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!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Lotte Drink Mix Candy - Vending Machine Assortment

If you walk through the Japanese candy aisles this summer this is one product that really stands out. Not only is the packaging very appealing but the soft drink flavors are very well recognized throughout the nation. Upon looking at the package more carefully you find that there are 25 individually wrapped candies inside, five of each flavor.

The blue plastic package is designed like a Japanese vending machine. There is a clear window at the bottom of the bag so you can see the inner candy wrappers. Each oval, marble-sized candy is 3.1 grams and colored according to its flavor.

I am familiar with 4 of the 5 drinks so I can compare them to the original. The Acerola berry flavored drink is something I will need to try in the near future. It is a new addition to the Lotte candy mix so let's start with that.

Acerola Refresh - Acerola is a berry native to central and southern America that is known for its power as an antioxidant. The smooth red candy has a sour cherry flavor but still plenty of sweetness that children would enjoy too.

Dakara Fresh Start - This is a popular sports drink that has been around for years in Japan. This is the new 2011 version. I was surprised how accurate the flavor is to the beverage. It is much more condensed in flavor though so the sweetness factor is elevated. It has a lemon/grapefruit flavor.

C.C. Lemon - This is a carbonated lemon soda that contains Vitamin C. Again, the flavor is very accurate and the fizz is even present. The candy is a little rough while it melts down in your mouth.

Natchan! Orange - Similar to Tang or any other non-carbonated orange drink, this candy is the most flavorful of all. Smooth and glassy finish with a light orange color.

Dekavita C - The most bizarre flavor of the bunch. Fizzy energy drink flavored with subtle lemon and herb flavors. Again, because these are meant to be carbonated the candy finish is rough.

I recommend these for the nice variety of flavors to sample. With Halloween and Christmas just around the corner these would make unique candies to hand out as gifts. We also carry the full line of Mitsuya Cider Candy too. Click HERE to enter napaJapan for a delightful candy shopping experience.

Happy Snacking!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Guimauve Mango & Pineapple Gummy Candies

Kabaya is a large-sized candy maker not too well known outside of Japan. Even domestically their brands are not so well advertised or promoted as compared to the likes of Glico's Pocky or Morinaga's Hi Chew. If you visit Japan you may have trouble finding their full line of candy products as many stores do not give them much shelf space, especially convenience stores. Not to worry though as napaJapan will give you the opportunity to purchase their popular products.

What I like about Kabaya is that they offer very original products. Guimauve is one of these. The traditional gummy is known as a smooth, translucent, specifically shaped morsel with a consistent chewiness often flavored in grape, cherry, apple, cola, or strawberry. The Guimauve gummy is best described as a dense, cubed marshmallow. A perfect name since it happens to be the French word for marshmallow.
When I opened the resealable foil pouch for the first time a sweet and fruity tropical breeze rushed up my nose. It was almost overwhelming and had kind of a sickly sweet fragrance. Most of the 14 cubes (half orange colored mango and half yellow pineapple) were perfectly shaped with 1.5 cm sides. There was no powdery residue on the surface however they did leave an slight oily stain on a piece of paper when left sitting for over a minute. These cubes are much harder than a marshmallow on the outside but can be easily stretched and re-shaped.
A handful of the fruity gummy cubes
Biting into them reminded me of a cross between meringue and a camp-fire roasted marshmallow (without the heat.) The center of each cube is softer than the outer skin. The pineapple flavor hit me right away and was so strong that it left an aftertaste in my mouth for some time. The mango was milder and seemed to even have a pineapple taste. Perhaps I didn't clean my palate well enough or there was some cross-flavor-exchange going on inside the sealed bag. I preferred the mango over the pineapple but the real exciting aspect for me was the texture.
These gummy candies are fun to eat and popular with children. Guimauve has been released in a variety of flavors over the past two years including: Yogurt, Strawberry, Lemon, Red Grape, and Green Grape. This most recent flavor duo offering is my favorite of the lot. The only negative I came across was that they don't suit any other food or beverage. Chocolate is great with coffee or milk. Chips and crisps suit beer or soda. Maybe I will try to roast them on the camp fire this summer. Let me know if you have an interesting match for Guimauve or if you prefer them straight up.

Happy snacking!