Friday, December 23, 2011

Variety Friday: Best of the Best

How much do I love Heart Chiple? I bought this gigantic bag (50 cm./20 in.) full of garlic chip goodness at Don Quixote. That's a 30-cm. ruler (about a foot).

By the time you read this, I should be busting myself out of a Japanese hospital after having had surgery on December 20. Because I have been busier than ever during the lead up to this surgery, I'm bringing a list out of the buffer which has been languishing for a long time. I hope you'll forgive me that there is no new review for Friday this week. I realize that with only two reviews per week, it's probably not the most welcome to have a post which isn't 100% new content. Trust me when I say assembling this took a lot longer than writing a single review. It's simply that this was finished and I don't have time for a new post, especially when, as I write this, I will be spending an entire day being unable to eat. The surgery is not "serious" (the removal of a benign tumor in my neck), at least no more than any sort of surgery is. Still, I've had surgery twice before (tonsils and gall bladder removal) and I know what is coming. On T.V., they show people in recovery after the deed is done and all seems just peachy keen. That doesn't account for the post general-anesthesia cookie tossing and the pain of having been cut open and had bits of your body taken out. Surgery to the body is little different than an assault, an antiseptic, skilled one, but deep cuts are deep cuts and it's going to hurt.

I think that's more than enough of my whining. Back to business:

My ratings system is based on whether or not I believe I will buy things again. Considering the frequency with which I sample new foods, it's often difficult to actually get around to enjoying things a second time. That means that only the creme de la creme actually gets bought repeatedly. There are only so many junk food calories that I allot myself per day, so winning that little corner of my diet is a hard-won battle.

Unfortunately, my big bag of Heart Chiple was full of little bags that were exactly the same type of bags that I can buy at the local 99-yen shop. The only different is that the bags cost 40 yen each in the giant novelty bag and only 27 yen each locally. Moral: Don't go for the gimmick!

After more than 3 years reviewing, here are the things that I actually have bought again (and again):

1. Double Cream Brown Sugar Sembei

If I were to stop food review blogging tomorrow, this would probably be on top of my refrigerator 80% of the time for frequent snacking. It satisfies a salt craving. It placates a desire for sweets. It also gives you something crispy for 62 calories for two crackers. If you like brown sugar and salty sweets, you absolutely have to try these if you have a chance. I keep thinking someone should find a way to market them abroad. These are my number 1 absolute favorite thing that I've eaten since starting to review Japanese snacks. The rest of these entries are in no particular order of favoritism.

2. Candied Yuzu

Yuzu is a Japanese citrus fruit that tastes like a cross between grapefruit, lemon and orange. It can be a bit bitter or sour, but the candying balances that out. I've had little packets of candied yuzu a few times for a snack, but I have also bought it to replace candied lemon or orange rind when baking. It's both chewy and sweet, and it's on the healthy side. For those who like lemon chews or candied citrus peels, this is a winner.

3. Kinako Mochi Tirol Chocolates

Each autumn, this particular square of chocolate is reissued in Japan and remains available throughout the winter. Kinako is toasted soybean power, but depending on the presentation, it can taste a little like peanut butter. I've bought both the "premium" (slightly bigger and more sophisticated)  and regular (small and simple) varieties of these for their somewhat peanut-buttery flavor and the textural interest from the gummi interior.

4. Riska Super Heart Chiple (garlic chips)

I love these super light, rice-based chips that come in single-serving bags for only 27 yen (about 30 cents) each. They're strong on the garlic and have a very small bit of heat, but so satisfying and flavorful. The portion size is just enough to satisfy without going overboard on the calories at 85 calories per bag. It's big flavor for a little price both monetarily and nutritionally.

5. Kinako KitKat big bar

This has two things I love - the high wafer to chocolate ratio and kinako. The kinako isn't too overwhelmingly "soy" and just enhances the chocolate nicely. It isn't available everywhere or all of the time, but it is re-issued seasonally (usually in the spring or summer).

6. Yuzu Koshoo Sembei

These are peppery, spicy, and savory rice crackers. The blending of flavors is so perfect that it makes my mouth water just thinking of them. They are second to the Double Cream Brown Sugar Sembei as my all-time favorite. It's too bad that they're only available in convenience stores and only at a certain time of the year (winter). I adore these when I want a salty, spicy snack, and hope that they come back later this year so I can buy them again.

7. Cratz
I like all of the Cratz pretzel flavors, but the black pepper bacon are the bee's knees. Each hard little pretzel piece is an intensely savory nugget. Since many Japanese people prefer subtle flavors, Cratz stands out for its intensity of flavor. It's meant to be paired with beer, but you can have it with any beverage you like.

8. Pure Gummy
I tend to keep a bag of one flavor or another of Pure gummy candies around for quite awhile. They have a perfect blend of sour and sweet and offer a nice textural combination with their smooth chewy interior and little flakes of citric acid powder on the outside. These are gummies for adult tastes.

9. Cheese Almond Sembei
These appeal to me because there is a crunchy, delicious roasted almond glued onto each and every cracker with a pungent dab of processed cheese. With experience,  I have grown enamored of the dubious allure of the much-scorned processed cheese. Yes, sometimes eating enough junk makes you start to like it. At 14 calories per cracker, I find myself creating big piles of wrappers at the snacking hour. The combination of textures and flavors is simply a winner which transcends the appeal of any individual component.

10. Senjaku Diet Cocoa Candy
I have purchased bag after bag of these chocolate hard candies. They have an intensity and a feeling on the tongue which makes you think of a chocolate bar in a manner that no other hard candy has ever conveyed to me. I try to keep two extra bags on hand at all times because both my husband and I eat them. When you've got a chocolate or sweet craving, these are 12 calories of satisfaction. I hope they never go off the market.

11. Eichoseika Fluffy Chocolate Sembei
This list was originally going to be only 10 items, but this seasonally available treat forced me to add one more. Available each year from September to March, this "sembei" is not what you'd expect. It's not a hard, crispy little rice cracker, but a puffy ball of melt in your mouth white chocolate and vanilla ambrosia. It is an amazing taste and texture experience which I liken to balls of vanilla ice cream without the need for refrigeration.


Nora said...

Well, you've just written my shopping list for my next trip to Japan. :)

Hope you're feeling well and fully back in the swing of things again soon. Merry Christmas!

Orchid64 said...

Thank you, Nora! I can't talk much, but am slowly getting better. I have much to write about the experience, including some discussion of Japanese hospital food!

Merry Christmas to you as well!

p00lriah. said...

Merry Christmas orchid64! Hope you're feeling better.

Orchid64 said...

Thank you, p00lriah. I really appreciate that. said...

Please take care! Hope you're feeling better! said...

Please take care! Hope you're feeling better!

Orchid64 said...

Figurkowo: Thank you so much!