Monday, April 23, 2018

Coris SonoManma Peach Fuzen Gum and Kanro Fruit Rich Peach Candy

The peach on the bottom candy reminds me of "Call Me By Your Name." If you haven't seen it, don't ask. The defilement of fruit is just too disturbing to relive.

Like a runner struggling after a long, hard run to reach the finish line, I am slowing down on my progress with my ZenPop box, but I am determined to finish! However, I'm being slowed down by plans to take a very brief trip for vacation and the looming specter of grand jury duty. If I seem to be in a hurry, you'll understand why.

The pairings on my double reviews are not random. They make a sort of pointless logic to my mind. This one is a grouping of "stuff designed to keep your mouth entertained for a long time" or "stuff designed to remove bad tastes from your mouth." Choose whichever one seems more suitable.

The maker of the peach gum, Coris, specializes in dagashi (kid's snacks) and I've only reviewed a few of their items previously. If this gum is any indication, they are designed to be short-lived joys. The immediate sense is that this is the nicest, softests bubble gum I have ever had and it has a good, natural burst of peach flavor both from the gum itself and the little dab of goo in the center.

For about three minutes, this is a great chewing experience. After that, the flavor is tapped out and you're done. At that point it's time for another little ball of (peach-shaped) gum, or to focus on blowing bubbles. I can't say it's reasonable to expect a gum designed for kids to go the distance in flavor, but I never claimed to be reasonable.

Kanro's "Fruit Rich" peach candy is a decidely more adult and long-lasting experience. The candy is less sweet and intense than the gum, but it unfolds beautifully on the tongue and it's far easier to enjoy than sucking on a peach pit. Oddly, this includes herb extracts and menthol, but I couldn't taste those elements at all. Their inclusion means this is designed for soothing sore throats as much as for occupying a bored mouth.

If this were sugar-free, it would have my undying love rather than a brief flirtation. My teeth cannot only tolerate so much bathing in sugar before they cry "Uncle." So, while I'm happy for the lack of artificial sweetner aftertaste (or even present taste), I have to be careful not to overdo this lest I develop a cavity.

Coris Peach Gum:

Karno Fruit Rich hard candy:

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Shimi Choco Corn and Anpanman Pero Pero Choco

I'm headed close to the finish line in my race to review all of my ZenPop box treats before I loose my free time to jury duty (which is coming up on May 2nd). I have to say that it's been quite refreshing to get back in the groove of steady reviewing, though I know that I'll run out of things to review pretty soon.

If aliens came to earth and looked at our food, would they be confused by the fact that we shape our food like humans and then eat them? There are chocolate Santas at Christmas in the U.S. Why would we want to cannibalize a jolly guy who wants nothing more than to give us free toys?

These are the thoughts that occur to me when I look at snacks like the Anpanman chocolate lollipop. He looks so happy, and I just snapped his head in half, took my picture, and then took a bite out of him. If it is any consolation, he didn't taste especially good.

Incidentally, "pero pero" means "lick, lick" which I guess refers to the fact that this is on a stick. However, this isn't really designed for licking. It's barely designed for eating at all because the texture is too soft and the chocolate flavor is fairly muted, especially toward the center where there is more pink chocolate. It's balanced in sweetness. It's vaguely milky, but mostly seems to be too adulterated with vegetable oil to have any sort of pure flavor elements. It looks cute, and it doesn't taste terrible, but this is largely for novelty rather than for flavor. I had my husband sample it and he said, "It tastes like inferior chocolate." That about sums it up.

The other item in this double review is best known for it's tasty animal crackers. The "shimi corn" like is made up of various flavors of a cereal like corn base. It sounds very unimpressive, but it actually was very satisfying. The flavor of the chocolate was excellent and the texture of the star-shaped corn tube was perfect. It was neither too dense nor too crispy. If you like eating sugar cereal dry out of the box (and I do), this is going to be the bee's knees. This was unexpectedly tasty and I wish I had a case of them around for future noshing. It just really played into my tastes.

So, the moral of the story? Cannabalism is wrong in every way. Don't go around eating the heads of fictional characters. It will not be nearly as much fun as you anticipate. The other moral? Corn is always king!

Anpanman Pero Pero Choco:

Shim Choco Corn:

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Orihiro "Standing" Jelly

The latest in my continuing marathon of reviews of my ZenPop box is a "health" drink/snack from Orihiro. Orihiro specializes in food targeted toward women who are calorie-conscious and up on all the latest food fads that are supposed to keep you younger looking and in the pink. These are the women that keep the price of Manuka honey in the stratosphere because someone told them it'll cure every illness known to man and they believe much in the same way Fox Mulder believes in aliens - they want to believe.

People think wasabi KitKats are part of the "weird" Japan food culture. They've got nothing on this squeeze pouch of mutant gelatin snack. I have to say this one caught me by surprise in multiple respects. The first surprise was when I sqeezed the tube to see what popped out and some juice squirted me in the face. This is less a tube of jelly as it is thick gelatin globs floating in some sort of juice.

You have to make sure it is in your mouth when you squeeze it. It'll be a textural Russian roulette which one you get. My main problem was that I wanted to see what it looked like and get a picture for this blog. My loss is your gain since you won't have to actually have the bottle disgorge anything onto your body in order to know what is inside before you suckle on it.

In terms of how this tastes, the peach flavor is actually very pleasant and tastes a lot like nectar drinks. The ingredients list includes real peach juice. The main problem is that it is insanely sweet and you can taste the artificial sweetener all too well. It's made with both Sucralose and acesulfame K. Honestly, for something that is sold by a company with "health" in their URL, this is not especially healthy. It's a chemical cocktail to satisfy your sweet tooth with a low calorie load, but it's even sweeter than conventional sugar-free gelatin.

I wanted to like this, but it was just too fake-tasting for me, and I'm someone who uses Splenda everyday in hot beverages so it's not a sensitivity to sweeteners. I think they really just needed to dial back on the overall sweetness level and this could have been a nice way to satisfy a craving.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Poteko Cherry Blossom Salt Potato Rings and Calbee Sea Salt Hard Chips

I'm continuing my brisk jaunt through the box of snacks ZenPop sent me with two of the salted potato snacks. Besides being made of potato and containing salt, they really don't have much in common, but it's not like I'm matchmaking them or engaging in little mock wedding ceremonies where in which I put a tiny veil on the rings and a bow tie on the chips - at least not yet. Constructing these things takes time.

The first time I tried Himalayan sea salt, I wondered why anyone would like the taste and smell of sulfur on their food. Sure, it's pink and looks pretty, but - at least to my taste buds - it added nothing to the experience and really took things away. I dismissed it as one of those things all the cool kids were into because other cool kids told them to be into it.

As weird as I found Himalayan sea salt to be, the sakura (cherry blossom) salt on Tohato's potato rings is like a mutant version of salt. Maybe it was formed when Godzilla was percolated decades ago. When I opened the bag, the smell was strongly cherry-blossom-like. It just did not fit the sense of what should come with a potato snack.

Smell isn't everything though. People who eat Durian know that. Taste is where it's at. Unfortunately, this didn't fare much better on the taste front. The first ring is especially odd as it hits you full force with the cherry-like flavor of the salt. After you eat a few, you get a little acclimated and it's more of a bad aftertaste that you tolerate.

I'm not sure what Tohato was thinking with this one. I guess that the fact that this is a holiday release connected to the "doll's festival" for girls (hinamatsuri) made them think the whole cherry blossom concept was a good one. They should have saved it for their sweet snacks rather than Poteko.

While the Poteko aren't inedible, they aren't nearly as much fun as they should be. I'm giving them a little credit there. I think the best use for these is to take them around to your unsuspecting friends and tell them it's a Japanese potato ring snack and ask them if they can guess what flavor it is. Have your camera ready because you'll want to catch the faces they make and post them on social media or future blackmail purposes.

The Calbee chips, by comparison, are a much tamer beast. The "hard" part comes from chips made with a thicker cut potato. Most Japanese potato chips are super thin, light and crispy. These are still crispy, but the bite is definitely less crumbly and more crunchy.

All Japanese potato chips have a particular fresh scent and taste which is unique and these have that going for them. I'm guessing this comes from the oil. However, the bag I had also had an unusual and not necessarily welcome. Honestly, it reminded me of sour milk. I don't know where that came from and I've never experienced that with Calbee's chips before. They're supposed to have Vitamin C added, which is also a bit strange. That might have something to do with it.

Poteko Cherry Blossom Salt:

Calbee Sea Salt Hard Chips:

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Yaokin Fluffy Softmallow and Dora-Choco

The next step down the path of reviewing food from my ZenPop box (the "Peach Festa") is paved with things for children. Both of these dagashi (kid's snacks) are made by a company that most people know best for their savory corn snack sticks.  I have to admit that I don't recall every having seen the pastel marshmallow barber's pole that is the "softmallow," but I have a hazy memory of the little tiny dorayaki. Since I left Japan six years ago, I imagine I'm going to continue to have hazy memories.

The softmallow looks like something someone would try to recreate on Instagram or Pinterest, and then someone else would try to recreate it and it could be an epic Pinterest fail. It's adorable enough to be snipped into little pieces and be used as unicorn cow pies as part of a cake decoration.

So, the marshmallow has definitely won the remains of my twelve-year-old self's heart in terms of looks, but what about taste? It is indeed very fresh and soft, but soft like a pillow that gives and then rebounds. The marshmallow is lightly sweet and has no other flavoring added, but it is a nice flavor. I'm pleased to say that most of the Japanese marshmallow's that I had in Japan had a strange aftertaste that is absent in this one. The only difference between this and an American marshmallow is that it's less sweet and just a hair more "rubbery," but not in a way which is off-putting.

The dorayaki has an amazing smell that reminds me of freshly-baked cake. The chocolate filling is so similar in appearance to red bean paste that I forgot it was chocolate until I put it in my mouth. The cake is surprisingly moist for a shelf-stable product and does have a more "cake-like" taste than regular dorayaki which tends to be like a pancake which is a bit dry.

In terms of the filling, it's not super flavorful on the front end (the cake dominates), but hits on the back end when you get a little burst of chocolate that falls somewhere between dark and milk. The filling is nicely fatty and adds to the texture to some extent. This was shockingly good for a kid's snack and reminded me of a less cloying version of a Hostess snack cake.



Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Karu Edamame Snack

My stroll through the ZenPop box is one that I'm hoping will be far less leisurely so, with any luck, I'll be posting one review a day until I wear myself out, get called in for grand jury duty, or put on too much weight from an abundance of appealing Japanese junk food.

When I first saw the box for this snack, I assumed that the snacks inside were just pretzels flavored with edamame (young soybeans). It turns out that I was mislead by the little brown marks on the sticks (from where they've been baked, not fried, as the box tells me) and the shape. These are actually crispy tubes made of potato, edamame seasoning, and a plethora of other things which, if I listed them here, you'd only want to eat them less. And these are delicious so I don't want to reduce the chance that you'll try them.

The texture is crispy and light. The hollow tube design makes you feel like you're eating an expertly rolling potato chip that is perfect in crunchiness. The flavor has a bit of depth as the front end is a little salty and slightly potato-like. The back end is pure edamame with its verdant qualities. It's exceptionally well-executed to bring the target flavor to mind.

The box has 36 grams at 185 calories. I ate half at one sitting as a side to a tuna sandwich, but I could easily see going through the whole box at once with a cold drink on the side. It takes more than a little self-restraint to not do that.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Gelee Pure Peach Gummys and Meiji Gummy Candy

When I received both of these in ZenPop's Peach Festa box, I figured it was only reasonable to pit them against one another. I constructed a tiny battle arena and placed each in one corner of the ersatz ring. One of them had a shelled pistachio for a coach and the other a crusty old corn nut. Both touch old snacks did their best to prepare them for the battle to come. When the bell rang, I ate them both.

In terms of appearance, the Pure are definitely the more attractive-looking candy, and not just because the shape whispers that it will love you back if you choose to love it. The frosty white exterior reminds one of sugar, though it actually is part of the sour and sweet combination that this candy offers.

The Meiji Gummy is much more pedestrian in appearance and more straightforward in its flavor profile. It has a pure, sweet peach flavor that tastes fresh and natural. Eating one of these is like eating a very flavorful peach in terms of taste. In fact, both gummies get the peach flavor amazing "right." I just happen to prefer the flavor depth of the Pure's sour combination along with the sweet.

The texture of both candies is slightly tough and quite chewy, though they soften as they are warmed by your mouth. Neither has an edge when it comes to texture. Because they seem to be made with less sugar than some gummy-style candies, I found that they don't tend to stick in your teeth quite so badly.

Also, and this means a lot more in Japan than it does in the U.S., they both contain collagen. In my copious experience talking to Japanese women about skin (as they were always remarking on my "creamy white skin"), I know that they're a little bonkers for anything which they can supplement to improve their skin quality. Collagen is supposed to improve elasticity so you can have skin that snaps back like a rubber band if you eat enough of these gummies. (Note: I made that up. Neither company makes such a promise.)

The packaging is a little different in that Kanro's Pure gives you nutrition information for each candy (11.4 calories and 135.4 mg of collagen) and Meiji gives you information on the entire bag (155 calories and 2200 mg of collagen). Though they are tasty, I think Meiji is more than a little optimistic if they think you're going to chew your way through an entire bag.

The winner is: Pure. This is largely due to the added flavor depth from the citric acid powder on the outside, but they also just feel like a nicer candy in terms of the whole experience. That isn't to say that the Meiji gummy isn't tasty. It really is, but I'd buy Pure if I had to choose.

Meiji gummy rating:

Pure gummy rating:

Monday, April 16, 2018

ZenPop "Peach Festa Pack" box unboxing

I didn't expect to be doing two Zenpop "unboxing" posts in a row. In fact, I expected to review the items in the previous box. I have a good excuse. No, really, I do. If you don't think what I have to say is a sufficient reason, then you haven't had my misfortune. My excuse is, in three little words, "grand jury duty."

If you've never been selected for this honor, then let me say that I was fortunate that my term is shorter than some, and it's still longer than regular jury duty by far. I'm on the hook for random service for three months and each day that I do it is like an exhausting day on the job with no down time because there's no taking a break to look at your cell phone (not that I have one of those, I don't) or browse the web.

I hope to do better reviewing the items in this box, but I can barely cook my own dinner when I'm on duty, let alone ponder writing things. Still, my fingers are crossed and I'm going to push harder to squeeze in some reviews because I was pretty damn excited about this box when I saw what was inside.

As I've said before, I consider ZenPop to be one of the best value snack boxes out there for Japanese goodies. They packed this one super full and even managed to include two drink options which was suprising and welcome. Of course, the way to my heart was swiftly found with the inclusion of kinako wafers. I literally cuddled them to my chest when I found the package.

Click this image to load a larger one.

In terms of the contents, it's detailed in the included packaging, but I'll briefly talk about them in groups by type here:

Kids snacks (dagashi):

Anpanman choco: While this looks like a lollipop, it's really chocolate on a stick featuring the familiar face of Anpanman. In the U.S., we would call him "Bread Head," and he'd be a candidate for a villain in the old Tick animated series.

Long Marshmallow: I've already got my speculation about how this is going to taste. Japanese marshmallows are quite different from American ones both in texture and in taste. They tend to be more "gummy" and chewy rather than soft and pillowy.

Dorayaki Choco: This is a shelf-stable, kid's sized version of the venerable Japanese snack which is like two pancakes with filling. Usually, these are filled with red beans, but these have chocolate which I'm betting will make them a bit sweeter.

Choco Stick: I reviewed several things called "Choco Stick" before and this one comes closest to this one. However, it doesn't look like it's actually a corn snack dipped in chocolate, but rather a corn snack made from the ground up with chocolate.

Peach gum: The description of this recommends putting all three pieces in your mouth at once and trying to blow a big bubble. I'm saying right now that that is what I'm going to do, but not because I do what I'm told. I'm going to do it because gum is too tiny these days and you need at least two pieces to satisfy my big mouth and there's no point in leaving that one little bit an orphan.


Konjac Jelly Peach: Technically, this isn't a drink, but a liquid jelly that you suck out through a spout in the top. I'm guessing this is what Japanese astronauts eat in spring.

Peach Drink: This is technically a "dagashi" (kid's snack) and I do recall seeing this type of thing sold in Japan, especially in summer, but I never tried one during all of my years there.

Salty Snacks:

Poteko Cherry Blossom salt flavor: Poteko are super crunchy potato rings and I reviewed the regular (salt) flavor before. I have no idea how you flavor salt with cherry blossom, but I guess I'll find out.

Curry Arare Sembei: These are an old-fashioned type of rice crackers that are easy to find in most stores in Japan. While this is also mentioned as dagashi, I think this is also within the range of otsumami, or snacks to be eaten with alcoholic drinks. I'm guessing this will be more about the crunch than the flavor. If these are dagashi, they won't have as strong flavors as adult-oriented rice crackers.

Edamame Sticks: This is a bona fide otsumami snack which looks like it's a version of the same pretzels that are used on things like Pocky.

Otsumami Mix (mixed rice crackers): After the kinako wafers, this was the item I was happiest to see, but I'm a sucker for sembei.

Natural Calbee Sea Salt Chips: Though these have a relatively common flavor, they're supposed to be thicker than usual chips. That would make them similar to some Kettle brand chips. I'm guessing that they will be one of the less unique and underwhelming experiences in the box. Japanese chips usually have a fresh flavor compared to Western ones, but they aren't likely to be so different.


Petit Kinako Wafers: I've reviewed this product before and loved it to pieces. The Bourbon brand of petit snacks is often carried at Japanese markets and import stores in the U.S., but these have never been there when I've patronized one. So, they're one of those flavors that someone seems to have decided aren't going to sell in America, much to my chagrine. And, yes, I tried these already (again) and they are nearly the same as I remember except that they are less messy. Unfortunately, the exterior isn't coated in kinako powder so it takes longer for the flavor profile of the toasted soy bean to hit your tongue. Still, they're very tasty.

Gelee Pure Peach gummies: I've had a lot of Pure gummies and they are really hit or miss. The best ones are amazing. The worst ones are gross and hard to finish. We'll see how these are.

Peach Gummy Candy: This is Meiji's version of gummies (the previous ones are made by Kanro). I have less experience with these. I hope to review these two snacks mano a mano.

I think this is a pretty respectable assortment with something to offer everyone and a good focus on the seasonal flavor of peach. I can't promise to review them all, but I do promise to get to some of them despite jury duty. :-p Thanks for your patience!