I'm not a fan of Japanese salted snack foods because many of them are bland (consommé) or come in flavors I don't care for (like seaweed). Barbecue salted snacks are not what you'd expect because "barbecue" in the U.S. usually means some sort of super spicy tomato or ketchup-flavored potato chip. In Japan, it tends to mean the snack is meant to resemble barbecued meat.
The ugly granny mascot for Karamucho chips. She may scare you off, but they do make pretty good chili snacks. Image pinched from the Karamucho web site.
If you learn one thing about "Japanese tastes", it's that there is a general tendency to prefer mild flavors over intense ones. Therefore, it's rare to find a new product which is exceptionally spicy when you see the words "barbecue" (or in this case "バーベーキュー"). This isn't universal, however, as there are some super spicy treats out there like habanero rings and Karamucho (カラムチーチョ) hot chili chips and potato sticks. Karamucho, by the way, has what I believe to be one of the ugliest cartoon mascots ever. "Chili" and "barbecue" are worlds apart usually in terms of overall punch in spiciness with the former saltily beating up your tongue and the latter passively lying down and surrendering.
The same company that makes the Karamucho-brand chips, Koikeya (コイケヤ), makes the Scon snacks I'm reviewing today so I had hopes that they'd be strong enough for my American palate. I've seen corn snacks named "Scon" (pronounced close to "scone" with a long "o" as many Americans pronounce it) for decades and never bought them because the I couldn't work out why they'd be called "Scon" instead of, well, "corn". What was that silly "s" for? Was this going to be related to British tea time fare? At any rate, a look at the ingredients list reveals the "s" stands for "sweet" as in "sweet corn", which is the first ingredient. That fact that sweet corn is the first ingredient is encouraging, the fact the the second one is animal fat is far less so. The seasonings are not all spelled out, but, unsurprisingly, meat flavoring is one of them as is soy sauce. Stevia (a natural low-calorie sweetener) is also on of them.
The corn twists in the bag are very similar to Cheetos in appearance, but they're a bit lighter and airier in texture. To me, this is a good thing as Cheetos are a bit too hard for my tastes. The first whiff doesn't betray much. These have the same light scent of a non-descript bouillon cube as many Japanese barbecue-flavored snacks. The first bite has a bit of a chemical edge to it which is hard to pin down. This disappears after the second bite which leaves you with an intense, savory flavor. These are very spicy without heat. The flavor is meaty, though it doesn't taste like meat. It's also quite salty, and after you eat them for awhile, the sense of how salty they seem starts to pile up on the tongue. I can see where a beer-drinking sort might find these a really good accompaniment to imbibing.
I really liked these and have actually bought and consumed three bags of them in the past month. This is quite a bad thing as an 80 gram bag (2.82 ounces) has 446 calories and it's easy to eat half a bag at one sitting. That's a lot of empty calories to put away. Also, honestly, even though I like these because they're strongly-flavored, by the third bag the novelty was wearing down a bit and I was thinking that I had burnt out on them and probably wouldn't be tempted anymore. The sense of salt and soy sauce felt stronger the longer I ate them. Nonetheless, I'd still heartily recommend giving them a try if you're in the mood for something salty and tired of the "blander" salted snacks on offer in Japanese stores.