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Don't Eat With Your Mouth Full

Where can we live but days?

steepholm steepholm
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Tasting Notes 1
My good friend Chiho, from Kagoshima, sent me a lovely box of Japanese okashi, i.e. snacks. Here they are, laid out in all their pristine glory.

photo 1

I thought it might be fun to provide tasting notes on all the snacks as I work through them over the coming months weeks.

Okay, days.

I will also do my best to decipher the wrappers, but please feel free to correct my translations as they will be unreliable.


First up, is うまい棒 (umaibou) or "tasty stick" - a light, crumbly corn-based snack. This one is tonkatsu sauce flavour - though I didn't check that until I was halfway through and was struck by how much it tasted like Worcester sauce. And indeed, it turns out (which was news to me) that both tonkatsu sauce and okonomiyaki sauce are ultimately derivatives of Worcester sauce, which was introduced to Japan in the nineteenth century. Anyway, it's a taste I love, and this was a great way to start my snacking odyssey. There's another umaibou to come, but that one's cheese flavour - watch this space.

The genki character on the packet, by the way - and many of the packets have genki characters, no doubt high on sugar - is apparently called "Umaemon", punning on the well known time-travelling manga cat Doraemon. I'm not sure about the pig...



Next up is a mini-Kit Kat, matcha tea flavour. This is branded as "オトナの甘さ" (otona no amasa), or "adult sweetness", presumably indicating that it's marketed as something a bit more sophisticated. The prominently displayed calorie count also hints at this, as perhaps does the use of romaji for the name of the snack. Only on the back of the packet is it spelt out in katakana: "キットカット". But it also prints the traditional slogan, "Have a break, have a Kit Kat", in English. For those of you too young (or un-British) to be familiar with the classic adverts that used that slogan, try this.

Of course, I feel conflicted about Kit Kats. For four years I lived within smelling distance of the Rowntrees factory where they were manufactured in York, but then Rowntrees was bought up by evil Nestle (whom I refuse to dignify with an accent). But I've always been curious about the green tea flavour version, so certainly wasn't going to miss out.

First, it's an interesting shade of green inside - a colour that would lead me to expect it to taste of mint were it a British snack. The texture of the biscuit is crumbly, and the chocolate itself considerably sweeter than the Kit Kat taste I remember. I think it would be excellent with green tea, in fact, and I'm going to try that out later today (for there are several Kit Kats in my hoard).

It's quite customary, at least in my circles, for visitors from Japan to bring along some snacks, and green tea Kit Kats are always among them, because they know Kit Kats are common in the US but green tea ones aren't.

However, I found some in one of the numerous Asian markets here (one I patronize because their butcher dept. will sell you just the middle joints of chicken wings) and brought them to a party, turning the hostess (also white, a lot whiter than I) slightly green with envy because she'd been looking for them in other local Asian markets but hadn't found them.

I also saw wasabi flavour in Japan, but haven't tried those, either. Something tells me they may not travel quite so well.

I'd have the Kit Kat... I suspect I'll just have to dunk the regular variety in a cup of green tea for now!

What a fantastic package!

I've been curious about the green tea KitKats for a long time too. I used to see them the Japanese mall (Mitsuwa) near Chicago.

I never realised that about the Worcestershire Sauce. That's handy, for I have no-fish variants of the other sauces (if I can find my notes) - it opens up UK and Australian recipes to me!

I've been meaning to try those kitkats since they first came out, but I keep forgetting to look when I'm in a shop that might have them! Green tea is one of my favourite flavours, but Japanense sweets are often overpoweringly sweet for me, so I want to see...

I recognize a couple of those from the Korean grocery down the block -- The Toddler especially likes the ramen snack (which does indeed taste like crumbled ramen pre-reconstituting.