Snack hunt! [2007/06/27]
Well, it’s been a while hasn’t it? I blame work for swamping my time, but I’ve got a few things lined up. If you’re still reading, that is.
So let’s start with this one: More than just the pop culture, I also like Japanese food.
Well, let me clarify. Snacks. Japanese brands of them. (Though the food is good too.)
I have an unhealthy (for my wallet) preference for onigiri when allowed to choose my own lunch, especially as I “work” within walking distance of three places that sell them. I’m rather fond of mixing it with takoyaki, too, be it freshly made or predone with panko depending on how much I feel like eating. I wholeheartedly believe that Calbee Tomato-flavored potato chips are the most addictive and delicious chips in the world (which makes it all the sadder that they are nowhere to be found in NYC). If you give me the choice, I will take Japanese candies over American anyday. Most specifically Morinaga Hi-Chew, but I’m not picky.
For the uniniated (consider yourselves lucky), Pocky is a pretzel-textured breadstick (without the salt crystals) that is dipped in a sweet coating of some sort. Usually chocolate, though there are many variations of it, including Mousse (where the coating is thicker, but more airy), Decorer (because the coating is decorated as though it were a decoration cake), Crush (nut-covered), Mini/Giant, and more. There used to be a Milk Pocky, but it seems to have been discontinued. (For shame, it was the favorite of a few of my friends.)
Pretz is basically the same breadstick, but instead of a sweet coating there’s a savory (occasionally sweet) flavor powder coating the stick, or embedded into the stick itself. (Like with a limited-edition Kongari Chicken flavor that I absolutely loved until it was discontinued.)
What does this have to do with J-Pop? Not much, really. Unless you want to point out that hottie Aragaki Yui is one of the current idols for Pocky. And until last year, Matsuura Aya was the official CM “mascot” for Pretz. I have no idea who does it now, except that he’s male, but I intend on finding out. Eventually.
But back to my topic. While grabbing a salmon onigiri for my lunch today, I stopped and checked out the snack selection at Sunrise Mart. I’d bought a Katayaki Salt & Pepper about two weeks before, so this time I was looking to try out its companion release, Katayaki Hard Butter. Instead, I ended up getting a French Toast, looking lonely next to a row of Fruits-flavored Pretz.
Unfortunately the package was slightly mangled when I opened it. But doesn’t that French Toast look appetizing?
The stick for French Toast (and apparently, also Cheese and Kuromitsu) is different from the usual Pretz/Pocky stick, flatter and more reminiscent of, say, a smaller, crunchier version of pizza parlor’s breadsticks. Oh, and sweeter too. It really wasn’t bad – the sticks had a softer texture and the cinnamon smell was strong without overdoing the taste.
When I turn the flash on bright and hold one against a dark background, it could very well be a lightsaber.
On the way back to the office, somewhat discontentedly chewing on takoyaki, I decided to stop into a market/deli, not Japanese in nature, but it was for a drink. I ended up finding my Katayaki Hard Butter Pretz here instead. It’s slightly smaller than the French Toast Pretz and only has two packs – but two big packs.
It’s a pretty box, yes. I’d like to start keeping a collection of these.
Katayaki is basically a wheat snack (supposedly used in the past as rations by Iga ninjas), so these breadsticks are wheat too. Or wheat-ier. What have you. They’ve got more of a crunch compared to the usual ones, even when held and drenched in one’s saliva to soften it. Part of the whole “harder-to-digest” thing, you know. While the Salt & Pepper had pepper in the stick itself, this has butter powder on the outside. And it does taste (and feel) buttery, not unlike spreading butter onto a stale piece of bread. It tastes like it claims it will, and butter is good, but it’s not anything I’d pick up again. (I want my Kongari Chicken back.)
This is my favorite shot out of the the 6 pictures used in this post. And I have no idea why.
Oh, almost forgot. I’d also picked up an Americanized pack of Morinaga Mango-flavored Hi-Chew while at Sunrise. Japanese snack companies have been Americanizing their products lately. There’s a bunch of American Hi-Chew floating around (I remember seeing Apple and Strawberry flavors), the shrimp stick snacks you’ll see in the Asian aisle come from Calbee, and Baby Star Ramen? Yeah. Japanese. (It tastes much better as a Japanese product, my obvious bias aside.) I also saw a Hazelnut Pocky at my local Associated Supermarket, but clearly intended for American masses, right down to the packaging. You’d think they’d bring over the most basic flavor, Chocolate, first, but apparently it’s too simple? I’ll get around to trying that someday.
Excuse the price sticker. And the mangled package. Actually, I ate all but one of them up before this was taken.
Back to the Mango Hi-Chew. Morinaga said “Let there be less artificial, more delicious chewy fruit candies in that poor heathen land of snacks called Amerika”. (Starburst? Fie on thee.) And then they made it so. It. Is. Good. It has a higher tolerance against melting compared to Starburst, and it actually tastes more like mango and less like melon (well admittedly, the Starburst flavor is “Mango-Melon”…). Unfortunately, the package is smaller than a typical Japanese package of the same candies, and definitely smaller than a Starburst package. But I’d say half of one chew is equivalent to a Starburst already. Now if only they’d upgrade their Cola flavor for more than just “Kids”, and bring it over too…
It’s a floaty… orange… blob… thing. That tastes really good.
To those of you who didn’t care about this post but read it just because it’s part of my blog? Don’t worry, I’m not giving up my day job. (Does this even count as a job?) I just thought I’d try sharing a different part of the Japanese pop culture I enjoy.