Thursday, December 3, 2009

Weird foods found only in Japan, Part 2

Almost immediately after I posted my entry on unusual KitKat flavors available only in Japan, and following bartman905's encouragement to keep writing on what I find, I found more stuff to work with.

First is Royal Milk Tea KitKats. In Japan, "Royal Milk Tea" is a brand of (usually ice) tea using Earl Grey (I think) with lots of milk and sugar. It's got that distinct Earl Grey taste up front, combined with the milk flavor, and is very sweet. Therefore, Royal Milk Tea KitKats are trying to imitate this flavor. They definitely get the smell right. When you open the package, the wall of Royal Milk Tea aroma hits you right in the face. The flavor, though is a little more subdued. Again, the white chocolate and sugar taste overwhelms everything else. But, the milk and Earl Grey elements are definitely noticeable. I like this bar, and didn't mind having to eat all 13 mini-packs from the bag (although, I did space it out over 2 days).

Second in the series is Kitkat's Caramel Pudding. There's no question this time that these have caramel flavor. In fact, the flavoring is very clear and distinct. The "pudding" element isn't quite as noticeable, but there is a softer, creamier taste in the middle of the tongue reminiscent of custard pudding. The main difference between this one and the Caramel and Salt Kitkat is that these aren't quite as salty. Pretty good.

Next is "chibi sanda-", or "little thunder". It gets its name from the thunderbolt imprint on the candy. It's kind of a small lemon-lime flavored white chocolate on a milk chocolate and wafer cookie base. The flavor doesn't jump right out at you, but while the candy is sweet and slightly crunchy, it's not completely overwhelmed by the sugar flavor as happens with the KitKats. Jason's store sells them for 9 yen (10 cents US) apiece, which is a pretty good price. Very edible.

Then we have Furamaru Ninja snacks. This one is a tarako (fish egg) flavored corn chip. "Tarako" is salted fish eggs, either Alaska pollock or cod. The eggs are small and have a grit-like texture, and are usually packaged together in a sausage shape. They can be eaten plain for breakfast, in onigiri (rice balls) or on pasta. These ninja snacks are fluffed corn puffs similar to the flavorless packing peanut snacks that show up in the U.S. Meaning that a mouthful of puffs reduce down to almost nothing when you start chewing them. However, in this case, they're not flavorless. There is a strong corn flavor with a whiff of "fish smell", plus a hint of a red pepper burn at the back of the throat. They don't really taste like tarako, but they're not bad. Unfortunately, these puffs are at least 90% air, so they're not that filling.

Now, if you really want weird, there's only one thing to do - look for the novelty section at the airport souvenir shops aimed at unsuspecting tourists. Fortunately, there's one such shop in Akihabara, so this was an easy quest to complete. The Nikkan company (日本観光商事) website advertises creativity and productivity, but it's not really clear right away what they make, outside of strange kewpie-like dolls. One product, though, is a line of hard candy drops flavored to taste like popular local Japanese foods. Along with normal flavors like strawberry and cherry, there's potato and butter, okonomiyaki, garlic, beer, and so on. I settled for the Sasebo Hamburger (佐世保バーガードロップ). Sasebo is a town in the Nagasaki area that took the hamburger concept and added a fried egg and Canadian bacon. The hard candies have been around for at least 2 months, and they've already gotten bad reviews from a number of food sites. Personally, I kind of like them. They're made from sugar so naturally they're going to be sweet, but there is a greasy hamburger flavor that stands out, and while I can't taste the egg, I'm pretty sure that I can identify the bacon. THIS is the perfect practical joke product. Throw a few into a dish with other gum drops and watch what happens.

Now, the Hatoyama mochis aren't necessarily weird, but they are worth mentioning. According to an out-of-date article on Japan Today, comedian Chuji Abesada, assistant to comedian/actor/director Beat Takashi, had been told to put on a black suit and tie and promote himself as a look-alike for then-candidate for prime minister Yukio Hatoyama. Chuji changed his stage name to Kuruo Hatoyama and has since then been posing for different souvenir food products, including green tea. Here, it's for "Hatomame Mochi". "hato" is "pigeon", "yama" is "mountain" and "mame" is "bean". Mochi, of course, is soft, pounded rice. "Hatomame" is then a play on "Hatoyama". They taste like regular mochi balls, but the speckled coloring may be intended to look like "pigeon beans" (I leave it up to you as to what pigeon beans are supposed to taste like). Additionally, "hato" sounds similar to "heart", which explains his hand sign.


marlinmziegler said...
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misstache said...

That guy is a good endorser. Interesting haha

misstache said...

hey, have you seen this kitkat specialized store? :)

TSOTE said...

Well, I'm down in Kyushu, so I haven't been able to visit it directly. Thanks for mentioning it here!