Tuesday, May 12, 2009

White Gratin Curl

Sometimes you see a product and never give its name a second thought. Take the "Curl" line of processed corn snacks as an example. I've seen a variety of these little cups of salted snack food badness around for well over a decade, but I never noticed that they are straight sticks. There's absolutely nothing curly about these curls except the flourishes on the katakana writing of the name.

Most of the time, Curl products (made by Meiji) are flavored with curry or cheese, so this white gratin variation caught my eye. One of my favorite foods from Japanese restaurants early on during my stay was a mushroom rice gratin that was sold at an ostensibly "Mexican" restaurant near my home. With fond memories of that dish (before the restaurant swapped to Korean barbecue joint), I picked this up.

After peeling off the foil top, I gave it a sniff and was greeted with the scent of cheese powder, much like that in thousands of other cheesy corn snacks, though this was a bit less pungent than something like Cheetos. The first taste was of cheese, followed by onion, corn and a hint of parsley. These are rather salted, but not overdone. The texture is light and crispy. They remind me of a super puffy Cheeto.

The flavorings in these include pork oil, chicken extract powder, cheese powder, onion powder, whey powder, and parsley. It's nicely savory and has slightly interesting flavors, but is dominated by a rather artificial cheese and onion taste. The entire 41 gram (1.4 oz.) container has 228 calories. It felt like a whole lot of calories for very little substance and that is one reason that I wouldn't buy these again. It just felt like too little pleasure for the caloric investment. If I'm going to go for something salty as food amusement, I think I can do better elsewhere.

Note: This product is named after a corn puff type snack which actually is curl-shaped. I realize it is a brand name rather than a description of the snacks in this cup.


Kelly said...

I bought these just a couple of weeks ago and Yasu and I devoured them!! We really thought they tasted more like cream stew, but because we love cream stew, we really loved these, and i'm sorry I only bought one box from j-list! :(

You're right, we really do have very different tastes.
Do you think your tastes are more geared towards American tastes than Japanese?

Orchid64 said...

I don't think my tastes are really skewed toward American ones since I've been in Japan and eating products skewed toward the Japanese market for two decades now. I'm more accustomed to Japanese snacks than American ones.

I am, however, very sensitive to artificial, chemical or "fake" flavors relative to how those flavors come across in real foods. Because I rarely eat processed foods outside of the snacks I review, I'm generally eating the real deal. I really don't like chemical flavors and the cheese in this just seemed really fake. If you look back at my reviews of other similar products, some of my worst reviews are of the American-made stuff (Doritos, Cheetos, etc) as opposed to the more Japanese things (like the Yahoo! Majirmori brand snacks, which I thought were quite Japanese and very good).

I also think that reviewing snacks tends to make you feel differently toward food because you're exposed to so much more of it. It's a little like movie reviewers and how they're harsher on movies than average viewers. The bar gets set differently when you do something a lot.