I think my faithful readers will find that little has changed since I last blogged. I'm still using a crummy little digital camera and struggling to get shots that are bright enough and in focus. I still write posts that are too long. I still try to be funny and fail a lot of the time, and I still making typing errors that make me look like I don't understand basic grammar and spelling and fail to proofread.
Getting back into this blog will be nostalgic for all of us. And, I don't mean the good kind of nostalgia like opening Christmas gifts when you were a kid and it all seemed so magical and wondrous because you hadn't yet learned that the fat guy who left gifts, ate your cookies, and drank your milk was your dad (or mom). I mean the kind of nostalgia that comes from a bad Thanksgiving meal full of relatives with political views you don't share and who feel its their responsibility to convert you to either their religion or their atheism. Somehow though, you feel like you need to keep coming back anyway.
As I mentioned in my previous post, the first item I'll be reviewing is Hina no Sudachi. This is a "steamed bun with bean jam using egg yolk," according to the package. If the ingredients list is any indication of quantity, and in the U.S., the first ingredient is supposed to make up the largest amount, egg yolks are the top ingredient followed by white beans. Oddly, I didn't find the interior of the cake to be as yellow as I'd expect nor as yellow as the store displays show (that's a Facebook link and won't work unless you have an account - a Yelp one of lesser quality is here). That is okay because I'm less interested in the color than the taste.
I will note that my husband and I both have a great fondness for this particular type of sweet. That is, we love the white bean ones with the cake-like shells and continue to reminisce about the ones we bought regularly in Japan like Kamome no Tamgo and Koganei Imo. In fact, these are the only types of Japanese sweets my husband actually likes. He may tolerate others to a limited extent, but he is happy to eat these because the bean filling is finer and not especially "beany" compared to red bean (adzuki) types.
This cake didn't have a high bar to vault over though as neither of us expected it to surpass our favorites. We just expected it to be a solid white bean cake option, and, it was. The external cake was tender, but not too moist and didn't crack or crumble. When I tasted the shell alone, it seemed to have a buttery flavor (which has to be fake or my imagination). It is quite thin and separates easily from the filling if you cut the cake in half as I did.
When you see the inside, it is exactly what you'd want it to be. That is, it is moist and holds together so it doesn't have the powdery, dessicated texture that some snacks do. I wouldn't recommend cutting it unless you're splitting it with someone as it's better to have an intact shell to hold the filling. If the filling falls out, it stays in a moist (but not too wet) lump so it's easy to pick up and put back in.
The bean filling is sweet, though not especially so by American standards, and has a flavor which is hard define, but is still appealing. It's more of a generic "baked goods" taste, but it does seem to have a bit of what could be vanilla. The ingredients include artificial flavors as well as beta carotene (natural coloring). Though it seems a bit buttery, it contains cottonseed and soybean oil, but no cow-based fats. It was in the spectrum of what you'd find in a sweet, baked item and not the least bit beany (as expected).
I will note that I wasn't sure if this product was produced only for the American market (which would be weird, but I never saw this in Japan), and I did have issues finding it online. However, it is actually a product of Hokkaido and I found a blog that referenced it as part of a souvenir multi-pack. There's also a pointless 16-second video of one here. So, it's definitely sold in Japan, but my guess is that it is regional enough to not be easily found in Tokyo.
As I was gearing up to do my research, as I did so often in the past, I realized that I have never used a Windows PC to write my blog posts before and had no idea how to swap to Japanese language. I'm still not sure how to use it as well as how I once did on my old Mac Mini, but I'll get used to it. I'm definitely rusty and hope to get back to my previous level of highly inadequate and pathetic Japanese input and usage rather than remain at my current level of confusion.
Where I bought it: Nippon-ya (San Francisco branch) - can be mail-ordered from them
Weight: 23.8 oz.
The big question I have to ask myself is whether or not I'd buy this again. The answer is that I would, but not every single time I order from Nippon-ya. It's tasty, but it's not out-of-the-ballpark amazing. It's also the heaviest box of sweets in my current crop so there is a premium attached to buying it as opposed to trying something new so I'd be likely to order this once in awhile rather than as a staple. That's in no way saying it's not worth it, but just recognizing that this doesn't rise to the same level as our other white bean cake favorites.