Thursday, April 7, 2011

Yamagata Long Smoked Cheese

I never thought much about the origin in Japan of the food that I eat. In fact, most Japanese people have openly told me that they would pay more for food that originated in Japan because they had absolute faith in the safety of domestic agricultural products than they had in foreign-made products. In particular, they avoid Chinese produce because the propaganda machine after some dumplings (gyoza/pot stickers) were found to be poisonous. They also avoid American meat because of mad cow fears.

It seems like a karmic twist that now everyone doubts the safety of Japanese food because they fear radiation contamination. In some cases, I'm sure there is something to fear and it's my fervent hope that the Japanese government is screening all food from areas for contamination and barring anything which is dangerous from reaching the markets. If I were an investor, I'd be putting my money behind all imported food coming into Japan. And, I haven't discussed the idea yet with any of my Japanese friends or acquaintances, but I'm betting they all feel a tad more comfortable with American and Chinese agricultural products than they did before the Fukushima nuclear plant problem occurred.

I mention all of this because the origin of the smoked cheese I'm reviewing is Yamagata prefecture, which is in the Tohoku region of Japan and borders Fukushima prefecture. Of course, this is a processed cheese product, and I'm guessing it was made more than a month ago and predates the earthquake and subsequent problems. Since it is "smoked cheese" in a vacuum-packed tube, it may actually be months old. Certainly the expiration date of November 11, 2003 2011 would seem to encourage the notion that this cheese may actually be around for years. At any rate, I'm not about to start treating food from prefectures that neighbor Fukushima like people who have had contact with plague victims and therefore may also be contaminated.

I was attracted to this "long smoke cheese" because I was in one of my moods for a savory afternoon snack (I alternate between sweet and savory) and this looked like it'd pair well with either fruit or some sort of snack I already had on hand. I ended up finishing off my last pack of "Corn Bo" with half of this. Lawson 100 was carrying these for 100 yen ($1.21) per 40 gram (1.4 oz.) tube. The whole thing is 149 calories, but half was enough for my purposes.

When I opened the wrapper, a familiar fake smoked cheese smell wafted out at me. This is, after all, processed cheese and not the real deal. It brought to mind the type of processed cheese that my mother used to pick up around the holidays. It had the same tan exterior hue and creamy pale middle. It also had the same liquid smoke scent. The flavor of this was similar as well, but there was also an unusual spice of some sort that reminded me of cinnamon or cloves. It wasn't offensive, but was a bit unusual. It didn't put me off of the cheese.

This was fine as smoked fake cheese goes. If I was in the mood for a cheese snack, I would probably pick this up again, but it wouldn't be at the top of my list for a variety of reasons. First of all, I prefer QBB pepper, wasabi or almond cheese above other snacking cheeses in Japan and I can get 72 grams (2.5 oz.) of it for the same price that I paid for 40 grams (1.4 oz.) of this smoked cheese. So, if I can get more cheese and I like it better, chances are I wouldn't be very likely to opt for this again unless I had no other alternatives.


Helen said...

I've never even seen this stuff and I live in Yamagata! But, please tell me the expiry date isn't 2003....I hope you wouldn't eat it if it is!

Anonymous said...

Maybe it would've tasted better if it hadn't expired eight years ago...

Orchid64 said...

LOL! I am going to plead radiation in Tokyo frying my brain and causing such a peculiar typo!

Or maybe it was 2003 and I'm now in big trouble. ;-)

p00lriah. said...

for some reason, this smoked cheese reminds me of both string cheese and the slim jim snack at the same time. and i don't particularly like slim jim.