Have you ever thought about what you owe to the existence of fire? Oh, I'm not talking about such pedestrian things as keeping your naked ass warm, generating energy for your gadgets so you can be a techno-zombie, or making sure that every burger you eat isn't tartare. I'm talking about something bigger and more important - the contribution it makes to the taste of the food you eat.
Since most of us are naked apes who enslave machines to do our dirty work (and occasionally people, but this isn't a political blog so let's not go there), we don't think very hard about how our food gets to be what it is. Roasting, which involves, you know, fire, is part of what makes some of the best things in life good. I'm not even talking about the type of "roasting" that involves cooking food, I'm speaking of the type which makes the things used in cooking palatable. In particular, coffee, nuts, and chocolate all come into their own through roasting. Soy bean flour is another one of those things which blossoms into something special through the magic of fire.
One of the reasons that I like kinako so much is that the roasting brings out a nutty flavor. It is reminiscent of peanuts, but has its own special qualities. I'm guessing that it tastes like peanuts in large part because the roasting cultivates similar qualities in soy bean and legumes, but I'm no expert on this. All I know is that kinako is good. When I found these for about $2.00 at Niyiya market, I snapped them up.
Bourbon is best known for making tubes of tiny packaged cookies. Some are pretty good and some are quite boring. They do have other products as well, but they aren't as ubiquitous or well-known (except for the Alfort line of cookies with chocolate). I'm certain this particular product is a temporary one which will vanish when the cherry blossoms arrive in spring, if not sooner. Kinako is a winter flavor for reasons unknown to me, but I'm guessing it has to do with the harvesting season for soy beans in the distant past.
These are little nuggets of kinako bliss on multiple levels. First, you are hit with the nutty joys of the toasted soybean flour on the outside with the slightest bit of creamy white chocolatey flavor and texture. Next, you get the airy, crispy wafer shell and finally you are rewarded at the end with a roasted peanut. Each element unfolds both as an individual flavor (the peanut mainly as an aftertaste) and as a melange of flavors. For a tiny little thing, this packs a load of depth both in taste and texture.
Clearly, I loved these. Each package is supposed to be one serving of 190 calories, but I think I can stretch that over two or three portions given that there are 34 little nuggets in the bag (yes, I counted). They're too good to pop in your mouth by the handful and chomp down on rapidly. I recommend savoring each individual bite for it's flavor depth and mixture of textures, preferably with a drink to cleanse the palate between nibbles. If you like kinako, you will love these. If you've never had it, these are a very good introduction to a flavor that is known and loved by many Japanese people and that I wish were common in America.