Friday, November 25, 2011

Mentos - Ume (Japanese Plum)

Mentos - Ume
I always enjoy trying worldwide-known sweets and snacks that utilize Japanese flavors. Kit Kat and Doritos are two famous brands that first come to mind. Mentos is another. This is a re-release from a few years back. It was popular then and I predict it to be just as sought after this time around. "Ume" is often translated as Japanese plum (or apricot) which is a golf ball sized fruit that contains a pit. It is very sour with a Western plum zest, but also has a fragrant flower-like taste. Japanese people also enjoy them pickled as "Umeboshi" where they become ever more sour. How will these Mentos match up in flavor?

Japanese Mentos are actually made in Holland by Perfetti Van Melle Breda but are distributed by Kraft Foods in Tokyo. The wrapper is bright and colorful with the flavor written in both Japanese and English. The 14 chewy dragees (Dutch talk for candies) are sealed nicely in bright pink foil within the 14cm long tube wrapper. Each candy is approximately 2 cm in diameter and 1 cm thick.

14 light-pink colored Mentos per tube
When first placing the candy on my tongue I sense an icing sugar flavor with the ever so slight taste of plum flower extract. Even after a minute of sucking the semi-rough, hard outer layer there is very little Ume coming through. Then the candy becomes smooth to a glass-like finish and bursts of flavorful plum come through. I enjoy this for a few seconds longer and finally start to chew it. There it is! That wonderful balance of sweet and sour Ume is filling my mouth making me very satisfied. Right down to the last chew the strong Ume flavor remains and I am quick to put another dragee in my mouth. Wonderful stuff! No wonder this was a hit in the 2000s.

A great feature about Mentos is that they have a very long shelf life. The expiry date on these is August 2013 (nearly two years from when I write this blog post.) Stock up so you can enjoy them for a long time. Limited edition flavors like this do not stay on store shelves for long. We offer all the current flavors HERE.

Please leave a comment about your most memorable Mentos experience. I thank you for reading this post and encourage you to share this with your friends if they have not seen such a product. napaJapan specializes in hard-to-find flavors and products from Japan. Come by anytime and see what is in store.

Happy Snacking!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Pepsi Pink - Strawberry and Milk

Pepsi Pink - Strawberry and Milk

It is that time of year again for another odd Pepsi Cola product release from Japan. This time I am sampling a mismatch of flavors in one bottle: cola, strawberry, milk, and pink. Yes, pink has now become a flavor and I will try to explain this further down in this post.

This is one flavor I was really anticipating mainly because it looked so different than previous limited edition Pepsi releases and also I was curious how much of a role the cola taste would take on. The curvy bottle contains 490 mL of cloudy pink soda that is not overly carbonated and has a very sweet fruity strawberry fragrance. It pours into my glass with a full white head of tiny bubbles which subside quickly afterwards.

I gingerly took the first sip to record the first flavor that hit me. Definite strawberry or 'ichigo' as the Japanese say. But it wasn't the typical strawberry taste you find in Hi Chew or Pocky chocolate. This had the cream-filled, syrupy strawberry taste enjoyed in the Japanese summer shaved ice treat Kakigori. The deluxe Kakigori is combined with condensed milk and perhaps that is why milk is in the product's flavor name. The carbonation kept me thinking soda so my brain was fooled into being refreshed despite its sweetness. Identifying the cola was more of a challenge. After swishing it around in my mouth for a few seconds I did begin to detect the cola but it was more of a metallic taste. Good metallic taste, if that is possible. I think the strawberry just masked most of the cola flavor present which was slightly disappointing because it is supposed to be a Pepsi Cola product. So it didn't exactly taste like real strawberry, milk, or cola. The only word I have to summarize the taste is: Pink.

Pepsi Pink would make a perfect mixing drink whether it is with ice cream, milk, or an alcohol of your choice. It is a very different beverage and I think it is worth a try. Let me know what you think of the flavor(s) by responding to this blog. Please follow us to keep up to date with new popular Japanese candy products. Or check our site HERE.

More candy reviews to come this month.
Happy snacking!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Doritos Gourmet - Clam Chowder

Doritos Gourmet - Clam Chowder

Just when you thought Frito Lay Japan had run out of flavor ideas they spring another at us. Fortunately, for my sake, they chose New England over Manhattan style clam chowder as a flavoring. I long miss those lunches at Tim Horton's in Canada where my creamy clam chowder was served in a bread bowl. I hope the flavoring here comes close to that eating experience.

With Doritos I can usually tell if I am going to enjoy the flavor after a few seconds of opening the bag. This golden-brown foil bag contains 75 grams of classic triangular corn chips, however the corners may be more rounded than you are used to. Also, these Gourmet edition Doritos are thicker and double fried for maximum crispiness. A definite "clammy" aroma drifts from the bag however it is not a strong sickly seafood smell. There is more cream present in the fragrance which indicates to me that these will be rich.

When testing a Doritos flavor for the first time I always like to lick the seasoning off one side of the chip to test for accuracy. Each chip is dotted with parsley and onion bits along with fine salty flavoring powder. You can really notice the heavy fry these chips received as there is almost a shiny appearance on parts of each morsel. Surprisingly the lick did not release much of the flavor as the ingredients seem to be sealed into the chip. Sure enough, after munching on the first chip an incredible amount of creamy clam chowder soup flavor, with a emphasis on clam, was released into my mouth. The crunchiness added to the experience since it reminded me of crushed crackers. This is probably one of the most accurate and delicious Doritos flavor I have tried in some time.

Now the nutritional value alert. This personal sized bag of Doritos carries 412 Calories, 24.9 grams of fat and 503 mg of sodium. Not the healthiest snack ever made but it is worth giving in for at least one day. I ate these without a beverage since I didn't want to lose any of the flavor profile but I can see these going well with beer, wine, or cola. Why not wait until November and order a new Japanese Strawberry & Milk Pepsi Cola to wash them down with?

We always carry a bunch of fresh salty snacks in a variety of flavors. Whether it is Cratz, Pringles, Pretz, or Cheetos you are after, we encourage you to click on the links to see what is in store. We ship to most countries in the world and always keep up to date with the current confectionery releases. Until next review....

Happy Snacking!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

LOOK Chocolate - Pudding Parfait

LOOK Pudding Parfait Chocolate Bar

Outside of Japan little is known about a wonderful sectional chocolate bar simply named LOOK. Manufactured by Fujiya, one of the oldest confectionery companies in Japan, this brand is released in about a dozen different flavors each year. Half of the releases are variety packs containing three or four tastes. Today I will review a mono-flavor pack of Pudding Parfait.

LOOK is usually sold in a thin, resealable, sturdy box wrapped in a foil packet and ordered neatly on a cardboard tray. There are always 12 pieces in the box (3 rows of 4 chocolates) and each piece has a letter, either L, O, or K carved into the face. This is useful for variety packs as you can determine the filling based on the letter. I should also note that there are two O variations, one with a double circle for differentiation. But on this day, all 12 pieces are the same pudding parfait flavor.
The packaging is well thought out and very protective

The presentation of LOOK is something I really admire. Fujiya goes to greater lengths over similar makers to provide actual individual pieces rather than a sectional bar. Each piece (2.5 x 2 x 1 cm) is extremely smooth and cut perfectly with no imperfections. This gives it a very high-end appearance. Even when I used a knife to cut the chocolate it broke cleanly in half to exhibit its two-tone center of parfait cream and caramel sauce. The sauce was a nice liquid consistency and sat above the whipped creamy icing. A strong sweet caramel, almost butterscotch, aroma filled my senses.
The 2 flavor filling is scrumptious

When I bit into the morsel I was surprised by how much it tasted like Japanese pudding. If you haven't tried this caramel topped yellow pudding before I am sure you will recognize it on the front of the box. Basically, it has a custard cream flavor with a strong, nearly burnt caramel sauce topping. We do sell the mix HERE if you want to try the actual pudding dessert.

LOOK pudding parfait is very addicting and I had trouble stopping after consuming 6 pieces. Fujiya's milk chocolate is second to only Meiji in my opinion when considering mass produced sweets in Japan. You can try freezing them too for a different eating experience. Whatever way you enjoy them I am certain that you will come back for different flavors in the future. napaJapan will have all of those for you as they are released.

If you want to use the chocolates as spelling blocks it is very limited. This is the best I came up with (OL meaning either old or office lady - really, OL is what women are sometimes referred as):
Ol' Kool Look, OK? ... I am sure you can do better.

Here are a couple other recent LOOK releases (click on the title to see in store):

4 Flavor Classic LOOK A LA MODE
Tiramisu with Rilakkuma!
Happy Snacking!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Bontan Ame - Citrus Rice Candy

Bontan Ame Citrus Flavor Chewy Rice Candy
Growing up in Vancouver, Canada I had one of the largest Chinatown districts at my fingertips, on any chosen day. Mind you, most of those days were rainy. Anyhow, at the age of eight or nine I came across the most bizarre candy. This was unlike anything I had seen before as there were foreign Asian scribes and a cartoon animal adorning the rectangular box. I believe this candy promised a toy inside so that was probably the main reason I bought it. When I opened the box I found some brown/orange caramel looking chews individually wrapped in the thinnest of thin films. Trying to remove that film proved impossible and it in fact melted on my damp, sweaty, excited child fingers. "How does plastic melt?" I asked myself. I was reluctant to eat the candy at that point so I decided to consult with a expert in these matters, my older brother. To my surprise he had known of these candies for some time and let me in on these hidden gems.

Fast forward a few decades and I find myself living in Japan where strange and unique candy is commonplace. From Wasabi Kit Kat bars to Genghis Khan Roasted Lamb Flavored Caramel, I have pretty much seen it all. In fact, since moving here I have had no time to think about my first Asian candy treat...until today.

The Bontan Ame rice candies have always been standing on the store shelves in plain sight of me however I always overlooked them as some no-name, low budget fruity caramel. It was a customer of napaJapan who asked me to bring them in a few weeks ago. As with all customer requests, I took interest in getting more information about the product and finding a good supplier. I bought a pack to have a look and nearly screamed with excitement when I found out what Bontan Ame actually long lost Chinatown rice chews!

I believe Bontan Ame was distributed in North America as Botan (without the first n) and may have been produced in China. The Japanese original version does not come with a toy and it is actually available in pineapple too (Okinawa version.) The box design is very different from the import product I remember but the candy flavor is quite similar. Let's finally look at that now...

Notice the rice paper wrapping and fine rice powder on each chew. This outer wrap has very little flavor and when you first pop it in your mouth it feels like you are sucking on plastic. After about 10 seconds the film dissolves and the sweet citrus flavor fills your mouth. The consistency of the chew is similar to the inside of a very soft jellybean. It doesn't stick to your teeth like caramel does and the entire 5 gram candy can be consumed in a about a minute if chewed well.

The entire package contains 239 Calories and 0 grams of fat. It is a very satisfying candy and quite different than standard products on the marketplace. I would recommend this to everyone. In fact, it would make a very unique and well-received gift for anyone special in your life who has a sweet-tooth. If you haven't already clicked the link to the product you can do it HERE.

I encourage you to send me a message if there is a candy out there you are desperately seeking. We may just be able to track it down for you. I want you to have that same feeling I did when I rediscovered Bontan Ame again.

Happy Snacking!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Pocky Panda - Cookie & Cream

Besides the clever and attractive box design there is one unique feature about this most recent Pocky release that some fans may notice immediately. Hint: Before you read on only look at 20% of the product and you will figure it out. Yes, Glico has produced a cocoa chocolate stick, something Meiji's Fran has been sporting for some time. Let's open up the package and take a closer look...

Displaying a handful of the 15 sticks sealed in the cute plastic bag.
There is a single inner bag that contains the 13 cm sticks and it is decorated with a dozen pandas in different poses. This format is considered a mini Pocky as it contains 33 grams of product which is almost the equivalent as a standard Kit Kat bar (36 grams.) The cocoa chocolate cookie sticks are a dark brown color. The white (cream) chocolate that surrounds 80% of the stick has chocolate cookie bits embedded throughout.

To experience the whole flavor profile I first licked the chocolate off the tip of one stick. It had an Oreo white filling icing flavor. The mini embedded cookie bits also tasted like Oreo though they were very small crumbs. The actual cocoa cookie stick was very flavorful and didn't carry the gagging sweetness that some chocolate cookies do. Because of this the creamy white chocolate coating complimented the stick wonderfully. It is best to bite these and chew the flavors together and not lick off the chocolate.

This is not a flavor that will wow you but it is different enough just due to the cocoa cookie stick introduction. Also, the packaging is done so well both on the outside and inside. This product would make a great gift, Halloween treat, or stocking stuffer. There must be some panda lovers or Pocky fans in your life. Or why don't you give them a try and let us know what you think.

The autumn candy season has just begun. Look forward to many new reviews of fun and interesting Japanese candy products here on our blog. Or you can follow up on Facebook and Twitter. Just click the word links in the previous sentence.

If you have any ideas of products you would like to see us carry, please contact us HERE.
Happy Snacking!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Morinaga's Satsumaimo Caramel (Sweet Potato)

I am a sucker for cool packaging so this was a must-buy for me. Morinaga is a Japanese confectionery company that has been around since 1899 so they keep their keystone caramel products looking very retro. Simple and charming designs on this rectangular box which holds 12 foil wrapped caramels.

The thin cardboard box is wrapped in plastic that tears off easily. The lid at the top pops up but not off so you can easily reseal the package. 12 cubed caramels are individually wrapped in foil with Morinaga printed across the face. There is no flavor aroma as the box is opened and the pieces slide out of the box easily.  Each caramel is 4.9 grams with 21 Calories.

Satsumaimo (sweet potato) is an autumn favorite in Japan with many families eating them as a dessert or a special snack. In fact, in Hokkaido where I live, there are trucks that drive around the neighborhood on cool nights selling hot, baked satsumaimo; a repeated soliciting announcement blaring from the speaker. The first time I tried this potato variety was on an ice-fishing expedition. I thought we were in the middle of nowhere catching smelt when I heard the satsumaimo truck approaching on a nearby road. I usually never eat potatoes of any kind without some sort of garnish however these did not require anything. They were surprisingly moist and extremely sweet and hot. In fact, they worked best as a hand warmer since my fingers were frozen after a half day of fishing in sub-zero temperatures.

So having consumed a real baked satsumaimo I figured these caramels would get a fair review. When I peeled back the foil I was surprised to see a brown cube that looked like a regular milk caramel. I was expecting a purple or yellow color since the sweet potato has purple skin and yellow flesh. Again, there was little aroma from the caramel so I was kind of disappointed at this point.

I popped it in my mouth and allowed it to just sit on my tongue before chewing it. All I could taste was milk caramel. Had the manufacturer made a mistake and packed the wrong flavor? Next, the chew test. Morinaga caramels are very chewy and not too hard on the teeth. I am not recommending a heavy chew as they still can pull dental work out just like any caramel. But they are much lighter in texture than your typical western caramel. The satsumaimo flavor suddenly hit me and very strongly. It was very accurate and an enjoyable oral experience. Although not hot it did have the exact flavor of a baked sweet potato along with the milk caramel base.

These are nice to munch on because they last longer than chocolate or Hi Chew. The flavors are more intense too. Morinaga usually has 3-6 different flavors out at one time. See the selection we have at napaJapan HERE. Also we carry other brands of caramels in even stranger flavors such as BBQ lamb, corn, tomato, and green tea.

As we enter the autumn season our candy selection will expand. Already there are over 1000 products in our catalog. Come by and have a look. Please let your friends know about us too. We have links to our TWITTER and FACEBOOK pages too. You can keep up to date with all the latest candy releases from Japan by following us on those twitter and Facebook links.

Thanks and Happy Snacking!