Showing posts with label Yamazakipan. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Yamazakipan. Show all posts

Friday, November 11, 2011

Yamazakipan Kabocha Danish

Mirror, mirror, on the wall, which is the loveliest squash of all? Is it American pumpkin, as it is rolled into pies, danishes, donuts and anything which wears cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger like a scrawny high fashion model wears a ridiculous outfit? Is it Japanese pumpkin, which pairs so well with soy sauce and mirin and studs any dish it appears in with creamy delight? The truth is that both are the ugly stepsisters to the Cinderella that is butternut squash, but nobody makes that comparison. Recently, I paid around $3.50 (280 yen) for half of a tiny butternut in a Japanese market and found that it is sweeter and has more depth than either of these traditional squash rivals. Butternut gets the glass slipper, but it's too expensive to squire to the ball on a frequent basis. I guess I'll be doing the waltz with the green-skinned stepsister.

That is not to say that Japanese pumpkin isn't worthwhile, but rather that if we're going to play a game of my gourd is better than your gourd, then we should include a full range of contestants, not just the big orange jack-o-lantern fodder and rough-skinned Japanese greenies. I love Japanese pumpkin, but in order for it to shine in a food though, there has to be enough of it to actually taste. This is a fact that seemed a bit lost on the folks at Yamazakipan. 

Unfortunately, before I purchased this packaged baked item at Lawson 100 for, obviously 100 yen ($1.23), I didn't know that "danish" meant "bread" and that a small smattering was all that was required to qualify this as "kabocha". I was captivated by the notion of enjoying those black sesame seeds with Japanese pumpkin and hoped for the best. I'm dumb like that. The bread in this "danish" is best described as "nouveau hotdog bun". The filling, when you happen upon more than a tiny, tiny portion, tastes fine, though rather thin on the pumpkin side. I get the feeling it is mixed with liberal amounts of water or some other filler to stretch it further.

Yamazakipan makes some pretty nice packaged treats, especially things with whipped cream filling, but this was a huge disappointment. I didn't exactly want baker-quality pastry, but I also hoped for something more than this. I could have lived with the lackluster bread if there had been more filling, or lived with less filling if the bread had been good, but Yamazakipan didn't give me anything at all to work with.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Yamazaki-pan Hitokuchi mochi bread

Sorry that there is no cutaway shot. I took one, but lost it in the huge number of photos I've taken lately. If I find it, I'll add it in later.

When we first moved into our neighborhood, there was a Mos Burger fast food joint not 3 minutes from our apartment. Mos Burger, for those who don't know, is the best Japanese rip-off of Western chains like McDonald's. Not only did they pilfer the big "M" logo, but they initially started out with a yellow letter on a red background. As time has gone by, Mos Burger has differentiated itself favorably (for the most part) from Mickey D's. They tailor their menu to suit the Japanese market and offer fresher food. This has the up-side of tasting better, but the down-side of taking a lot longer to serve your order.

When that Mos Burger was still in place, my husband and I used to occasionally go there for food when we were too tired to cook. My favorite was their spicy chili dog. Though I'm not much of a hot dog eater, it was the closest thing to a chili dog I could find in Japan and I grew up with access to very good knock-offs of the famous Skyline chili. As long as a dog had that sort of chili sauce on it, I was in love. I can't say Mos Burger's chili dogs come close at all, but there aren't many other options in Japan.

Before that branch of Mos Burger faded away due to a lack of business, they once offered something called a "cheese pon". This was one of those temporary deals that is on hand for several months then goes the way of the dodo bird. I mention this because those cheese pon were almost the same as this bread which I purchased at Lawson 100 (for 100 yen/$1.24). Eating these brought back memories of spicy chili dogs and greasy bits of chewy bread.

There are 8 little doughy balls in the package and each is a stretchy little dough ball. They are greasy feeling on the tongue, but not so oily on the fingers. The inside looks a lot like mochi (pounded rice cake) and is chewy like mochi, but less refined. The cheese flavor is so subdued as to be nearly absent. In fact, I wonder if the "cheese" aspect is mainly to get them to look orange. The ingredients list does include "cheese cream" and "natural cheese", but they are a bit far down on the list after the basic bread-making ingredients.

I ate these over a three-day period and I really liked them as a sort of wicked little bread snack. I don't know how bad they really are for you because Yamazaki-pan rarely gives nutrition information on its packaged bread products. In fact, on more than one occasion, I've had an interest in something they offer but passed on it because I had no idea what I was eating. This time, I just took the plunge anyway.

I wish these were cheesier, but they really hooked me with their texture and overall taste which I wish I could describe more effectively. The flavor is very subtle and probably would have been more pronounced with a bit more salt in the mix. At any rate, these pair well with soup or simply as a snack with some weight. If you come across them, they're well worth a sampling and are a unique experience.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Yamazaki Lemonack

I've mentioned before that I took on a part-time job because of post-quake income loss. This has had many benefits for me and a few drawbacks. The main drawback is that blogging time has been dramatically slashed and I now struggle to keep up (and may yet have to reduce posting frequency, but I'm hoping not to). The benefits, beyond more cash, are that I'm meeting a whole new crop of people and learning ever more about Japan and the Japanese people and that I have regular access to areas I wouldn't normally go to. To that end, there's a convenience store (konbini) chain that is not in my area but is at one of my new workplaces. It's called "Daily Yamazaki". Note that going to a shop is infinitely better than hanging around one of my new workplaces since it is located in a huge old building in a very seedy area that houses a giant pachinko parlor, a karaoke bar, and several other establishments catering to less than elegant appetites. However, the job itself is great and the workplace very nice except for the air conditioning settings which are designed for reptilian metabolisms.

One might think that a "konbini" is a konbini is a konbini, but that is not so. The Daily Yamazaki chain is ran by the same people who make Yamazaki Pan products. That means they get to gobble up more shelf space in their own convenience stores. These are things which I'm not likely to find anywhere else and that's how I ran across this "Lemonack". I was killing time before work (as I'm compulsive and always arrive early) and checking out their stock. I picked this up purely based on name and the fact that it was made with lemon as I didn't have copious amounts of time and didn't investigate the ingredients list. The front of the package is utterly devoid of clues as to what is inside, but at a mere 68 yen (85 cents) for something about half the size of my palm, I wasn't really making a big investment anyway.

It turned out that this is a little lemon cake with lemon coating. This must be a seasonal thing right now because local bakeries have been offering very similar things as of late and this is not too dissimilar  from the Fujipan lemon cake that I reviewed previously. Well, it is a lot smaller, less sweet and less moist, but the general shape and concept are the same. The cake is slightly dry, which isn't surprising considering it has to sit around for about a week in the store. Most of the flavor is coming from the sweet lemony coating, as is a very nice aroma. While the yellow cake doesn't add much taste, it also doesn't really detract.

This is a hard one to rate because I definitely enjoyed eating it, but couldn't help but think that I'd only buy it again under specific circumstances. I'd have to have coffee or tea to have with it to offset the dryness, desire a baked good, and want a small portion to ensure that I wouldn't eat too much. Since I'm generally pretty good at limiting portions without external enforcement, the latter isn't a strong issue for me, but may be for others. I'd also probably have to be looking for something economical rather than a more expensive bakery option because there are bakeries in the vicinity as well. That being said, I think this warrants a favorable rating overall, but I wouldn't be jonesing for another... though I'd buy a whole case if Yamazaki Pan would explain the naming and why this is called a "nack".

Just a gentle reminder that there is a contest running for two weeks to win a few snack and snack-related goodies. If you'd like to enter, the details are in this post.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Uchi Cafe Sweets Mochi Puyo

One of the great things about doing this blog while actually living in Japan (as opposed to buying imports) is that Japanese people will recommend or give things to you that you may  not bother to sample for yourself. I learned about this pastry secondhand via my husband, who was given one as part of a little "party" at the end of the year that his last student of 2010 "threw" for him. Of course, I don't know if you can call a small bottle of some champagne-like substance and a couple of mochi ball sweets a real party, but it was the thought that counted.

My husband is not the greatest fan of Japanese sweets, so when he tells me he has tried something like this and likes it enough to buy it again, there's a good chance it's going to be pretty darn dandy. The "Uchi Cafe" line of sweets can only be purchased at Lawson's. There are three types of Lawson's convenience stores in Japan: Lawson 100, Natrual Lawson's, and just plain old Lawson's. We found this for 150 yen at the last type and I don't know if you can get them at any of the others, but I doubt it.

Note that, though this is a Lawson's brand, it is made by Yamazaki Pan. I've done a few reviews of Yamazaki Pan sweets and had an indifferent response to those treats, but the truth is that they make some of the best pastries in Japan, particularly when you're looking at anything which is made with cream or custard. If you ever see a Yamazaki Pan package which contains two disks of chocolate cake with whipped cream between them, buy it and enjoy the goodness. It's one of my favorites, but it's also a calorie bomb that you can't indulge in often if you want to look good in your Speedos.

Each little pastry is about 6.5 cm/255 in. in diameter and 155 calories. The top ingredient is "milk flour paste, followed by shortening then eggs, and flour. Though "mochi" is pounded rice cake, rice is nowhere to be found in this. This isn't really mochi so much as a dough which bakes up with the chewy properties of mochi. I also find it odd that no sweetening agent is in the top ingredients yet these aren't low calorie and are sweet. I think the calories are coming from the heavy carbohydrate load and the sweetness from some sort of lactose configuration (but I can't know for certain).

When you open the package, the cakes smell like vanilla custard. For the cutaway picture, it was hard to cut through with a knife because it is as tough as real mochi. The outside is slightly chewy and the custard inside is slightly thin, smooth and creamy. The two textures make for an interesting contrast. The outer mochi-like cake doesn't have a strong flavor, but it does have a baked good sense and even tastes a little like rice. A Japanese person who reviewed this said they thought the outer shell was salty, but I didn't pick that up at all. The white custard has a nice rice eggy flavor along with solid sweetness levels.

I really liked this and would definitely buy it again. It's one of those all too rare treats which balances a very Japanese element (mochi) with a very European one (custard) that makes it unique and delicious. Unless you aren't a fan of chewy bread products, you will want to try this.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Yamazaki Pan Strawberry Ring Doughnut

One word that Japanese learners of English have a lot of difficulty with is "present" as a verb. They often confuse it with "give a gift", as in, "I gave her a great horned toad for her birthday and she was strangely unmoved by the gesture." They also confuse it with "make a presentation" as in "I presented my sales record to my colleagues and they all recommended that I transfer to another part of the company, such as, the mail room."

On the package containing this doughy specimen, it says, "We are proud to present this Doughnut to you." That conjures up the image of a formal ceremony where the pastry is officially handed over to me with a bowing finish. What they really mean is that they're making a presentation of their product. It still doesn't work as a proper meaning, but I can say that it certainly wasn't a gift since we paid 120 yen ($1.33) for it at the Natural Lawson's convenience store.

To be more accurate, my husband got this at Natural Lawson's and I took some bites of this huge doughnut so that I could review it. Japan's convenience store pastries are always freakishly huge. This was about 15 cm x 11 cm (6 in. x 4.3 in.) and my husband could only eat a little over half for breakfast. How do Japanese people hoover these up and stay so trim? It's a genuine mystery.

It looks a little gross inside, like it's bleeding. :-p

Though this is called a doughnut, it's actually more like a cinnamon roll type of thing with psuedo-strawberry jam filling inside and twisted into it instead of cinnamon. It smells pretty much like strawberry sweets. The texture is soft and chewy with no crispness to the outside. The icing is strangely powdery, as if it is halfway between icing and powdered sugar.

The taste is pretty weak on all fronts. There is weak sweetness, though it tends to build up as you have more bites. The strawberry flavor is also mediocre with just the barest hint of the tartness you get from real strawberries. It's quite bland all over and inoffensive, but not all that interesting.

The only thing that this has going for it is that the calorie count, at 351, is actually on the low side for a giant "conbini" pastry. Many of them of a similar size run around 500 calories. This was on the border of an "unhappy" rating for me, but my husband, who this was intended for said he regards it as indifferent. He may finish it, but he won't buy it again.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Cheese Cream Stick Pie (Yamazakipan brand)

Sometimes I get a craving for a cheese danish, then I remember I live in Tokyo and there are no real cheese danishes around. At other times, I get that craving and I forget that I live in Tokyo and what resembles a "cheese danish" is some sort of Frankensteinish hybrid between savory cheese bread and sweet cream cheese breakfast pastry. During the latter times, I end up buying something like the item pictured above. In my quest for a cheese danish, I missed one very important clue about this item. There is a wedge of what looks like Swiss cheese pictured on the package.

When I removed the "stick pie" from its package, the smell of baked Gouda on bread wafted up at me and expectations were immediately lowered. Sure, it may look like a golden flaky pastry filled with sweet cream cheese and topped with crumbly bakery goodness, but the crumb-like things on the top are grated cheese of some variety, not sweet bits of flour, fat and sugar.

The inside looks pretty encouraging with a reasonably generous piping of sweetened cream cheese. The first bite is rather tasty as you get a strong sense of the cream cheese flavor, but it is followed by the funky aftertaste of savory cheese. I wouldn't say it totally ruins the experience, but it does make it far less enjoyable.

Since I bought this in a plastic package at a convenience store for 99 yen ($1.07), it would be unfair to expect the pastry portion to be fresh and crispy, particularly since it had an expiration date 6 days from the date of purchase. The "pie" portion was a bit like a day-old croissant. It used to be crispy and flaky, but had absorbed moisture to the extent that it was pretty flat and lifeless. It tasted good though and had a good flavor, but I think I'd have to catch it very quickly after stocking to get a really nice texture out of the pie.

Yamazaki pan makes a lot of these types of items for convenience stores and it's generally a hit and miss proposition. Their cakes are usually good, but the pastries often let you down. This Franken-pastry (not Al Franken) was certainly a letdown and I won't be re-visiting it again if my memory of the experience holds up.