Monday, July 16, 2012

Meiji Chococones (Takenoko no Sato)

One of the delights of being back home is finding products that I saw in Japan and then buying them in their American incarnation to see if they are the same thing. It's a process not unlike that which is done by the blog "Second Rate Snacks, except that, well, I'm comparing products made by the same company under a similar name for the domestic market and export. Come to think of it, that makes it very much not like Second Rate Snacks, which compares two versions of a similar product from different companies, at all.

At any rate, the version of this cookie and chocolate combination is sold in Japan under the name Takenoko no Sato, which means something like "bamboo shoot village". The American naming seems to be especially designed to keep enough of a Japanese feel (by using "choco" instead of "chocolate") without causing people to scratch their heads or fear that they might have accidentally purchased panda bear treats instead of people food. 

Though the name focuses on the basic cone-like shape, the cookies themselves are exactly the same shiny little domes of cookie-ness that are sold in Japan. I checked the box carefully to see if these were made in Japan or if they were one of those things which was produced in a country with cheaper label and then named as a "product of Japan". To anyone other than me, this little bit of information does not matter, but I do want to know if I'm essentially eating what the Japanese eat or if it is some version that has had the recipe altered to suit another set of taste buds. I don't know the answer because the box didn't say where it was made, only that it is a "product of Japan" distributed by an American biscuit maker.

I've had takenoko no sato before and reviewed a strawberry version previously. My memory is that these are pretty good, but nothing earth-shattering. My memory is actually pretty good in this regard. The chocolate on the outside is pleasantly sweet with slight bittersweet notes. If you eat too many at once, they can become just a bit cloying, but you're okay if you limit the serving size. The inner biscuit has a nice texture and resembles a coarse shortbread or thick butter cookie. The cookie is not particularly flavorful, but that really isn't an issue as the chocolate is doing the work here. Mainly, the biscuit portion is adding texture and crunch.

These are nice enough as a little sweet something to keep in your desk for a bite or two of cookie. Each cone, which is about the size of a thumbnail, is about 13 calories, but most people are going to eat a lot at once. A serving size is given as 12 pieces and there are about 3 servings in the box. I bought these at Cost Plus for about $2, but later found them at Daiso Japan for $1.50. In Japan, I believe these sold for about 100 yen (about $1.20), sometimes more depending on where you are buying them. You can buy the original version as an import from Amazonfor a staggeringly higher price ($4.80) and get the authentic packaging, but these really are the same thing as you'd get in Japan and there's no reason to pay more. 

I'm a bit torn on how to rate these. They are pretty tasty, but not exactly the sort of thing I'd go out of my way to buy or add into my regular rotation of snacks. It's not impossible that I'd buy them again out of nostalgia, but I'm unlikely to simply say that I "have to" have them again because of their deliciousness. I figure that is the very definition of "indifference" so there's my rating, but it doesn't mean they're not tasty. They are, just not special. I think they may be a more interesting treat for less jaded palates than mine as they are a solid reflection of Japanese consumer cookies and chocolate which are less sweet and have better flavor depth than some pedestrian snacks of a similar caliber in the U.S., but I can't really say I'm much above indifferent about them.


Susie Eichel said...

I happen to enjoy the chocolate dipped cookies but the chocolate is not that great. I think I like the cookie part better.
I have tried Meiji Gummy Choco (peach flavor to be exact). I was delightfully surprised at the tastyness of the gummy inside the chocolate. I was also hesitant to mix chocolate with a gummy peach flavor the the flavors meshed together really well.

Anonymous said...

what?!?!...i LOVE chococones!!!...
there's something about the cookie texture that i love...and i love these better than the chocorooms...:P

I used to buy the imported version at Asian stores for around $3.50...but I've been getting this version since it came out...but i don't think they're the same...the American version's chocolate is more rubbery...

Orchid64 said...

Susie: I agree that the cookie is the best part!

cafechibita: The ones I had (both in Japan and the U.S.) were not rubbery at all. Perhaps you get them from a place that doesn't store them at the proper temperature or you've gotten some old ones? In any case, I can say with confidence that they are the same, or similar enough that it'd be hard to tell them apart in a side by side taste test.