Friday, June 9, 2017

Crunky (mini) and Hello Kitty Choco Marshmallow

Last week, I talked about the Dagashi box that I purchased from Oyatsu Cafe and this week I'm going to start reviewing the contents. I'm beginning with the two tiniest items and I have to say it's good that I've already had a lot of experiences with them in the past or I wouldn't have enough of a taste on hand to do a proper review. Yes, I'm winging about how small these were. I've gotten bigger freebies at sample hand-outs at events in the U.S. and attached to tissue packets given away on the streets of Tokyo.

First, there is the itty-bitty, teeny-tiny Crunky that appears to have been designed to be left on the Lotte Hotels pillows en lieu of a mint. The candy inside is literally about the size of an Andes Candy so you can get two tiny bites before it's all gone. On the plus side, I was impressed with how Lotte shrunk the whole thing down and made it look perfectly like its older brother with all detail intact.

I didn't expect to be reviewing this item at all as I was sure that I'd already reviewed the standard issue Crunky bar in the past. However, a search of my archives revealed that I had overlooked this Japanese version of a Nestle's Crunch or Hershey's Krackle bar. I covered a ton of variations, but never the regular bar and though they all have the same crispy bits, all Crunky are not created equal.

To illustrate this, I'll tell you an anecdote from back when I was working at Japanese office, one of my more obnoxious coworkers, a would-be Lothario (or, as they're sometimes called in Japan, a Charisma Man) who looked like Bruce Willis's "Mini Me", asked another of my coworkers, a man who spent all day day-dreaming of his own aikido dojo, to pick him up a Crunky bar at the convenience store on the first floor of the building we were working in. Dojo-boy brought Charisma Man a box of "Crunky Kids". The "Kids" version are like a nugget type of Crunky with a shiny exterior and the shape of a square pellet. Upon receiving his box of Crunky bits, Charisma Man exclained, "Aw, I didn't want the kids!" What he was saying was that no spawn of Crunky is as good as the original.

Incidentally, I'm happy to say Dojo Man is now in charge of his own dojo and doing well in life. I don't know what happened to Charisma Man, but it's possible he's actually functioning as Bruce Willis's Mini Me for all I know. Chances are he is off somewhere battling an STD of some sort though as one of the things he loved to brag about was how he only had intimate relations with "nice clean girls" and therefore didn't need to wear a prophylactic. At any rate, he didn't get his regular Crunky that day, but I got mine (albeit a tiny one).

The main thing that separates a Crunky from it's American crunch bar brethern is that it uses malt puffs inside instead of relatively bland rice puffs. This gives it a greater flavor complexity as the malt brings a nice depth to the mix of somewhat coffee-like, sweet milk chocolate in the bar. The texture really is the thing and the Crunky is nice crunchy with soft chocolate that melts quickly in  your mouth and has a silky, rich mouth feel.

The only difference between this mini version and the standard bar seems to be the size of the puffs. Either the usual puffs have been chopped up a bit to fit the low profile of the bar, or they've got tiny little elves crafting miniature versions of them for this version. Either way, this is tasty and it was quite a(n extremely brief) walk down my taste memory lane.

When I opened the little marshmallow packet and looked at the nicely formed little wad of mallow, I was transported back to my memories of the Japanese version of a treat I love in the U.S. One of the things that rarely worked for me in Japan was the basic marshmallow. They seemed like they were all formulated and injected into molds and were quite rubbery and had a funny taste which I couldn't identify.

Though this little wad had a nice and potent tiny dollop of intense bittersweet chocolate in the middle, it doesn't escape the all-too-common weaknesses of other Japanese marshmallows. It is too firm and chewy and brings to mind a pencil eraser when you compress it between your fingers. It's sweet and has a decent flavor, but the texture is just all wrong.

I think that some people have remarked in the past that Japanese marshmallows are different because they don't use animal-based gelatin and instead use agar agar (from seaweed). That may indeed be the issue, but, if so, I'd rather eat hooves and bones and enjoy a soft, tasty marshmallow. Yes, I am a horrible, horrible person. And, yes, this is a sub-par marshmallow even for a kids' snack. I'd probably rate it a bit better keeping in mind that this is dagashi (kid's snacks), but it's actually not so different from all the other marshmallows I had in Japan. I did have some nice marshmallow snacks in Japan, but only if the marshmallow was a lesser component in the mix. The best thing about this marshmallow was the adorable package it came in.

Source for both products: Oyatsucafe "Dagashi box" (part of a $15/month subscription box)

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