's knees.

American candy makers have their code words and Japanese ones do as well. This was a fact I had not considered when I spied this box of "kinako mochi" or "toasted soy bean and pounded rice cake" flavor of Choco Ball. When I think "mochi", I think of chewy, slightly elastic, and soft covering on the outside of a traditional Japanese sweet. In candy code, however, "mochi" is what they call "gummi". That is necessarily a bad thing, but my level of enthusiasm would have been dialed back a bit had I remembered that this contained a core of German ingenuity rather than stretchy Japanese rice.

I found this small box (26 grams, a little under an ounce) of candy at Mitsuwa Japanese market on what I would consider a "very good day" in terms of scoring both interesting and affordable snacks. It was $1.19 (119 yen), which is still more expensive than it is in Japan (85 yen or 85 cents), but is very reasonable for an import.

When I flipped open the "beak" on the top of the box, I felt the very familiar scent of kinako "chocolate"; that is to say, white chocolate infused with toasted soybean. This is a smell that I love and welcome, and I think that kinako makes a very good match for white chocolate because it has no sweetness. I carries more of a nutty flavor from the roasting and only a hint of its soy roots. When I say, "soy", think soy beans, not tofu. There is quite a big flavor difference.

Each tiny little ball is about the size of an M & M, though, obviously, shaped differently. There 19 balls in the box, and the whole thing is 118 calories (about 6 calories per ball). I tried to get a cutaway view, but they're too small and soft for that. Biting into the white chocolate exterior causes the outer portion to crumble off of the gummy inside. Clearly, these are meant to be eaten in one go. Considering the small size, I imagine they're much more likely to be designed to be consumed a few at a time rather than in two bites. 

The outside has a nice sweetness and an earthy, nutty flavor from the kinako. The gummy inside is fresh, soft, and chewy, but it's so small that you have to make a special effort to get much of a "chew" in on it. That's okay. It invites you to be mindful of the experience. My tongue detected no flavor from the gummy inside, but that is no surprise both because of the size and the fact that they probably wouldn't trouble themselves to infuse it with something resembling the mild flavor of rice cake.

I really liked this, but I'm a kinako junkie. I think this is a very approachable option for those who may be a bit reluctant to try Japanese sweets, especially since it tastes a little bit like peanut butter. If you can find a box for a reasonable price, I say, go for it. 

If you're interested in a wallpaper showing Kyro-chan, the illustrated bird mascot on Choco Ball, you can download a few designs here

No comments: