Archive for the 'Asian (China, Japan, and Korea)' Category

Kabosu Caramels

February 6th, 2013 by Rosa

This week’s review items come courtesy of Nana and Justin, a couple of college friends of mine who are living, teaching, and blogging in Japan and who are kind enough to mail me Japanese goodies from time to time.

According to Nana, limes are a Kyushu specialty, so it makes sense that they’d have a candy to highlight it. My box of these Kabosu Caramels was generously stuffed with little parchment paper-wrapped squares of caramel.

It was great that there were so many caramels, but when they all spilled out of my box, it was impossible to get them back in.

The pale green caramels felt rock hard to the touch and were initially quite hard to bite into. With a little determination and trust that they wouldn’t break my teeth, I eventually got them to break off with a slight grain.

Once I got to chewing, the stiff chew softened as it melted. The caramel had a sort of grainy texture. It reminded me of a Tootsie Roll, except that it melted more readily.

The candies started off with a creamy undertone, then became brightly sweet with a yogurty lime flavor and a hint of zest to the finish. They reminded me of key lime pie or lime flavored yogurt because of the added dairy feel to the flavor.

I would’ve preferred a more fully fruity candy, as I felt the dairy creaminess diluted the great lime flavor. Still, they were enjoyable and definitely a unique treat. An O.

Category: Asian (China, Japan, and Korea), chewy, O, received as gift, review | No Comments »

Japanese Candied Yuzu Peel

February 4th, 2013 by Rosa

This week’s review items come courtesy of Nana and Justin, a couple of college friends of mine who are living, teaching, and blogging in Japan and who are kind enough to mail me Japanese goodies from time to time.

Yuzu is a Japanese citrus fruit that I know about only because I used to be a Top Chef junkie. As Nana explains, it has a “sour lemony/orange flavor, [is] very popular on Kyushu, [and is] used often for a spicy paste to add to soups and noodles.”

This bag of candied Yuzu peel was decorated with a crazy cartoon that reminded me of a WarioWare: Smooth Moves mini-game. The candied peels smelled orangey and zesty with a floral undertone.

The pieces of peel varied in length but were mostly about an inch long and just under a quarter inch wide. They had a stiff bite and required a bit of chewing.

These simple treats tasted delicious. They were lightly sweet with a tangy orange/lemon citrus zestiness and just a hint of pithy bitterness to the end in some pieces.

I’ve tried making my own candied citrus peels before, but they’ve never turned out as tastily as this bag. Mine get sticky and sugar caramelized, while these were just lightly kissed with sugar sweetness, which really let the flavor of the original peel shine through. An OM.

Category: Asian (China, Japan, and Korea), OM, received as gift, review | No Comments »

Lotte Sasha Chocolate – Matcha

February 1st, 2013 by Rosa

This box of Lotte Sasha Chocolate is the last of my Asian goodies from Emma and Jason. No worries if you want to read more Asian candy reviews here – I’ve still got a few more Japanese treats from Nana and Justin to write up.

A quick googling shows that Sasha Chocolate refers to the unique and pretty way Lotte’s chosen to package this chocolate. My box had 16 individually wrapped rectangles made of wavy chocolate stripes of green, brown, and white.

I’m only guessing that these are matcha flavored. I recognized the character for tea on the box, and they’ve got that distinctive pea green color of matcha. Plus they’re from Japan, so matcha seems like a good educated guess.

I could feel the individual threads of chocolate break when I bit into the chocolate, though the rectangle broke as a whole with a sharp solid snap. It had a smooth and creamy melt. The texture was somewhat thick, but it didn’t linger and coat my tongue like some extra thick milk chocolates do.

The chocolate flavor was quite pleasant – lightly sweet with fruity overtones that hit high notes against the milk chocolate undertones. The finish had a hint of lightly bitter herbal grassiness, which was the only clue that it was tea flavored chocolate.

I liked these more than I thought I would. I haven’t liked matcha-flavored chocolates in the past, but these won me over because they went easy on the matcha and were easy on the eyes. An OM.

Category: Asian (China, Japan, and Korea), chocolate, Lotte, OM, received as gift, review | 5 Comments »

Puré Gummies – Grape, Lemon, and Peach

January 25th, 2013 by Rosa

There Puré gummies were another gift that my friends Emma and Jason brought back from Japan. They brought back three flavors: grape, lemon, and “fresh peach”.

Each stand-up bag of gummies was resealable, which was a touch that I appreciated. The gummies inside were heart-shaped, about an inch across, and covered in tart and lightly fizzy sour sand. They had a firm bite and a bouncy chew, which is my favorite texture of gummi.

Grape was described as “grape juice that is sweet sour tasting with the texture of fruit.” The sour coating on the purple gummies was immediately puckery tart.

After the sour coating melted away, the gummy tasted of concord grape juice. Its flavor was genuine and intense, avoiding any hint of artificial cough syrupness that often dogs grape candies.

Lemon was “lemon juice that is sweet-sour tasting with the texture of fruit.” It started off tart with an edge of lemon zest, then became surprisingly mellow and sweetly lemon citrusy, like lemonade.

Peach didn’t get a full description like the other two. It was just labeled “Fresh Peach”. It was a pale yellow gummi that was virtually indistinguishable from the pale yellow lemon flavor (both seen above).

Fresh Peach, after that fizzy sour coating dissolved, was sweet and floral with a spot on white peach flavor. It was so precise that I could even taste the peach fuzz.

These were a fun set of gummies. The fizzy sour sugar was a nice twist, and the gummies’ flavors were genuine and intense. Fresh Peach was my favorite and gets an OMG. I love citrus candies, so Lemon also gets an OMG, and grape was tasty enough for an OM.

Category: Asian (China, Japan, and Korea), gummi/gummy, OM, OMG, received as gift, review, sour | 1 Comment »

Kit Kat Gran Wafer

January 23rd, 2013 by Rosa

I’ve often benefitted from friends who travel abroad and bring me back international candy. My friends Emma and Jason recently went to Japan, and Nana and Justin just sent me yet another package, so I’ve got some new Asian goodies in the pipeline.

These Kit Kat Gran Wafers from Emma and Jason came in a box of 10 individually wrapped fingers. The box was way bigger than it needed to be, as it was only half full.

Sad because these Kit Kats were delicious! I would’ve loved to have twice as many in the box.

Unlike regular Kit Kats, the Gran Wafers were totally nekkid. As in missing an outer coating of chocolate, wafers exposed to the world. They were much thicker than regular Kit Kats as well, with five layers of wafer cookie sandwiching four thin layers of deeply dark chocolate.

The crunch of the thick stack of wafers was quite substantial. The layers in between the wafers were made of actual chocolate rather than chocolate cream, giving the whole treat a substantial depth of cocoa flavor.

I loved this extra intense twist on the usual Kit Kat formula of wafer cookies and chocolate. An OMG.

Category: Asian (China, Japan, and Korea), chocolate, cookie, Nestle, OMG, received as gift, review | 2 Comments »

Guest Post: Meiji Fruit Gummies Part I

October 17th, 2012 by CamNMere

I’m currently at the Society for Neuroscience conference in New Orleans, so I’m turning things over to some globe-trotting friends this week. Cameron and Meredith are former roommates of mine (we did lots of chocolate truffle tastings together), and they’re writing about some treats they bought on a recent trip through Japan. ~Rosa

For our second and third post (to run on Friday), we have a selection of fruit gummies from Meiji! Rosa’s reviewed a red grape variety of these before, which as we discovered is actually a slightly different product from what we’ve got here.

As you can see, there are two package sizes: Both contain ~50g of candy, but the larger packages (labelled as 2700mg – this number appears to refer to the amount of collagen in the candy) are fairly traditional fruit gummies while the smaller green package (1200mg collagen) is the dome-shaped, gooey-center gummy that matches what you’ve seen before.

We picked these up in the Ameyoko shopping area, along with about 80% of the candy we brought back. Ameyoko is a several-block area nestled along the rail line to Ueno Station in Tokyo. The area was famous for its candy shops a long time ago, although it’s probably more famous as the site of a major black market in the postwar era.

Nowadays it’s mostly a mishmash of all sorts of stores, with lots of clothing and fashion accessories. But there are still several candy vendors, and the grocery store we went to is almost hilariously candy-centric – something like 75% of the floor area is aisle after aisle of candy, both local stuff and the major national brands like Meiji.

On to the taste. Meredith and I had substantially divergent opinions on some of these, so I’ve listed our notes separately. She’s obviously the more experienced gummy consumer!

Without further ado:

Red Grape!

Cameron: These are pretty basic mass-produced gummies: chew is firm, not at all sticky, with a robust and not overly sweet grape flavor. I kind of think red grape is the easiest gummy to get right, since it has a strong, fairly standard flavor that you can get from basically any manufacturer. O

Meredith: I disagree! In my gummy experience there are two general categories of grape candy: the basic mass-produced type that Cam describes, which has the generic grapeish flavor of Dimetapp and the sugar content of grape soda, but basically nothing else to recommend it; and a second type that does some degree of justice to the complex seedy flavor of real grapes (the gold standard here in my comparatively limited experience being grape Hi-Chew, which I love).

I’d put these gummies more in the second category: They have an aroma and flavor that is seedy and a little wine-y, and a chewiness that is pretty gummy-typical but nonetheless satisfying. OM. I probably would have eaten the whole package if Cam didn’t have me on a tight candy-sampling schedule.

Lemon!

Cameron: Much less generic flavor. There is a lime on the packaging in the background as well, I think these might actually be a citrus blend rather than pure lemon. A bit softer than the other flavors, and a bit stickier.

They have a slightly chemical hint to them unfortunately, but overall they taste very much like the “dry” lemon flavor that is super popular in Japanese beverages right now (which is a bit tarter and much less sweet than American lemon flavored beverages). OM

Meredith: I thought these totally smelled like CC Lemon (side note: Japan spoiled me forever in terms of deliciously tart citrus soda) but tasted a bit over-sweet and medicinal, like pinesol or a bottom-shelf whiskey sour. I’d still give it an O for soda nostalgia, though!

Mango!

Cameron: These actually taste more like apples to me than mango. You don’t really get mango out of them until the aftertaste. After closer inspection, could that be an apple on the package, behind the mango? I think so.

Mango is such a hard flavor to capture in candy, and these certainly don’t excel at it. Like the rest though, they’re certainly not bad candy… just, uninspired. O

Meredith: While I agree that these gummies don’t really taste like mango, I didn’t get apple either.  If I didn’t know they were supposed to be mango, I’d call them magnolia gums.  They’re really floral and perfumey, which was unexpected but pretty tasty in their own right. O

We’ve got a couple more gummies to cover – that post will run on Friday.

Category: Asian (China, Japan, and Korea), guest post, gummi/gummy, Meiji, O, OM, review | 2 Comments »

Guest Post: Japanese Tiramisu Chocolates

October 15th, 2012 by CamNMere

I’m currently at the Society for Neuroscience conference in New Orleans, so I’m turning things over to some globe-trotting friends this week. Cameron and Meredith are former roommates of mine (we did lots of chocolate truffle tastings together), and they’re writing about some treats they bought on a recent trip through Japan. ~Rosa

Hello folks! It’s a pleasure to be here.

I recently schlepped a 40-something pound duffel bag of candy and snacks back from Japan, at the instigation of my travel companion and co-taster Meredith. Customs gave me some pretty weird looks! We’ll be picking a few of the gems from the pile to share with you over the next couple of posts.

Today’s selection is Tiramisu Chocolate and Maccha Tiramisu Chocolate. The packaging lacks an English translation of the brand name, and searching by radical helpfully provides “former time pioneer”. If anyone knows the answer, I’m all ears!

The gold symbol on the right proclaims that they were a 2011 selection by Monde Selection; I’m unaware of how reputable that organization is.

On to the candy! Tiramisu Chocolate’s up first.

Cameron’s Notes:
It smells like cocoa, dark and powdery, but it doesn’t come through in the flavor – the cocoa layer on the outside is very thin. The almond in the middle is quite nice – the crunch is right on. I’d guess they probably dry-roasted the nut from the flavor and crunchiness.

The middle tiramisu layer dominates the flavor and lingers nicely, but it is not as almondy as I would hope and is instead very buttery. I’d prefer this treat to be a hair sweeter and have stronger nut flavor, but overall it’s pretty tasty. An OM – I’d eat these happily, but there are a lot of things I would buy instead if I saw them on the shelf.

Meredith’s Notes:
I am a huge sucker for any sort of coated almond confection, so I had high expectations for the tiramisu almonds, and they mostly delivered. I thought the middle “custard” layer might be yogurty based on its appearance, but it had the more neutral flavor and slippery mouthfeel of a vanilla buttercream, providing a satisfying contrast with the almond crunch.

Based on its name, I also expected some sort of coffee flavor to come through at some point, but I guess that referred more to the layered construction than the flavor, which was 99% butter-almond, 1% cocoa, 0% coffee. Though not complex or wildly innovative, these almonds are a solid contribution to the coated nut domain. OM.

On to the Maccha flavor!

Cameron’s Notes:
The maccha is undetectable to my nose. Notably softer than the cocoa flavor, to its detriment I feel – doesn’t nail the crunch nearly as well. The maccha powder is quite bitter – comparable to a dark chocolate, but lacking the complexity to back it up. It eventually ends up at the same butter flavor as before.

There’s a nice moment where the two flavors balance, but it’s fleeting, caught between the overly aggressive initial maccha flavor and the rather bland butter aftertaste. I like maccha in other contexts, but these are clearly inferior to the cocoa flavor.

Meredith’s Notes:
As an even bigger sucker for matcha-flavored anything, I found the matcha tiramisu nuts disappointingly weird. The unsweetened matcha powder coating the nuts completely dominated the experience and left an astringent, musty aftertaste in my mouth and nose.

I bravely sucked all the bitter powder off a second nut so that I could evaluate the inner regions of the confection without the confounding surface mustiness. Indeed, the matcha flavor was much more balanced and subtle in the buttercream layer. This would have been a much better treat if the matcha-infused buttery layer had been rolled in cocoa instead of matcha. A from me too.

Category: --, Asian (China, Japan, and Korea), guest post, nuts, OM, review | 7 Comments »

Yan Yan Creamy Choco-Hazelnut vs Nutella & Go

July 6th, 2012 by Rosa

Nutella & Go won the Most Innovative New Product Award in the sweet snacks category at this year’s Sweets and Snacks Expo. It was a plastic tub with biscuit sticks and a little dipping well of Nutella.

Sounds/looks familiar? That’s because Meiji‘s Yan Yan has been making basically the same product for at least a decade. I remember eating them while growing up.

While Meiji was handing out Yan Yan’s at the Expo, no one handed them any awards. I’d say this is an instance of Europeans taking credit (or at least acclaim) for something Asian people invented years ago.

Clearly this calls for a head-to-head comparison. While Yan Yan comes in an assortment of flavors in both dipping cream and biscuit stick, I’m using their creamy choco-hazelnut dip for maximum similarity to Nutella & Go.

Both the Yan Yan and Nutella & Go were free samples from Sweets and Snacks. The former was given to me by Meiji’s US distributor for the purposes of this head-to-head review, while the latter was freely left out for all takers by Ferrero.

Both products were quite similar in packaging design with a little well separating the dipping medium from the dipping sticks. Yan Yan came in a trapezoidal tube (the top circle was slightly bigger than the bottom; is there a fancy math term for this shape?) while Nutella & Go was in a half circle tube with a trompe l’oeil Nutella jar look.

Let’s start with the dipping sticks. The Yan Yan biscuits were longer and a lightly toasty golden brown. They tasted slightly sweet with a tinge of butteriness to the finish.

The Nutella & Go sticks, on the other hand, were shorter, with the pale, alabaster hue of Dita Von Teese‘s skin. They were airier, like a crunchy restaurant breadstick. The flavor reminded me of the wheaty blandness of a saltless saltine.

Yan Yan definitely came out ahead on the dipping stick front. Let’s move on to the dips!

Yan Yan’s “smooth creme” had the texture of whipped frosting. When I dipped and then pulled out the stick, little holes were left in the cream. The flavor was that of malty chocolate with a light tinge of nuttiness.

The Nutella portion of the Nutella & Go was, as far as I could tell, the same as standard Nutella. It was much more flowy. When I pulled the sticks out of the Nutella, it clung to the sticks with a long pull, and the Nutella left in the well settled to fill in the holes.

Though it had a viscous flow in the well and on the stick, the Nutella felt thick, sticky, and pasty in my mouth. The hazelnuttiness was much stronger here, with a great nutty intensity that matched its chocolatey-ness.

I’m going to call it a draw on the dips. Though they’re supposed to be similar, they’re actually quite different in flavor and texture. I liked the Yan Yan version for its malty notes, but I also enjoyed Nutella for the nuttiness. And because its Nutella!

In the end, Yan Yan wins out for its tasty biscuit sticks. Nutella & Go’s sticks were not very good and didn’t add anything to the product. I’d stick with just getting Nutella in a jar. An OM for the Yan Yan and an O for Nutella & Go.

 

 

Category: Asian (China, Japan, and Korea), chocolate, cookie, European, Ferrero, Meiji, nuts, O, OM, review | 1 Comment »

Okinawa Brown Sugar Candy

April 30th, 2012 by Rosa

My expat friends, Nana and Justin, sent me a bag of Okinawa Brown Sugar Candy in their last generous shipment of foreign candies. At first I thought that making sugar-flavored candy was strange, but then I realized it’s not that different from honey candies or straight up shooting honey sticks.

The prettily matte bag was mostly covered in Japanese. I was able to recognize the character for bamboo on the top right corner, but otherwise I had to rely on the English letters to know what it contained.

The back of the bag described them as “Nature’s blessed ‘Okinawa Kokuto (brown sugar)’ made from sugar cane grown in Okinawa”. I think that makes them a regional specialty.

The candies were individually wrapped in plastic that echoed the bamboo motif of the larger bag. They were smooth flat cylinders, like butterscotch hard candies.

The candies and their melt was perfectly smooth on the tongue, with nary an air bubble to break its glossy surface. The flavor was simple – that of dark brown sugar, sweet with a burnt molasses edge to keep it from being cloying.

I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed such a simple treat. They didn’t taste revolutionary, but if you’ve ever sneaked a pinch of brown sugar while baking or making oatmeal, you’d enjoy these. An OM.

 

Category: Asian (China, Japan, and Korea), hard candy, OM, received as gift, review | 3 Comments »

Kasugai Mangosteen Gummy Candy

March 2nd, 2012 by Rosa

Kasugai is probably the best known and most widely available brand of Asian gummy available in the U.S. As I noted before, I’m long overdue for a review. Fortunately, I recently saw and just had to buy this bag of their mangosteen gummis.

Mangosteen is not a fruit flavor widely seen in candy – or a fruit widely seen in the U.S. I’ve had them fresh once in Canada and loved them. They’re like lychees on deliciousness enhancing drugs.

Canned mangosteens, however, ain’t worth it. All the fresh fleshy sweetness is lost, and they get generic tasting.

The bag describes mangosteens as “the perfect balance of sweet and sour taste, known as the ‘Queen of Fruit’.” The 4oz bag was full of individually wrapped heart shaped gummis.

The gummis were a lovely translucent golden wheat-yellow. The outer surface was matte, while the gummi inside was smooth.

They were bouncier than I remember Kasugai gummis to be. The chew was super sproingy with a lot of tension.

I also remember other Kasugai gummis as being more flavorful; this was pretty mild. Its flavor was lightly sweet, a mix of mild, white peaches and white grapes with a lychee finish.

I thought this was too timid in its flavor. It was pleasant enough, but I wanted more intensity!

It was the same issue I have with canned mangosteens – the subtle uniqueness of that special fruit is lost. An O.

 

Category: Asian (China, Japan, and Korea), gummi/gummy, Kasugai, O, review | 2 Comments »