Posts Tagged ‘snacks’

Hanami! Sakura! Spring snacks have also sprung

Thursday, March 27th, 2014

I am not one to require too much of a reason to throw a mini cream puff party in the office, but Beard Papa‘s announcement of karintō cream puffs was a good one; so, I take the liberty of starting this spring snack write-up with our impressions.

If you’re not familiar, karintō are those things in the snack aisle or local dagashi-ya (sweet shop) that look like dirty twigs. The dirt, however, is brown sugar and the twig is best explained as “fried.” Not fried “something” but just . . . fried. The main ingredient besides sugar is flour, and they’re crunchy like cookies despite being cooked like doughnuts. By the time you get that far, it’s only a couple leaps to the cream-puff idea.

Beard Papa‘s surprisingly delicious karintō cream puffs

Beard Papa‘s surprisingly delicious karintō cream puffs

The website copy calls it a “masterpiece confection that can be confidently recommended to karintō fans since it captures the flavor of the real thing.” Here are some comments from our tasting panel . . .

Mark: “The mega sugar hit is almost too much, but the consistency of the cream — not too light or gooey — is perfect. What makes them great is the crunch of the karintō, and I doubt they’ll get soggy and limp like the regular cream puffs.”

Rina: “It was really tasty! The outside is crunchy, but inside it’s smooth and creamy, so it’s a good combination.”

Andrew: “These are bound to be a hit with Japanese folks nostalgic for a corner-store sugar rush.”

Mizuho: “There wasn’t enough. I want to eat more! If you eat a couple karintō, you’ll want to keep eating and be unable to stop. In that way, this was very true to [the real thing].”

Alan: “This cream puff is full of yumz!”

Kate: “I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy to be a guinea pig! I was a little bit concerned with the aesthetics of its look, since my mind drew a parallel with a certain brown substance, but the taste was worth ‘the risk’!”

By the way, if you are wondering what the flecks are in the cream, they’re azuki (red beans)! An appropriate extra, but hardly noticeable in the overall caramel-y sweetness. For me, the overwhelming impression was the nostalgic taste of pancakes with syrup. The cream gives it that buttery finish. I wonder if eating karintō themselves dipped in whipped cream would produce a similar effect . . .

Beard Papa will pack your puffs with cooling pouches, so they are definitely transportable to your favorite blossom viewing location.

Here are some other snacks that might be fun under the cherry trees:

Two great tastes ... but do they belong together?

Two great tastes … but do they belong together?

Ghana chocolate-covered Kappa Ebisen? These limited-time-only shrimp chips are not new, but they are rather elusive in the konbini wild. It’s possible that someone in your hanami party might be impressed with your hunting and purchasing skills if you bring them, but it’s also possible that you open the bag and no one takes a bite. The shrimp flavor is mostly eclipsed by the chocolate coating at first, but there is a bit of a hazy aftertaste.

Who or what is The PotericanKoikeya‘s latest potato chips boast “American taste” and a wavy shape. Don’t let the hokey, red-nosed sheriff mascot stand between you and the “Sour Cream Onion” and “Cheddar Cheese” flavors, if they’re your kind of thing. Before that, though, take a moment to place your tongue firmly in cheek to applaud the website copy (an example of which can only be fully appreciated in Japanese): サワークリームの濃厚なコクと、さっぱり酸味がオニオンの香りとマッチしてSOOOO GOOOOD!!! MyワイフもFAVORITE(大好き)さ!(Translation: “The depth of the rich sour cream and acidity of the onion flavor match and are so good! My wife loves them!”) At least, they will go better with hanami booze than candy.

But speaking of candy, if there are kids to sugar up entertain, Kracie Foods has a couple new items that might keep them busy for more than a minute. One is Pazuru Choko (“Puzzle Chocolate”). Don’t expect anything so fun as a solution featuring all the jigsaw-y pieces in the bag, but “You’ll find yourself wanting to put them together.”

Secondly, the Petitte [sic] series has grown. These tiny soft candies come bunched together so little fingers can enjoy ripping them apart and sharing. With flavors mainly consisting of fruit, it makes you wonder if a bunch of actual grapes or bananas wouldn’t accomplish the rip-and-share goal just as well.

Another new snack under the “Why not just eat real food?” umbrella is Calbee‘s asparagus-bacon Jagariko. If you were really serious about hanami, you might undertake the challenge of actually wrapping some asparagus in bacon, but in a pinch, this flavor of potato stick snack might be interesting to try since it’s the result of a Jagariko fan brainstorming session.

OK, OK, enough with the random munchies. It’s cherry blossom season for crying out loud, so we know what you’re here for . . .

Sakura-themed food and drink 2014 (an in-no-way exhaustive list)

Craft beer made using cherry blossom petals from SanktGallen Brewery

•Spring Blossom sakura-flavored peach tea from Kirin

•”Melty” Sakura royal milk tea from Coca-Cola

•Sakura amazake from Morinaga

•Sakura Häagen-Dazs

•Sakura tea latte and sakura cream doughnut from Krispy Kreme

•Will the Sakuranbo (Cherry) Mocha and Sakuranbo Frappe replace the Sakura Cherry Mc -Float and -Fizz at McDonald’s? Either way, they’re pink. Don’t forget the Sakura Teritama.

•Nihonbashi Sweets sakura pudding with chunky red bean paste from Meito

If store-bought items don’t quite do it for you, take a tip from Higuccini (in Japanese) and make your own sakura-maple mixed nuts!

Finally, before you head to the park, check you local Don Quijote for the latest seasonal party wear . . .

hanami costumes

Decisions, decisions: Cho! O-hanami Afro or the Sakura Ranger?

 

The latest funky food flavors, coming soon to a konbini near you

Tuesday, July 2nd, 2013

Japan is known for its seasonally flavored foods. Swing by your local konbini in the fall and you’re likely to encounter limited-edition beverages, snacks and candies that weren’t on the shelves a few months earlier.  Some companies pump out more flavors than others, with Nestle’s Kit Kat chocolates alone having dozens of varieties. This summer, manufacturers are debuting a number of interesting flavors to entice convenience store shoppers.

  • As if summer needs to be any hotter, Tohato will begin selling habanero pepper and lemon-flavored corn chips in late July. We’re excited about this one, despite the sinister face on the bag. The company will also be debuting yogurt-honey Caramel Corn and arrabbiata-flavored chips, which arrive in Japan this month.
  • A few weeks ago, we reported on our taste test of the Pepsi-flavored cheetos, which hit the shelves Monday.
  • More directly on the beverage front is Suntory’s Boss Black Sparkling. Best served cold, this carbonated coffee hopes to refresh and awaken those gulping it down on a hot summer afternoon. (Note: If you preferred your fizzy coffee hand-poured, Excelsior Caffé has begun offering a “Perriespresso,” which combines Perrier sparkling water with the chain’s espresso over ice.)
  • The average konbini has a pretty impressive array of instant noodles, but how many of them would satisfy a hankering for Italian? Maruka Foods is now selling peperoncino-flavored instant yakisoba, which combines the convenience of instant noodles with the Italian pasta sauce made form garlic, oil and chillies.
  • A few weeks back, Luna began selling its mint-flavored yogurt. This seems like it could be a crowd-pleaser, with the soothing mint and cooling yogurt making for a perfect way to fend off afternoon drowsiness during the dog days.
  • For dessert, check out Kabaya’s ramune-flavored chocolate  that fizzes just like the soda pop.

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.”

Prizes for every picnic as spring campaigns blossom

Thursday, March 8th, 2012

Pretz Party Box “men-only” edition contains cute actress Umika Kawashima

Spring is the season of fresh beginnings in Japan. As the financial and school years draw to a close and the cherry blossoms begin to bloom at the end of March, farewell parties, graduation parties and, of course, hanami (cherry blossom viewing) parties get underway. During this time a ton of food and booze gets consumed, making spring the perfect season to launch special campaigns to lure potential customers.

Our pick of this year’s campaigns is the “Pretz Party Box” campaign by Glico, the makers of Pretz (a popular savory stick-shaped snack). Those who enter the competition get the chance to win a special box that will be delivered to their party. There are five kinds of boxes available for five different kinds of party and each appears to contain human cargo ready to burst out and liven up your party. The hanami version, for instance, offers drummers in bear suits and cheerleaders shaking pom poms. (Those who like quiet contemplation beneath the blossoms need not apply: Applicants must submit a picture of themselves having fun at a party, and the wilder the party looks, the better the chance of winning.) The birthday box is packed with “human candles” and the “men’s only” party box contains cute actress Umika Kawashima. The website is worth a look for its animation alone.

Cherry blossoms are as certain to turn up on packaging in the spring as they are to bloom on trees. Confectionery makers, Lotte, for instance, began selling special sakura-themed sweets from March 6. They’re also running a tie-in campaign with Rurubu, JTB’s travel magazine, to encourage customers to travel to scenic cherry blossom spots. The back of each package has information from Rurubu editors on choice cherry blossom spots. Lotte is also running a competition to win branded picnic sets plus a copy of Rurubu for a destination of your choosing.

Picnic sets and crates of beer are the standard cherry blossom season prizes on offer from beer companies and this year is no exception, with Kirin offering all of the above for their Nodogoshi campaign and Suntory offering 1,000 12-packs to those who bookmark a webpage for a hanami spot on the associated Yahoo! Japan app.

Last year’s hanami was a rather gloomy affair as the country mourned the huge loss of life caused by the tsunami and experienced ongoing unease over the nuclear crisis. Many took their cue from the authorities who advised citizens to practice self-restraint and cancel rowdy festivities. The start of these spring campaigns signals a return to normality for this year’s hanami, which looks set to be a significantly more joyful affair.

Pulsations (08.13.10)

Friday, August 13th, 2010

Here are the latest Pulsations, links to fresh stories and visuals about Japan, shout-outs to fellow bloggers, and highly clickable stuff that we think you might enjoy.

In no particular order, they are . . .

Sweetening the veggie deal

Friday, March 5th, 2010

Veggie cream puffs for Beard Papa

Veggie cream puffs at Hirota

Munching on raw vegetables in Japan might be viewed with a bit of suspicion.  A plate of salad or bag of carrot sticks in the lunch room often invites a chorus of “Usagi-chan!” (little rabbit!).

Recently, though, the marketplace has been coming up with ways to sneak veggies into your diet that are a bit less crunchy.

A wave of juice blends have punched up their vegetable content to increase their nutrition. Kagome moved puréed concentrated greens off the supplement shelves and into grocery aisles with its Minna no Aojiru juice blends. The famously bitter green stuff is mellowed out with grape, apple and mango.

Ito En is carrying a line of boxed juices, two of which promise a daily allowance’s worth of  vegetables (25 vegetables! 100% veggie juice!) in one go. Kagome’s heavily promoted Yasai Shibori comes in an elegant black box with low-lit photos and focuses on the flavors of just a few select vegetables in the “golden balance blend” of carrot, red pepper and tomato. A latte from the same line blends milk and purple sweet potato.

Asahi, in collaboration with Kagome, is trying to cover two bases with Spo-vege, a bright orange, reduced-calorie sports drink with a slight carrot flavor.

It’s not just juice – veggies are also turning up in baked goods and confectionaries.  Earlier this week, Japan Pulse spotted spinach and soy doughnuts from Soycom being showcased at Foodex Japan. Meanwhile, Hirota and Beard Papa cream puffs have teamed up to sweeten the deal even further. Their new Vegetable Choux Ice is a six-pack of ice-cream cream puffs in farm flavors including corn, spinach, soy and habanero.

Continue reading about sweet vegetables →

Foodex Japan 2010: new snacks

Thursday, March 4th, 2010

IMG_8714 [Desktop Resolution]

A pair of Miss Peach promotion girls take a stroll at Foodex Japan 2010

Our second look at Foodex Japan 2010 is a round-up of exciting new products we found on display there, some of which were being previewed prior to release.

These biscuits were made to celebrate the 100th anniversary of taikyaki

The medetai biscuits, celebrating the 100th anniversary of taikyaki

About to hit the market this month are Ginbis’ Medetai biscuits. The fish shaped biscuits were created to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Taiyaki, the name being a play on the words medotou (congratulations) and taiyaki (the name of the fish shaped snack). Coming in white and plain chocolate flavors, the biscuits were delicious, though I was a little disappointed to discover that there wasn’t any of the yummy filling that is common in original taiyaki.

Also previewed were Moomin brand biscuits from Hokka, which are due out at the end of the month. Given the popularity of Moomin characters, these biscuits are bound to get gobbled up.

Ronga Food's crepe stick

Ronga Food's Crepe Stick: "Cool & Sweet"

In terms of innovation, Ronga Food’s Crepe Stick which was released March 1, was head and shoulders above the competition. Sweet crepes are hugely popular in Japan, with shops selling the freshly made version enjoying massive queues; Ronga have cleverly adapted the snack into a convenience store food format similar to the popular umaibo.

Another smart innovation came from Yaokin who released their crushed pretzel snack a couple of weeks ago. Pretzels are a relatively new snack to Japan and this is the first time I’ve seen the pretzel in this broken format.

All the leaves are brown . . . and the chips are purple

Tuesday, October 13th, 2009

Calbee's Jagabee purple potato snack

Calbee’s Jagabee purple potato snack

As the leaves begin slowly to change color on the trees, so too do the products lining the shelves of our local convenience store. Many products, such as Calbee ç Purple Potato pot of potato chips, can only be bought during a particular season.

These chips are made from an unusual variety of purple potato called Inca Purple grown in Hokkaido that contains a naturally occurring pigment called anthocyanin. While Calbee aren’t promoting this snack as a health food, the pigment is an anti-oxidant and has been found to reduce the occurence of stomach cancer in mice.

When we bit into the chip it did taste rather greasy. However, we liked the rough cut natural look of the product and thought that the salt flavor was the perfect complement to its slightly sweet taste. While this purple snack won’t be inspiring any prose of the same hue, we thoroughly recommend it as a more natural alternative to your workaday processed product.

If you’d like to try a pack, don’t forget that they’ll be off the shelves in three months.

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