Friday, August 31, 2012

Morinaga Peach Hi-Chew

For some reason, I never realized how many product names sound like sneezes. "Hi-chew" is definitely one of them, but so was "Gatzun". The latter sounds like a more manly expulsion, whereas the former has a more high-pitched feminine feel. Next time you sneeze, try to work one of these two product names into the process. I'm sure it'll make it more enjoyable. Also, there may be some sort of money to be made as a shill for products by sneezing out their names. It's like the whole thing where idiots tattoo company names onto themselves for cash, except, less permanent and quite a bit stupider. Still, I'd sneeze out a product name in a public place for cash, but then I'm currently unemployed and would humiliate myself for food.

Turning to the point of this post, which is not sneezing, but Hi-Chew... I didn't know that this particular product was so pervasive here in the U.S. until I came back. Not only is it on many supermarket shelves, but you can buy big bags of it at Costco. It's not nearly as "exotic" as I imagined from my isolation from Western culture in Tokyo. Still, I guess the flavors that were on offer there were a bit more exciting, though not by a long stretch. Kamu kamu was still essentially"grape", though it did sound like a weird thing.

I found this at Cost Plus for $1.50 quite some time ago. I snapped it up before I realized that I could get better booty at the Daiso Japan and in a fit of "homesickness" for Japan, I bought anything that had even a whiff of Japanese snack culture associated with it. Of course, this is made by Morinaga, and that it was made under license of that very company. Based on my experiences dealing with business people, that means that the Taiwanese factory workers who lovingly watched a machine craft these Hi-Chews while yawning and scratching their behinds were being watched by a Japanese manager.

Most of my readers probably know what Hi-Chew is already, but I'll tell you again anyway (even though I'm not paid by the word). It's like gum mated with a piece of caramel. Each wad will give you about 20 seconds of chew before dissolving into sugary strands onto your teeth. The main benefit of these is that they tend to be very flavorful and this one did not disappointment. It had a nice, almost realistic peach flavor with a slightly perfumey sense to it. I don't think that a slightly floral note which is unnatural is a bad thing necessarily. It worked for me on this, but it may put off people who are sensitive to it and find it "soapy".

I liked this, though I didn't "love" it. Occasionally, I crave fruity candy and I'd certainly find this an attractive option at such times. Mainly, I keep Hi-Chew around for several months and eat it super slowly and this one will certainly do the job nicely until the last few pieces melt into inedible globs that I won't be able to peel off of the wrapping paper.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Random Picture #128

Sometimes I think that any comment that I can make on a photo can only serve to detract from the experience of viewing it. This is "oppai jelly". "Oppai" means "boobs". I didn't really investigate this product when I took the picture, so I can't say if it is marketed toward women who want to cultivate larger breasts, or if it's for pervy men who can't get their hands on the real deal so they get a thrill out of handling wiggly jelly which is similar to what they imagine the real deal is like. While I did see food that was designed to be ingested by women in the hopes of increasing their boobage potential, it generally was not presented in this fashion. So, I'm guessing the reality is the latter rather than the former.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Hiramile Lemon Candies

Every time I go into Safeway, I make a quick stop at the back of the store in order to explore their shelves with items that had been knocked down in price. The items that are placed on those shelves are cut in price by 50% and I've actually gotten some nice bargains there on non-food items. This situation is in stark contrast to my experiences in Japan with discounts at markets. They were always pathetic reductions that allowed you to save between 8 and 20 yen (10-25 cents) on things like "Mickey's Super Happy Cookie Substance" (© Disney Corporation).

"This town where we find peacefulness and refreshment... In order to enjoy a better quality of life, I always return here."

This hiramile candy comes courtesy of a 33% discount from the Daiso Japan. Instead of being $1.50 (118 yen), it was only a buck (79 yen). It also didn't hurt that it is a citrus candy and I have an immense fondness for all Japanese citrus products. And the icing on the cake was that it had one of those quaint and strange sayings written on the front of the bag.

I had never heard of hiramile lemon before, but through the magic of the internet, I learned that it refers to something called "citrus depressa". I must say that that is not an encouraging name for a fruit.Why not "citrus euphoria" or "citrus orgasma"? The name actually appears to refer to the flattened appearance of the fruit rather than the emotional status of its future consumer. It's a physical depression, not the sort that you need to take Prozac to deal with.The front of the bag in Japanese uses the Okinawan word, shiikuwaasaa, and there's a map of Japan showing you that region. It's important to know where your hard candies come from.

Incidentally, I'm well aware that my readers are probably about as enthusiastic about the idea of hard candy as they are at finding a dish of fused ribbon candy at grandma's house. I know you'd rather be reading about KitKats and weird Pepsi flavors, but the best way to get a good sense of a citrus flavor is through this sort of candy. In other presentations, it's likely to be diluted, and, as I said, I like Japanese citrus a lot. Besides, I've done about a hundred reviews of KitKats and you can go read one of them if you're in need of such content. By the time I had left Japan, one KitKat was blending into another into a chocolate wafer filled transporter accident that would make even Mr. Spock cry. 

As for the candy itself, the taste is sweet and has a lightness to it. It has the sense of lemonade, but without the strong tartness. There's a hint of a grapefruit flavor in addition to mild lemon which gives it a nice depth. Though the fruit itself is supposed to be very sour, the candy lacks much of a bite. That doesn't mean they are bad at all. I liked them because I liked the mellow grapefruit/lemon blend with what seemed like some of the sweetness of orange tossed in for good measure, but if you like super sour candy, this is not for you.

I enjoyed these candies, and my only reservation about them is that they are made with sugar, corn syrup and citric acid. This doesn't mean much in terms of calories as they are only 20 calories each, but it does make them a bit of tooth enamel consumer. I don't like to suck on sugary candies too often because I know it can lay waste to your teeth if you're not careful. Still, as something occasional that I enjoy followed by a glass of water, I'd buy these again.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Nestle Crunch in Japan (product information)

When I was a kid and went trick-or-treating, I was always delighted to get a Nestle Crunch bar from the houses at which I was begging for candy. I was generally slightly less happy with a Hershey's Krackel. I don't think that was because it was inferior. I believe both bars are pretty mundane consumer milk chocolate (meaning too sweet, very milky, and with weak flavor depth), but I tended to get Krackel's from cheap asses who bought miniature bars. Of course, it was better getting a tiny Krackel than getting saddled with a dark chocolate bar from the same assortment that Hershey sold at that time.

I can't recall when Nestle Crunch started showing up in Tokyo shops on a regular basis, but I can say it wasn't around when I arrived there in 1989. I can also say that I never personally saw a full-size bar and only saw bags of minis for sale. The classic foil-wrapped full-size bar which is similar to a regular chocolate bar, but with the textural bliss of crispy rice puffs, seemed not to be offered to the Japanese market. 

I remember trying a regular Crunch bar once in Tokyo, probably within the last 5 years, and I was very disappointed. I don't know if the Japanese one was different, or if something which suited my childhood tastes failed the test of time, but it seemed very "blah". I tend to think that it was really that they were never that good, but kids have very different tastes than adults.

Currently, Nestle Japan only sells minis of their venerable Crunch bar. They're offering three flavors including a salty version. The salty version came out late last month and is clearly a response to the summer heat. As is logical, salt is a big part of getting through the sweaty months. In Japan, eating cucumbers encrusted with large salt crystals is common, as is salting your watermelon (note: I think these things don't only happen in Japan, just that's a part of seasonal custom there). Nestle recommends that you freeze these for maximum enjoyment. I think that people might want to do that just to keep them from melting in the current heat (which I hear second-hand has been pretty terrible).

Of course, as required by law, there is also a strawberry crunch <yawn>. I think that they are probably melting down the billions of unsold strawberry KitKats that I refused to sample when I was there to make these Crunch bars.

Each bag of minis costs 525 yen ($6.70) and the two flavored varieties have 20 bars in each and the plain has 22. I guess a few spare bars are supposed to make up for perceived boredom. If I were to happen across these. This is the sort of thing I would not have bought back in Tokyo because I hated the idea of buying a whole bag of minis when I wanted to try just one bar. Even if I could pick up one bar though, only the salty one would be of moderate interest. If anyone on the island has tried the salty version, please share your thoughts. 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Random Picture #127

Americans are familiar with Smokey the Bear. He's the one that said, "give a hoot, don't pollute." No, no, that was Woodsy Owl. When you have too many of those childhood mascots, it's easy to get confused. 

These are Smoky the chips. It could be they are marketed toward smokers, or people who enjoy fires. It could be that you should also smoke the chips themselves. Oh, it's just boring old smoked cheese potato chips. Ah well. 

Monday, August 20, 2012

Karume Sugar Candy

First of all, I must apologize for the fact that my picture shows a largely empty bag. I have developed a problem with keeping track of my pictures and I blame it all on Blizzard Entertainment and Apple Computer. If you'd like to travel with me now down my road of convoluted logic which allows me to misplace responsibility for my own carelessness on two major corporations, keep reading. If not, well, skip to the end and read the stuff about the actual food.

I am not a rich person. For some reason, the handful of pennies that Google ads net me for these blogs hasn't really kept me in enough scratch for a new computer. I've been using a Mac Mini for several years and it's showing it's age in multiple ways. However, I am also a fan of the Diablo series of games from Blizzard. They released Diablo III last May and my little Mini barely met the graphics card specs. Hurray... except, not so much because playing the Mac version of the game would have required me to pony up $70 in OS upgrades. I don't know why, except, perhaps, oh, corporate greed, that the Mac side needs a more updated OS than the PC side. If you have a Windows box, you can get by on the venerable old Windows XP.

Unfortunately, I left my Windows computer in Japan because it required an extra plane to lug that behemoth home (and it was about 5 years old to boot). The way out of this for someone as cheap and relatively impoverished as me was to install XP on my Mac and boot back and forth between the Mac and Windows sides on the Mac Mini. Hurray! Problem solved! I could play Diablo III and nobody got more money out of me for an upgrade that I did not care about.

Unfortunately, I now find myself downloading pictures into both OS's. It is, essentially, the equivalent of two computers without the convenience of two separate hard drives and displays. I get extremely confused about which side of the Mac has photos and think sometimes that I've downloaded pictures when I have not, or I simply can't find them on the Windows side because I forget where they were put as it seems they are put in a different place each time. This is why I am losing my pictures. You see, if Blizzard hadn't required Mac OS 10.6 or higher or if Apple didn't charge for incremental upgrades, you'd be getting the pictures you deserve as my patient, patient audience.

I do have a small picture of the full bag which I can crop out of a large picture of all of my purchases. This is the best I can do. Write to Blizzard and Apple and complain for me, won't you?

So, on to the candy, which I bought ages ago at Daiso Japan for $1.50 (120 yen ) and have been slowly nibbling on over a couple of months. This is made by a company called Ogawa confectionery and they have no web presence so there was nothing I could learn about their other products. This is a fairly simple and old-fashioned offering of a brown-sugar-based treat.

Inside the bag are 3.2 oz./90 grams of stubby nubs that have a very crispy texture and are laced with air pockets. This makes them have the feeling of a honey comb and they shatter easily when you bite into them. The flavor depth is very shallow, unfortunately. The ingredients list is brief, but a little scary - coarse sugar, granulated sugar, baking soda, and two artificial colors (which is unusual for a Japanese processed food). The taste is pretty much like a spoonful of brown sugar, but the textural element does lend a nice quality to it. I'm guessing that the baking powder is what makes these nice and airy while they are cooked up inside of 6-sided mold.  

I can't say that I regret buying this. I do like crispy things and brown sugar, but I haven't eaten it straight from the bag since I was a kid. I have been ever so slowly eating this, but ultimately, I need something more sophisticated to keep me coming back for more. 

Friday, August 17, 2012

Boy Bawang Garlic Cornick

I confess that I bought this product only because of the name and the angry-looking bulb of garlic that appears to have violent tendencies. I did not know what "bawang" meant when I bought this, but the graphic seemed to indicate that it might just be a noise that is made when one punches a foe, like the words that used to pop up on the screen during the campy Batman series. I'm guessing that a garlic bulb would like to do combat with an onion for the affections of a shapely pineapple or tuber. If it's mortal combat, well, then its got to be his arch-nemesis the garlic press. It strikes me that, if a cartoon series had been adapted by Julia Child, this might be the character list.

This 3.5 oz. (100 g.) packet was available at Walmart for 69 cents (54 yen) and caught my eye during my very first visit to said shopping establishment in my life. I must say, it lived up to my expectations and was a reflection of economic and sociological differences. The people of Walmart are a specialized tribe, and they have plenty of access to the cheapest junk food in America. My husband and I marveled at how low the prices were if you wanted to buy chips, Mexican snack cakes, and, in this case, Philippine corn nuts.

The exterior packaging does not reveal that these are corn nuts and I didn't use logic to determine that "cornick" may be corn nuts, but the first ingredient is "fried corn" (mmmm, nutritious!). I looked up "bawang" and it means "garlic" in tagalog. Essentially, this is named "garlic boy". They had me at "boy".

When you open the packet, you are  hit with intensely strong garlic aromas. It smells good, actually, at least if you love garlic. They are immensely savory with strong garlic flavor, MSG, salt, and chili pepper. There is just the tiniest hint of heat, but I think it comes as much from the strong garlic as the chili pepper.

I liked these, but I confess that I'm not a huge fan of corn nuts since deep fried things aren't first on my list. That being said, these are very tasty and satisfying as a savory snack. If I was having a salty food craving, I'd absolutely be happy to pop a few of these in my mouth to satisfy it. The main problem is that I'm guessing that the rate at which I personally eat such things will mean they'll go stale before the bag can be finished. If you're a fan of corn nuts and garlic though, these are the bee's knees.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Random Picture #126

It's important to keep a guard up against vitamins at all times. You never know when they might sneak past your battlements and make you all healthy and stuff. Image courtesy of BlogD. (used with permission)

Though many people seemed to have assumed that I spent all of my time in Japan either diving head first into Japanese culture or trying to cling to my American ways as much as possible, the truth was that I existed in between. I'm pretty sure that is what most people who move abroad and stay there for a long time do. Japanese people who live in the U.S. are still eating a lot of rice and complaining about how it's not as good as it is in Japan even if they have been there for decades. I don't see anything wrong with that.

One of the things that I did in Japan in regards to food was patronize the Foreign Buyer's Club. I didn't regularly buy anything, but tended to buy something that I hadn't had for quite some time. Unfortunately, they sell by the case so whatever it was, I'd be eating for a long, long time. One of the things I did not buy, but they carry, is Kool-Aid. My brother-in-law, who has lived in Japan longer than my husband and me and is still there, sent me the picture above with a comment which brought up something I had never thought of before. The fact that I've focused on Japanese snacks and beverages for years yet this never occurred to me is a good illustration of how we notice only those things in our frame of reference and the rest is out of our field of vision.

He remarked that Japanese people don't use powdered drink mixes except sports drinks. He said, "When I make up a Kool-Aid "On the Go" tropical punch drink in a water bottle, my students look like I am performing some freak chemistry experiment, and usually react with disbelief when I drink it. This, however, seems to be OK. I'd be interested in what, if any, reasoning lies behind that..." 

It's an interesting question for which I do not have an answer. If any readers have an observation or speculation that they'd like to share, I'd be curious to hear it. 

Monday, August 13, 2012

Awashimado Adzuki Tart

Sometimes it seemed to me that the Japanese randomly assigned English names to various things. On the front of this treat, the big characters say "tart" or "ta-ru-to". This is in no way a "tart". I know because I looked it up to be sure that I hadn't missed some sort of alternate definition of the word. Wikipedia will back me up on the fact that a tart requires a pastry base, which this does not have.

Of course, the Japanese absolutely do not need to conform to our limited Western definitions of our own words. For a country that often focuses on conformity, this reveals a bit of a rebellious streak. Kudos to them for finding a way that expresses their inner rebel while still not ruffling any feathers. When mom and dad don't see won't hurt them... unless there you're dumb enough to leave wrappers of any sort lying around the betray your illicit activities, but that really has nothing to do with red beans or tarts or even food. 

This confection is made by Awashimado, the company that makes Adzuki Bean Boy cakes, a product which I described as the Japanese equivalent of cookie dough. I probably put on an entire pound of Adzuki Bean Boy by the time I'd left Japan. After scarfing down too many of those hefty bean cakes, I wanted to sample some of the company's other products and this was one of them. 

The main benefit over this misnamed tart over the bean boy is that it is only 170 calories (whereas it's brother was a whopping 260). I certainly didn't expect as much buttery richness from this, and I didn't get it. What I did get though was a very, very sweet, thick and satisfying smooth yet hefty filling of red bean paste wrapped in a moist bit of sponge cake. The cake is similar to castella, but slightly softer and, frankly, a much better textural compliment to the filling. 

This was a wonderful variation on a Swiss cake roll and I would absolutely have it again and again, if I could find access to it. I purchased this for 98 yen ($1.24) in a Tokyo supermarket, Inageya. I'm hoping to locate some of Awashimado's line in California after I have a chance to explore the various Japan towns in San Francisco and San Jose. If you find this (or the Adzuki Bean Boy), I'd recommend picking one up and giving it a try, but do it on the spot so you don't regret buying a big stash if you end up loving them a much as I do.

(If you'd like to download some wallpapers with the cute, simple mascots that Awashimado uses to promote its foods, you can find them here.)

Friday, August 10, 2012

Lotte's Olympic Recipes (product information)

Olympic ice cream, with a Japanese twist. Personally, I think Japan should have been on the green tea ice cream, but no big deal... (All images from Lotte's web site)

One of my many little pleasures in life is looking at sites devoted to retro recipes. There are several out there, but my favorite is Retro Recipe Attempts. I like it because the woman who writes the posts actually tries the recipes to see how well they hold up to modern tastes. One of the reasons these retro recipes are so funny, besides the fact that they often sound and look unpalatable, is that it's clear in many cases that the entire ingredient list was constructed to maximize the use of a particular company's products. In some cases, it means adding just that extra inconsequential spoonful so that you feel compelled to buy another product.

The Gallery of Regrettable Food similarly showcases recipes which include copious amounts of products that you never knew could be used in cooking. I never would have guessed that you could use 7-Up in salad dressing, for making pie crust or to baste a ham, for instance. You can even spice up your kid's glass of milk with a bit of  it. Yum, yum.

Americans aren't the only ones attempting to shoehorn in as many products as possible when creating recipes and most of the major Japanese food manufacturers have recipes on their sites to encourage maximum consumption of their products. The adorable ice cream parfaits pictured above are part of Lotte's efforts. They will encourage you to use 4 kinds of candy and 4 varieties of their "Lady Bordon" ice cream. The little "surprise" to this is that the bottom isn't ice cream, but yogurt. I'm not sure if that's about adding a balance to the sweet flavors or a hint of nutrition, but it sounds like a horrible combination to me. Candy and yogurt don't play well together. Lotte recommends this as a way to offer color and cuteness. They don't mention much about flavor.

To continue the Olympic theme, they have this winner's circle featuring the Koala's March cookies as the winners. I like how they avoided using any reference to flags of actual nations. It's very politically correct of them. This recipe uses Toppo for the pretzel stick flag pole and Crunky cookies for the platform. I've reviewed or sampled all of these products at one time or another, and, while I believe these are cute as a monkey's ear, I wouldn't care to consume any of them. Most of these are way too sweet.

They also have an actual recipe for cookies that will allow you to construct a ribbon rather than simply assemble their various sweets. However, they would not be complete without one of their cookies. It seems that the "gold" medal warrants a Ghana cookie. Crunky cookies are part of the bronze, and that's quite rightfully so. Anything and everything Ghana is far better than those who relate to Crunky.

Finally, you can make your own medals. I guess the Koala's represent Olympic champions. I'm not sure what the little Toppo pretzel rods are symbolic of (javelins?) nor the little balls of "capuche" candy (shot puts?). The things that look like little bowls are called "colo galita", and I was utterly unfamiliar with them prior to researching these recipes. They're little waffles filled with two kinds of chocolate. They're not new as they were introduced by Lotte in late October 2006. I just never noticed them or saw them in shops.

I think it's rather nice that Lotte posted these adorable recipes. Though it does smack of the same self-serving commercialism as things like a 7-Up cookbook, at least these aren't trying to suggest that you incorporate them into your dinner plans.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Random Picture #125

Photo courtesy of BlogD (used with permission).

The "Cream Clan" sounds like the less threatening cousin to the KKK. Where one hurts minorities and espouses white supremacy, the other simply plies you with hydrogenated fats and waits for your arteries to slowly clog up. Instead of burning crosses on lawns, they'd probably dump bags of sugar in the hopes of attracting carpenter ants to your property and slowly taking down your house. The members of the Cream Clan would be far more patient about how they destroy their enemies (and those enemies would be those freaks out there who eschew junk food and eat whole food and fresh fruit and vegetables).

This shot from a convenience store (taken very recently by my brother-in-law who lives in Japan) features a peanut cream cookie and an, obvious, Oreo knock-off. If I were in Japan at this moment, I'd do what he did and take a picture of the funny name and possibly buy the peanut one. My expectation would be that it would not be very good, but since there is so little in the way of peanut butter sweets, I'd toss my 100 yen ($1.27) into the cash register with minimal hopes that something good might come of it.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Furuta Tiramisu Chocolate

I had a few friends over for lunch yesterday and they mentioned that they had tiramisu for dessert over the weekend. I don't know how popular it is in the U.S., but I can only say that tiramisu will always be linked to Japan for me as the first place I encountered it was in Tokyo... in a convenience store. When I first arrived there in 1989, it was sold pretty much everywhere as a chocolate sponge cake, a layer of whipped stuff that was supposed to mascarpone, and some chocolate shavings or powder. The coffee flavor of these "konbini" offerings was always too subdued or overbearing (usually the former) and the "cheese" flavoring usually had a very chemical in taste.

Despite the fact that I like all of the components of tirsmisu, I was mainly drawn to it for the texture of the cheese. I like anything that is rich and fluffy. It didn't matter that the taste of the low rent tiramisu I usually (but not often) bought in Japan was less than impressive as long as I got that textural feedback. Most of the mass market tiramisu in Japan was simply "ok" and I never tried it at a restaurant.

Anything tiramisu has a real sense of nostalgia for me in terms of remembering Japan, as does "Furuta", a company that makes a wide variety of low profile snacks and sweets. The one with the greatest longevity and popularity is the "Sequoia" wafer bar. It's like a poor man's KitKat, especially if that poor man likes cheap, very sweet chocolate.

I bought this at Daiso Japan for $1.50 (117 yen) as part of a buying frenzy. There are 10 tiny candies, about the size of a Hershey's Kiss, individually wrapped in green foil. Each candy is 36 calories. That makes them more fattening for their size than the average chocolate.

It was only after tasting a candy that I remembered that I'd already sampled the company's tiramisu Sequoia bar and found it lacking. That bar tasted to much like the coffee component and not enough like the chocolate and mascarpone. This candy suffered from the opposite problem. It tasted not at all like coffee and mainly like cheap, but fatty, chocolate and fake mascarpone cheese. I guess that the "cheese powder" can't really do for me what the fake mascarpone did in my little plastic-wrapped konbini tiramisu.

This isn't a horrible candy at all. The chocolate is slightly bittersweet and has better depth of flavor because it's not too sweet. The chocolate on the outside is a bit on the softish side which isn't helping the contrast between the white filling and the outer shell. The inner white stuff seems firmer than the outside, which is simply wrong as the white stuff in tiramisu is supposed to be fluffy and light compared to the denser brown stuff. It's the law, after all. As a chocolate, this is "blah". As a tiramisu chocolate, this fails because there is so little of a coffee component.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Baboon Marzipan Peanut Butter Candy

I think this post should more properly be titled "de la Rosa" marzipan candy, but I couldn't resist using the Baboon distributor name. In fact, I bought a bigger bag of these simply because of that name. There were actually smaller portions available from another distributor, but, you know, "baboon" is too cool a word. Adding monkeys to anything makes them better. Just ask NASA.

This is actually my second purchase of this candy. I first sampled it when I was spending some time in the San Juan Islands just after leaving Japan. It was distributed there with a pretty generic looking name (same de la Rosa candies inside the packet though) in a section with bagged spices and other Mexican foods. Oddly, despite the fact that most things on the island I was on were more expensive due to their having to be flown or ferried in, this was cheaper there than it was here in California. I paid $2.79 (218 yen) for a package of 7 at Chavez Mexican Market. I think I paid about a dollar for 4 of them on Lopez Island. Go figure. That's a difference of 40 cents (31 yen) per candy vs. about 25 cents (20 yen). My guess is that they're paying big royalties for the use of the whole baboon moniker. Those brand names don't come cheap! Just ask NASA.

Incidentally, candy sellers sell these online through many avenues, and I see them all over the west coast, but they may not be so easy to find in other areas. Amazon offers a huge amount of them. Mexgrocer will let you buy far fewer. 

I didn't really photograph it badly. It's not very photogenic candy.

When I sampled this in Lopez, I was in love. It had everything I adored going for it. It's peanut butter. It's got bits of nuts. It's sweet and has a fatty texture. This is like a crumbly version of peanut butter amped up to "11" on the sweetness scale. When I say "crumbly", I mean it. It is virtually impossible to free a disc of this from its plastic prison without it disintegrating all over the place. It's best eaten from a bowl or plate, or with a spoon. Or you could try to up end the whole thing at once into your mouth and put your sweetness taste buds into shock. I wouldn't advise it though as that may send you into some sort of sugar shock. 

The truth is though that I was less thrilled with this on my second purchase than on my first. Perhaps it was the novelty of something so thoroughly un-Japanese so soon after having so many Japanese things. It also could have been the fact that I was denied peanut butter sweets for so long that this was like a dive into sweet, sweet home. Perhaps I was in a head space where super sweet food sounded more appealing at that time. I found this hard to resist the first time I bought it. Now, well, it's lasting a bit longer.

I enjoyed this, but I think that it's for those who want a particular nibble at a particular time rather than as a "any time" sort of treat. It's good, no doubt, but I think that it went over better after long-term deprivation. Some sweets are for "everyday" and some are best enjoyed in a vacuum... say, after spending 23 years in a country which has neither marzipan nor peanut butter candies, or after spending several months in space. Just ask NASA.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Random Picture #124

When I left Japan, I received so many gifts that I could very likely fuel two months worth of blog posts by just posting pictures of the items I received, and that would be posting every single day. My friends, acquaintances, and business associates were generous in the extreme, and I had the full luggage to prove it. 

Some people asked me what I wanted to have as a souvenir of Japan and I told them that food gifts would be great. It wasn't only that I liked the food, but also that I could consume at least part of what I was given before leaving and wouldn't have to struggle so hard with heavy suitcases or shipping stuff home. The weight limit for each suitcase was 50 lbs. (about 23 kg.) and my husband and I were up to the limit on each of our 4 bags. You can see how food gifts would be appealing under the circumstances. We didn't get weighed so gaining a few pounds from delcious food wasn't going to cause a problem. ;-)

One of my students gave me a beautiful set of chopsticks (nice, light gift) and this bag of "Hello Kitty" imagawayaki. For those who don't recall, that's a waffle-like cake with various fillings inside of it. This bag contained "mystery" fillings. You never knew what sort you were going to get, but I learned that there was chocolate, custard, white bean, and red bean in the bunch. I had some imagawayaki/taiyaki in Japan which wasn't great, but I never had any that wasn't good. These little morsels were a mixed bag in that regard. Some flavors were great, and others a little funky. I recall that the white bean (usually my favorite) was the most disappointing. If you have a chance to try these in any shape or form, I definitely recommend giving them a try. There is a Japan town in San Jose (which is somewhat near where I'm staying at present), and I'm hoping to find some place which sells them there... not "Hello Kitty" ones specifically, but imagawayaki (or taiyaki) in general.