Friday, January 13, 2012

Marumiya Pandaful Italian Pizza Topping

Many moons ago when I was in my early years in Japan and working at Nova, I used to go out for yakitori a lot with coworkers. We bonded over our collective ignorance and struggled together with the language. Somehow, everyone managed to cobble together an order. I learned that "dai jockey" was what people said when they wanted a big glass of beer. I also learned that bars never sold diet sodas and often only reluctantly gave you a glass of water with your sticks of grilled chicken.

After a particularly enjoyable meal at our favorite yakitori restaurant, one of my coworkers expressed gratitude at having been invited. He said that he had planned to go home and just have cheese toast and what we'd experienced was an order of magnitude better. Cheese toast is what tired people resort to when they don't have the energy to manage the sophistication of a grilled cheese sandwich. It's also rather popular with foreigners who have been in Japan for a short time because it can be made in a toaster oven and often that is the only equipment we are given besides a single gas burner and contains two ingredients which are "safe" to eat and easy to identify when you can't read Japanese.

Since I like to cook, I've never been much for cheese toast. That being said, I'm not a immune to its simple allure. It is two great tastes that taste great together, but it is quite simple. This topping is designed to dress up your cheese toast with the taste of pizza seasonings. It adds a few grams of protein and 220 mg. of sodium as well. The main ingredient is a soy derivative followed by dried corn, onion, and pepper. It also includes chicken extract, bacon, tomato, cheese, and most oddly, apple. There are also a fair number of additives, but let's not even pretend this is something one eats for health. You don't have cheese toast if you're eating right.

Incidentally, the name of this product is a cute play on words. The funny thing is that none of those words are Japanese. In Japan, they adopted the Portuguese word for bread, "pan". They also adopted bread from Portugal as well as castella cake and kompeito hard candies. Most of Japan's baking culture was borrowed from Europe. At any rate, this is a bread topping so "pan" is half of the word play. The rest is "wonderful" from English. They then use a panda as their mascot as a further way of playing with the words. It's all quite cute, but makes for verbose explaining. 

I found this at Lawson 100 for 100 yen ($1.25). There were some other flavors on offer, but the entire display sold out pretty quickly and I forgot what the others were. The company that makes this, Marumiya, offers up a great many "sprinkle toppings" for traditional food such as rice. They also sell prepared food in foil packets and dehydrated food products. This seems like a little foray into a side product that fits in with their overall product line. I guess making stuff to sprinkle on bread is the next logical step to making stuff to scatter on your rice. 

One packet is 30 grams and that offers up three servings at 43 calories per serving. I used a half slice of Roman Meal bread. This is fairly enormous bread, as much bread in Japan is the size of Texas Toast, so half is a decent serving size. I spread it with a little margarine before sprinkling the topping onto it to help it stick a bit better. I was afraid the little crumbly bits would just fall off, especially where cheese did not melt over the topping. 

The packet mentions that the cheese does not come with the topping. I had just picked up a block of mozzarella cheese that could probably feed a family of four for a month at Costco so this was a good time to try out some pizza-flavored cheese toast. After browning it a bit, I bit into it. The flavor of the sprinkles is slightly zesty and pizza-like. It contains rosemary, among other spices. The flavor is okay, not great, but not bad. The thing that doesn't work is the texture mix of the crumbly bits, which are slightly soft, yet firm, with the bread. I kept feeling like that flavor should go along with an actual pizza crust rather than a slice of bread. I also felt that it'd be better to simply spread some pizza sauce on bread and put the cheese on it rather than use the sprinkles.

This isn't bad at all. It isn't great, but you're not going to be spitting it out or anything. The main benefit of this over making pizza toast the old-fashioned way with sauce is that the packet of sprinkles will last without refrigeration for ages. As long as you close the zipper top of the packet, you can just use it when you're bored with your cheese toast. If you buy pizza sauce and you live alone or infrequently have pizza toast, it'll almost certainly go bad in your fridge. I can't really recommend this unless you're lazy, single, and want some easy and effortless variation on your cheese toast. Personally, I can't see buying it again because it's inoffensive, but not impressive.


Japan-Australia said...

Pizza toast was one of my favourite snacks in Japan :) Great for a small snack or a quick meal.

Japan Australia

K.K. said...

I love it!