Firstly, let me apologise for this post taking longer than I planned. I did post on Twitter a few days ago, but I realise not all of you may have seen it. As you may know right now, the UK is under another strict lockdown and it is rather hard for me to cope. If short, dark days aren’t challenging enough for a Seasonal Depression sufferer, an absence of the people who normally make winter more bearable is making it even worse. I’m trying to plough on as much as I can, but if my posts are a little later than usual or a little less energetic than usual, then I sincerely apologise.
Today’s snack tasting comes from a country that so many in the West are besotted by.. Japan! Whether it’s Pokemon or Pocky, ramen or ramune, most millennials have their reasons to fall in love with the country.
For me personally, falling in love with Marie Kondo’s way of living was life-changing. Once I embraced minimalism, I embraced freedom, once I embraced freedom, I embraced happiness. For Matt, Dragonball Z and has been in his heart from a long, long time ago.
For many people, Japanese snacks are pretty frequently their reason for signing up to these snack boxes. Although there have been many great treats and every country has it’s own delights (and sometimes not-so-delightfuls!) to offer, Japanese snacks are the ones a lot of young people want to try. How many of us have revelled in watching hours of DIY candy kit videos, awe-inspired by the idea of making your own candy before you can taste it? I know I have!
So if you’ve ever wondered, here are some of the delights Japan has to offer. Itadakimasu!
Kaikeya Don Tacos
So it is said, these tortilla chips have spicy tomato salsa flavour to them. We were worried about them because we know that sometimes in parts of Asia, “spicy” can take on a whole other meaning of it’s own. Still though, we agreed to try these snacks, so try these snacks we shall.
Winner or Binner? Okay, so these weren’t actually that spicy at all, and they are even actually quite pleasant with a really good tomato salsa taste. The flavour lasts a long time and it makes your mouth water. The crunch is good and you get quite a few in a bag, too. A Winner!
Pretz Ripe Tomato
Pocky.. but not Pocky. There was so much to love about this! The box can be opened and folded to create a pocket-holder for the packets that are inside and the Pretz themselves are pretzel sticks with a ripe tomato flavour. One of the things we loved most about this was the inginguity of the packaging, which Japan is almost world-famous for. Apart from the foil inner sleeves, it’s recyclable and practical – I can get onboard with that idea!
Winner or Binner? These have a nice crisp and a nice pretzel flavour, but the tomato flavour itself was pretty disappointing. It’s there, and then just as quick, it’s not. We decided to give them a Winner, but half of that was won for the clever packaging.
In the West, we know that edamame beans are popular in Japan and yet, if you’ve never been curious about Japanese cuisine, then they’re unlikely to be something that you have tried. In the West, beans are also something we typically add to soups or stews, rather than eat baked or dried. However, it’s always good to try something new!
Winner or Binner? The salted almonds were sort of a win, but the edamame bean crackers themselves? We weren’t really digging them. These aren’t edamame beans in and of themselves, they are mini crackers made with edamame beans which are accompanied by salted almonds. The have a taste similar to the garden pea and as someone who detests the taste of pea, these weren’t for me. Matt didn’t mind them, but he concluded that they were nothing to write home about, either. A Binner.
Umaibo Takoyaki & Mentai
If there’s one thing that filled us with fear in this box, it was these two harmless-looking sticks. “Takoyaki” translates to octopus, and “mentai” is seasoned fish roe. As a rule in the UK, we eat fish, but octopus and roe are much less common, particularly in our snacks. Matt and I tried to come up with any well known British snacks that had fish (not crustacean, for anyone who thought to mention Skips!) but we came up blank. Still though, we were putting our faith in these sticks truly being umaibo – or great tasting sticks, in English!
Winner or Binner? Our anxiety was not warranted, and the biggest challenge we had was deciding which one we liked best. The takoyaki was slightly salty, and the mentai had a sweet, slightly spicy taste to it. They’re light and crisp too, so you can enjoy the flavour without something that’s going to hang around and leave you feeling full for too long. Another Winner!
We thought this was some sort of chocolate covered treat, but it’s actually a sugar coated puffed corn snack. It’s very light in weight, perhaps even the lightest item in the box. We were curious!
Winner or Binner? At first, this feels not unlike what it might be like to sink your teeth into a piece of packaging polystyrene. It’s dense, light and slightly unforgiving – sort of how I should imagine polystyrene might be. Almost immediately though, the puffed corn melts on the tongue and what’s left is a slightly burnt sugar coating, and it’s this magic and then sweet reward that really grows on you. We’ve never had anything like it before, and yet it’s moreish. It’s a sneaky little Winner for sure!
Remember what I said earlier about the Japanese customs that have taken the West by storm? Mochi is one of them. We’ve never tried mochi before, but that has more to do with not being the kinds of people to jump on the train and do what everyone else is doing, rather than it has to do with Japan itself. Still, these milk mochi are made with a glutenous rice outside and a sweet cream filling, rather than the traditional red bean paste. They weren’t included in the box, but in the spirit of keeping with Japan and trying new things, I decided to do a little bt of shopping beforehand. Unfortunately and in lockdown, these were about all that I could get hold of, but they shall do for now!
Winner or Binner? Let’s just dial this back, because mochi is so much more than “well, what does it taste like?”. Almost as soon as it touches your lips, there is a distinctive coolness and a smooth, velvety texture. It has a chew that’s bouncy and slightly resistant, but not so much so that it hurts the jaw. The filling was nice, though I had much hoped we that we could source some with red bean paste instead. We weren’t crazy for mochi in the way that some young people are, but they are still tasty. Winner.
Chocolate peanuts in a box. We get them in the UK too, though usually in a big bag instead. We also get Poppets in the UK, which are in a similar box – We’re both agreed that the mint ones are the best!
Winner or Binner? Oh Japan, you sneaky little devils! At first, it’s easy to think of these as just being chocolate covered peanuts, and yet, underneath the milk chocolate is a thin, crispy wafer layer. These are a Winner but with one slight problem – the box just isn’t big enough!
Mini Kitkat – Matcha Tea & Raspberry
Aren’t KitKat just the best? Here in the UK, we have so many great flavours like peanut butter, orange and Oreo. By far though, my favourite has to be sumptuous dark mint. A combination of dark chocolate and cool mint? It gets me every time. In Japan, the flavours are different again and some of the apparently popular flavours are raspberry and matcha tea. Again, we’ve never tried matcha tea before but there’s no time like the present!
Winner or Binner? Okay, so we both agreed that matcha wasn’t for us. It was good to try, but the lack of sweetness and slightly earthy taste just wasn’t doing it for us. Brits are famed for drinking their tea with milk and sugar, and in this household, we are no exception! The raspberry Kitkat however was delightful with an almost fresh raspberry flavour- amazing!
According to the pamphlet, these three little gum balls aren’t as innocent as they first appear. Two are ssweet, one is super-sour.. take your chances!
Winner or Binner? Almost immediately, I wasn’t keen on these gum balls. They’re very soft, very sticky and quite difficult to chew. There’s little to no resistance, they just give in to a sort of mushy, squishy texture in your mouth. After a while, things started to get quite mouth-watering, and then quite tangy and refreshing, and a little tart.. and before too long, I was pulling all kinds of faces and wiping the tears from my eyes. Matt, meanwhile, was contently chewing on a soft tropical-lemon gum and quite enjoying the show. If you’re the unlucky devil, these get unbelievably sour until you are forced to eject them. They’re fun, but we both found the gumminess far too soft for us. Sorry guys, despite the fun factor, it’s a Binner.
These sour turtles have the flavour of ramune, the Japanese soda drink. Now, if there was one thing we did cave and try out ahead of time, it was ramune. Matt and I are huge ramune fans, and if we see the chance, we won’t hesitate to pick up a bottle – in fact, I even have a couple of marbles that I’ve saved and rinsed to turn into jewellery at some time never. Anyway, on with the tasting!
Winner or Binner? First.. let’s just appreciate how frickin’ adorable these turtles are. I wanted to build a tiny little enclosure for these guys, not eat them! Unfortunately though, that’s where the love ends. I wasn’t detecting anything like ramune, it was more of a flavour of laundry detergent or soap and I found that I could kind of feel it up my nose. They’re very firm and almost rubbery, too. Sorry Japan, it’s a Binner from us.
There really isn’t much said or to be said about these, except, apparently, that they are popular water melon flavoured candies. What got me curious though was that the packaging felt unusually flat. Was this one large gummy? Curious..
Winner or Binner? Okay, so no, these watermelon candies are actually little orange oval shaped candies, and more interestingly, they have a softer side and a firmer side (a bit like Matt himself, really 😉 ). The watermelon flavour is good too, and it doesn’t taste too artificial. We gave these a Winner.
Curious-er and curious-er! Grape isn’t a flavour you’ll find in the UK, not really. Anything purple is typically flavoured with one of the nation’s other favourite flavours – the humble blackcurrant. Here in the UK, we have soft chews called Chewits, and they used to make a wonderful vanilla ice cream flavour which is now increasingly hard to come by. Still, we’ve never had a grape chew before, but that doesn’t mean we can’t try!
Winner or Binner? Once again, these are visually very pleasing. There is a purple-outer/white-inner which I thought was clever, but after that, things went a bit awry. Texturally and for a time, these take on a chew more what I’d expect the Monster gum to be, it’s bouncy and almost stretchy – should we be swallowing these? There’s also a strong synthetic chemical flavour which I was assured is grape flavour. If that’s grape, I’ve gone off of them unless they’re juiced and fermented. A Binner.
Let’s Make It! Apple Candy
Let’s be honest, you saw Japanese snacks and you kind of came here for the candy-making kits, didn’t you? Well lovelies, our box did not disappoint. This kit has everything you need to make cute little toffee apple candies – how sweet (literally)!
Winner or Binner? Okay, so where candy-making kits go, this is by far one of the easier ones. Still though, I loved the process of having to put the sprinkles and the syrup in the divets on the tray, and then using a stick to skewer one of the “apples” (apple-flavoured soft chews), dipping them in syrup and then in the sprinkles. A word of caution, because while these kits are fun, corn syrup is a hazard to have around any male who has a tendency to try and adhere himself to every surface within a three-foot vicinity. Nonetheless, the chews are juicy and apply and the crunch of the sprinkles is fun – plus it wins bonus points for the creativity element and the tray can be rinsed and recycled. That’s a huge Winner for us!
What Surprised Us Most Was.. When you go at these snack-tastings, it’s so easy to think that it’s all about how something tastes and yet with the Japanese snack tasting box, it was also about how food feels. Yaokin fugashi really stood out for me because of the way it dissolves in the mouth, and the experience of assembling your own candies (rather than just scoffing them) was all part of the fun of the Let’s Make It! Kit. We really enjoyed this experience and this taste of Japan and learning some Japanese customs and history.
Alright lovelies, I hope you enjoyed this post. Don’t forget to join us next week for more great tastings and dishes!
Until next time.
Stay safe, have fun,
Helen & Matt xx