Saturday, January 3, 2009
Zakkuru Bacon Pepper
In the salted snacks section of the local 99 yen shop, I found this pepper and bacon flavored specimen. As you can see, little simple cartoon characters are cavorting happily and gnawing on some sort of substance that resembles a pretzel. After looking at the cover, I looked no further and tossed them in my shopping basket.
One of the cool but sometimes scary things about living in Japan is that you sometimes buy something with one expectation and get something entirely different. This was one of those times. This is not a packet of pretzels. It's actually a bag of fried, flavored croutons. If these were intended to garnish a salad, that'd be just fine, but these are meant to be consumed as a snack with beer or soft drinks. I'm not sure who sits around thinking they'd like to consume stale bits of deep fried bread with their beer, but I don't think I'd want to attend a party hosted by such a person.
To be honest, I'm a huge fan of croutons and have been known to snack on the yummy salted Ceasar Cardini croutons that can be purchased in industrial-sized bags at Costco. Therefore, I approached these at least somewhat open-minded.
When you open the bag, you smell ham, not bacon. The flavor is essentially a mixture of ham and oil. They are exceptionally meaty tasting and acceptably salty, though the ham flavor tends to saturate your tongue and die off after a few croutons. Mainly, you start to sense the bread and the oil. The texture is very crunchy and pretty much as you'd expect from a crouton. They tend to crumble rather more easily than usual salad croutons because they've been fried. In fact, if you bite into them and look at the unflavored interior, you can see where the oil has penetrated the bread.
Though these are called "bacon pepper", they don't have much of a pepper flavor at all. The ingredients include pork extract powder, chicken extract powder, and, very oddly, peanut butter. There are 291 calories in one 55 gram (1.9 oz.) bag. This makes them densely caloric for essentially a snack of ham-flavored dried bread bits. While these weren't awful, they weren't great, and I won't be revisiting them again. Note that Tohato also offers a caramel flavored crouton snack, but I think I'll give that a miss.