Thursday, May 5, 2011
Meiji Kaki No Tane Almond Crunch
Back home, people seem intent upon sullying the awesome power of chocolate by mixing in all sorts of weirdness with it including chili powder and bacon. As a former fan (in my misspent youth) of hot, salty French fries dipped in cool creamy chocolate milk shakes, I can conceptualize the appeal of mixing savory or spicy elements with chocolate. However, I really don't find the idea of chili in chocolate appealing.
Despite that, I did finally give in and buy these Meiji chocolate-covered almonds. The outside chocolate coating is mixed with crushed spicy rice crackers (kaki no tane). Since chili is sometimes mixed with chocolate, the general concept behind these (heat with sweetness) isn't entirely alien, but still a little off the beaten path.
When I opened the foil packet, I was surprised at how unappetizing the chocolates looked. Meiji makes incredibly good and polished-looking chocolate-covered nuts. They're one of my favorite snacks in Japan and really help you get through a long day at the office when you need an energy boost. These look like something your dog might leave behind after a bout with a corn cob.
The almonds are encased in a thin wafer and then chocolate mixed with crushed spicy rice crackers. If you hold the chocolate on your tongue, you taste a bit of the salty rice flavor of the kaki no tane, but if you just bite into it, you mainly get the almond flavor mixed with chocolate and something odd. If you didn't know what it was, you'd probably be hard-pressed to guess. On the bright side, the almond is crunchy and fried and has a strong flavor. On the not so bright side, the kaki no tane really isn't doing much for this except adding texture and diluting the potency of the usually excellent chocolate and adding a not unpleasant but not really tasty weirdness of the experience.
I've seen these on sale everywhere for quite some time. The retail price is close to 200 yen ($2.46) but I waited for a discounted price (148 yen/$1.82). I don't think they are selling particularly well based on the sale patterns and the volume that remains in shops. This could be because they simply aren't in any way better than the plain chocolate-covered almonds or that they are unappetizing in appearance and Japanese folks are known for valuing how food looks. Either way, though these are far from bad and I'll slowly finish the box, I wouldn't buy them again.