Archive for the ‘Food & drink’ Category

J-blip: Pepsi-flavored Cheetos

Friday, June 14th, 2013

A new snack about to hit convenience store shelves in Japan might possibly make waves, it could start a buzz, but it will definitely generate . . . fizz. FritoLay’s Shuwa Shuwa is, according to the promotional copy, “a snack that allows you to enjoy the fizziness of a carbonated drink via the pairing of long-seller Cheetos and Pepsi Cola seasoning.”

That’s right: Pepsi. Flavored. Cheetos. The PR claim is that the “refreshing tartness” combined with the bubbly sensation is the perfect taste for summer, but what did the office taste-testers think?

shuwa shuwa

Crunchy bubbles: Shuwa Shuwa

Reformed sugar-holic Mark: “The first crunch packed plenty of  joy and wonder, taking me back to the first time I had Pop Rocks, but by the third or fourth bite, the sugar rush was too much and they just ending up tasted like sickly sweet Cheetos. It was a bit like this.”

Mio, who has been known to hoard imported sweets:  “It smells like cola, tastes like cola and even fizzes like flat cola, but when it comes to texture it’s wrong in absolutely every single way. Oh and there’s this weird corn aftertaste. My verdict: It’s awesome . . . but then you could put fizzy powder on a dog biscuit and I’d probably have said the same thing.”

Shaun, an expert on flavor mechanics: “It tasted like corn chips with — you know cola gummies? They might be coated in kind of cola sugar? It tastes like corn chips coated in cola sugar. The cola flavor wasn’t inside the chips, but it was more like a dressing. It was really sweet, but that didn’t stop me.”

Mayumi, who probably is the only person in the office with fully functioning taste buds: “It was like I had chips and Pepsi at the same time. They were really fizzy though. They smelled sweet and didn’t taste like any chips I’ve had before.”

New kid on the block Eric: “My first taste was surprisingly Pepsi-like. It had that cola flavor and, even more noticeably, the bubbly fizz of a soft drink. After a bit of munching, however, the flavor turned much more corn-like. If I’m looking for refreshment on a hot summer day, I’d prefer an ice-cold soda pop to the chips. Besides, I’m a Coke fan.”

Note that these are not to be confused with China’s Pepsi chicken-flavored chips. No chicken in evidence here, just sweet, sparkling cola corn snacks.

Unfortunately, I was no longer in the office by the time these surfaced, so I’ll have to wait like the rest of Japan until July 1. After conquering convenience stores, Shuwa Shuwa will appear more widely starting July 15. Exchange a cool ¥125 for 414 calories of fizzy sugar high, and then you, too, can say, “Yes, they really do taste like Pepsi.”

J-blip: The secret behind Disney + Gogo no Koucha

Friday, May 3rd, 2013

Kirin is currently collaborating with Disney to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Disneyland. Not only are they giving away a grand prize of a 30-night stay for four at the DisneySea Hotel Miracosta, year-long passes to both parks and a resort giftcard worth a million yen, but each flavor of their popular Gogo no Koucha (“Afternoon Tea”) features a different character on the package:  the straight tea has Mickey Mouse; lemon has Winnie the Pooh; and milk has Donald Duck.

Recently, an observant fan noticed there are different numbers on each bottle and decided to investigate. To his delight he found  60 numbers on the the straight tea version and 18 on the lemon tea and milk tea. His interest piqued, he bought all of them and took photos of each in sequence.

Although it is hinted at on Gogo no Koucha’s site, only a clever and dedicated tea drinker would go to all this trouble. By lining up each “frame” in video form, he revealed short animations of each character.

While we’d like to praise this creative campaign, it’s a bit ironic considering Disney just laid off nine veteran hand-animators.

J-blip: Scorpionfish on the menu in Shizuoka

Thursday, April 11th, 2013

Fancy a slice of scorpion fish?

Fancy a slice of scorpionfish?

It’s come to our attention that some truly bizarre looking creatures are being served up in seafood restaurants in Shizuoka lately. Ever since a new deep sea aquarium opened up in Numazu just over a year ago, deep sea seafood has been all the rage in the area. Monkfish, scorpionfish, lumpsucker and rosy seabass are being served up as sushi, sashimi or simply on a bed of rice, in local restaurants.

Pioneering this local trend has been Uoshige Shokudou, a restaurant that serves up a weird and wonderful deep sea sashimi platter that varies according to the season. The most expensive item on the menu, costing between ¥10,000 to ¥15,000 ($101 to $151), is the Japanese spider crab that lives at depths of 600 meters.

Photo courtesy of Wikicommons

Photo report: FOODEX Japan 2013

Wednesday, March 13th, 2013

FoodEx is the largest trade exhibition for food and drinks in Asia, with about 70,000 visitors checking out the products presented by hundreds of participating companies. I was lucky to enter as press; otherwise, visitors must be affiliated with the food industry — and pay ¥5,000 — to enter.

The FoodEx menu is global, including everything from  cherry beer from Germany and premium Mexican tequila to top-class French and Chinese dumplings. The event was a rare chance to try out both well-known and exotic foods and even see professionals making them.

In addition to booths offering traditional Japanese favorites such as udon and maguro sashimi, there were plenty of innovative twists, such as dorayaki, a sweet snack made of two pancakes and a red-bean filling, that came in coffee and tomato flavors.

While I was there I was lucky to catch the World Sushi Cup Japan 2013, where top chefs from around the world were competing … and presenting a wide range of styles that you would not normally see in Japan, like the flower makizushi above.

J-blip: Ramen cake

Friday, March 1st, 2013

At Machi no Kumasan (“The Town Bear”) bakery in Takasaki, they’ve recently added ramen, soba and pork katsu to their menu. That’s right, a bakery. A closer look shows the dishes are actually sweets made of pudding, chocolate and creamy Mont Blanc chestnut paste cunningly shaped to look like savory dishes. Not surprisingly, they’ve gone viral on the web.

We called Ken Ichikawa, the bakery’s head chef, to get the sweet low-down. “I wondered if we could make a cake that looked exactly like the ramen on instant noodle packages,” he said. Obviously, it was a success since many customers are fooled by the lovingly crafted details … from the ramen noodles in the glassy soup to the slices of pork (chashu) sitting on top.

Even Ichikawa himself says he is amused when a customer comes in and orders a ramen. “It’s a funny thing to hear that in a bakery, no?” he says with a laugh. The ramen cake is the same size as a regular bowl of ramen, about 18 cm across. Ichikawa says that on busy days, they make about 40 of them a day.

Ichikawa says he’s thinking of ending the ramen cakes at the end of the month. As for the next surprise, Ichikwawa said, “That’s a secret.”

Machi no Kumasan is at 1436-2 Minami Oorui Takasaki-shi, Gunma-ken

The bird is the latest word in animal cafes

Tuesday, February 26th, 2013

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Eurasian_Eagle-Owl_Maurice_van_Bruggen.JPG

Whooo would like a cup of coffee?

 

For feline fanciers who aren’t allowed to keep pets at home, Japan has no end of cat cafes. But now bird lovers of a feather can also flock together at Tokyo’s new wave of cafes that host birds of prey. According to Daily Portal, this burgeoning trend started with Café Little Zoo in Chiba. A cafe that houses not only a number of owls and hawks outside its doors, but also reptiles within. Visitors to the cafe get to hold and pet the animals under the supervision of staff. The cafe is now so busy that groups of four or more are advised to make reservations.

Tori no Iru Cafe

Tori no Iru Cafe — where the birds are

Also taking reservations due to a flurry of recent media coverage is Tori no Iru cafe near Kiba station on the Tozai line. The shop is home to a Harris Hawk, a Eurasian Eagle Owl, parakeets, parrots and other birds.  Here too, customers are allowed to pet and hold the birds — while a staff member watches like a hawk, of course.

The manager, Ms. Toriyama,  opened the establishment after keeping birds as pets herself. Although she gushes in her  Daily Portal interview that owls are quiet and easy to take care of, a British charity called the Suffolk Owl sanctuary begs to differ. The sanctuary emphasizes that birds of prey are unpredictable creatures with sharp claws that do not take well to confined spaces. Indeed, according to the BBC, high numbers of owls were abandoned in the UK last year for just this reason, after the popularity of the Harry Potter films triggered a trend for keeping the birds as pets. All the more reason, perhaps, that owl-lovers might want to visit the birds instead of trying to keep them at home.

Fukuro no Mise (“owl shop”) near Tsukishima station has sweaters, cards and other goods shaped like or decorated with owls, as well as items to help you raise your very own owl at home. (However, the sanctuary recommends building an aviary to keep owls — we can’t help but wonder where a Tokyoite might find the space for one.) At Fukuro no Mise, just like at the other bird cafes, owls that have been raised in captivity to be docile can be held and petted for the price of a cup of coffee. Their talons are trimmed and their beaks are filed to reduce scratching.

At the Falconer’s Café in Mitaka, falconry enthusiasts bring their own birds to compare and contrast. The concept of this cafe is rather similar to dog cafes where dogs are not held captive within the cafe but brought along by their owners. Though Japan isn’t the most litigious of societies, bringing together small children and birds of prey doesn’t strike us as the brightest of ideas for a business. Smoothed claws aside, it might take just one nasty scratch or peck to ground this trend before it really takes flight — or at least to ruffle a few feathers.

Photo courtesy of WikiCommons.

J-blip: Face Chocolates

Thursday, February 14th, 2013

Workshop to make chocolate doppelgangers, using a 3D scanner and printer, at FabCafe. Photo courtesy of FabCafe

Does it look like me? Workshop to make chocolate doppelgangers at FabCafe. Photo courtesy of FabCafe

Valentine’s Day is big business in Japan. We’ve seen a lot of confectionery one-upmanship, but nothing quite like FabCafe’s jibunsei chocolates (self-styled chocolates).

A chocolate replica of your own face might look more kimoi (creepy) than oishii (delicious), but for the 15 people who participated in a two-day workshop the week before Valentine’s Day, the draw was the experience: getting to test out the 3D scanner and printer used to make the silicon molds. The workshop cost ¥6000, or about twice as much as an overpriced box of Godiva. To see more pictures of the process click on the gallery below.

FabCafe, a café-cum-workspace (with a laser cutter you can rent by the hour—or use to burn your own Valentine’s designs into macarons), is run by Loftwork, an “innovation consultancy;” it is also downstairs from 3D printer showroom Cube. “We were brainstorming together about how the 3D-printing technology could appeal to consumers, when we hit on the idea of Valentine’s Day chocolates,” explained Loftwork PR rep Kazue Nakata.

In Japan, Valentine’s Day is for women to give chocolate to men; men return the favor on White Day, March 14. FabCafe is planning similar workshops for men in March. They haven’t officially announced it yet, but keep your calendar open if you’ve always wondered what you or your man would look like as a Gummi Bear.

Check out FabCafe’s own report of the event (in Japanese) and more great photos here.

Today’s J-blip: Anti-Loneliness Ramen Bowl

Tuesday, January 29th, 2013

Had enough fun playing with your food? For the times you find yourself having a meal alone and wishing for some virtual company, your solitude can now be relieved with the Anti-Loneliness Ramen Bowl.

Conceptualized by MisoSoupDesign, the dish comes with an in-built iPhone dock that gives you a hands-free way to do the things you’ve already been awkwardly trying to do with your phone as you slurp away. This could be the ideal resting spot for your virtual dinner date. The bowl was created after one of its designers, Minnie Jan, witnessed a man eating with one hand while browsing through his phone with the other, she told the New York Daily News. “We did it for fun — it’s kind of sarcastic,” the paper quoted her as saying. But we think there might be a market for it in Japan. As Japan Pulse has noted, plenty of Japanese diners eat alone, and there is no shortage of restaurants catering to them. These solo-friendly place settings would make a lot of sense in hitorisama establishments.

The bowls will come in black, white and red and the company is now accepting a limited number of orders via email (info@misosoupdesign.com) and Facebook. The price has yet to be announced, but they are expected to arrive around April or May. Whatever happened to simply savoring the experience of feeding the body, though? How about some tips on mindful eating? Yes, you can read them on your phone.

 

 

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