Sunday, January 18, 2009

"(Year of the) Ox" Chocolates

This year is the year of the ox on the Chinese zodiac and though the Chinese New Year hasn't quite kicked in yet, the Japanese one has. Many people sent out their New Year's postcards with ox designs on them, and there are also a variety of ox-themed goods to buy and give as gifts.

The box of chocolates above is the size of a postcard and was given to my husband as a gift. They were made by SoEi Foods Corporation, a company that is mainly concerned with wholesale unrefined products as well as running its own agricultural concerns. They do make a few finished products under the "Sheer Delicacy" brand which I've never seen in my local markets including something called "Moco Dome" which is a little dome shaped bit of pressed corn flakes with a base of chocolate or strawberry chocolate. There's also a few varieties of little cocoa-powder dusted chocolates full of ganache which I'd like to get my hands on, but they are either not marketed in Tokyo or to the stores near me.

Though the box looks like it should contain one large postcard-sized bar, it contains 10 tiny little bars individually wrapped with the same picture as the box. The packaging is quite attractive and I could easily see a salesman picking up a box or two at a far-flung station while he's out visiting a client and giving them to the people working in the office to snack on. That is often the market for these sorts of things.

The chocolates themselves are very generic looking. They simply have the word "chocolate written on them. I imagine that ShoEi uses the same small bars in a vast variety of packages depending on who they are marketed to. The chocolates have no snap and are rather soft, but slightly chalky in texture. They aren't as fatty as many commercial chocolates such as those made by Morinaga or Lotte as evidenced by their slower melt in your mouth. They also don't have as sharp a chocolate flavor and are relatively mild milk chocolate.

For a generic chocolate, these are nice enough, but nothing impressive. They have less of a strong acidic or bitter aftertaste than Lotte's Ghana or Morinaga's milk chocolate bar. It's nice that even the generic stuff in Japan has cocoa butter. Most of these sorts of candy in the U.S. is made with vegetable oil because when the chocolate comes second to the packaging, the manufacturers seem to think they can slip in second-rate ingredients. I wouldn't buy these for myself because I'm guessing that the attractive packaging pushes up the price, but I'd probably be happy to buy generic bars for a reduced price if I had access to them in the store for about 80 yen (90 cents).

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