Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Kinako Mochi Ice Milk Bar

Kinako mochi, along with yuzu, is quite the fad these days. This suits me just fine as it's generally a good combination. The outside of this ice milk bar's package shows you a cutaway of the bar with the mochi generously winking at you from inside. Far be it from me to ignore the advances of a flirtatious frozen treat.

The manufacturer is "Marunaga", which sounds like a name intentionally meant to sound like monster confectioner Morinaga, but I am almost certainly wrong about any attempt to sucker people into thinking this is made by a company that has more brand name recognition because the Marunaga has been around since 1962. It makes a variety of ice cream products, many of which are made with traditional Japanese ingredients like red beans (anko), chestnuts (marron), and green tea (matcha). I've never noticed their products before, but I can't say that I've scrutinized the ice cream aisle intently. Their "flagship" products are manju frozen dairy products. "Frozen dairy products" means that they make ice milk rather than ice cream.

The package says that the outside is "chocolate coating", but it has no actual chocolate flavor unless it's white chocolate. The bar smells noticeably, but not too strongly of toasted soy flour (kinako). The first bite is pleasantly sweet and tastes of kinako. The mochi portion is visible after the first bite, but it's too close to the center to taste or detect at first.

A few bites in, you experience the mochi, which has little flavor, but is pleasantly soft and slightly chewy. Mochi can be too gummy or chewy and I imagine it has to be specially formulated to keep it soft and pleasant when it's frozen. In fact, if anything, this is borderline at being too slimy and resembling a certain bodily fluid, but it luckily doesn't jump over the line. Nobody wants to feel like they're consuming a mucous-filled ice milk bar, after all.

The sweetness level is just right on this and the kinako flavor isn't too overpowering. The ice milk itself is a weak point though. It has little flavor of its own, but that's not a problem since the other flavors are more interesting and they don't need competition. The main thing is that the ice milk suffers from some crystallizing and has the texture of cheap dairy products. You can see crystals in the detailed shots above if you look carefully.

I liked this, and I'd seriously consider buying it again, but I'd have to be in a particular mood. This has a lot of calories (260) and portion control is difficult as it's harder to wrap the remainder of an ice milk bar up and place it in the freezer for later without making a mess or risking freezer burn. Though this was enjoyable, if I were going for something cold and creamy, I'd be more likely to opt for Morinaga's vanilla ice cream sandwich because it's real ice cream, has fewer calories and is easier to put away part of for future consumption. However, the flavor of this bar is more interesting than the mundane vanilla ice cream sandwich.

This was also reviewed on the Daily Yamazaki.


Kelly said...

Was Morinaga around before the company who made this bar or the other way around?

Kintama said...

I first had this ice cream bar at an AM/PM in Kyoto last Fall. I then bought a six pack at a grocer soon after. The bars in the 6 pack are noticeably smaller than the individual bars you buy at convenience stores.

Orchid64 said...

Morinaga has supposedly been around since 1899 according the English Wikipedia, but it was established in 1910 according the Japanese one. It wasn't listed on the Tokyo Stock Exchange until 1949 though, so it was pretty small potatoes until that point.

When I originally researched this, and I've since lost the file I downloaded, I had a history of Morinaga's most popular products (the ones that have endured until today), and none of them really kicked in until at least the mid 50's. It looked as if their brand name recognition wasn't worth trying to ape when Marunaga was created. I could be wrong, of course!

Orchid64 said...

Hi, Kintama, and thanks for your comment and for reading.

I've never seen the grocery store version, but, as I said, I haven't scrutinized them greatly. Most of the stuff in my local market's freezer is pretty mundane stuff. No kinako mochi stuff AFAIK.

ebidebby said...

It sounds pretty good, but ice milk is always a disappointment to me, too. It's probably not fair for me to compare it to ice cream...but it's just not as good.

Orchid64 said...

I've had some darn good ice milk at times, but I can't honestly say this bar falls in that category. It's never as good as ice cream (not by a mile), but sometimes it's smooth and creamy and pleasant without the tell-tale crystallizing that comes from a lack of butterfat.

My local market sells what passes for a "big tub" of ice milk in Japan from some small time maker (which I should review some time) that I'll buy about once every 6 weeks or so when I have a craving and my husband hasn't surprised me with a pint of the good stuff from Baskin Robbins.

KarenK said...

Sorry to post on the Ice Milk Bar review, but I was searching for a Japanese cheese snack, found your blog! :) However, didn't see anything in the "cheese section" LOL. Does anyone know the name of the cheese sticks that are wrapped in plastic, kinda ivory in color, soft? Tastes like a combination of cheddar/american/swiss. Sound familiar to anyone?

Orchid64 said...

I'm not sure if I've had the type of thing you're mentioning. I'm guessing that you don't mean string cheese since it pretty much looks the same in the U.S. and in Japan.

QBB has some processed cheese sticks which you can see here:

These fit the description you mention - ivory and soft, but there are probably other similar processed cheeses around.

Thanks for reading!