Sunday, July 26, 2009

Hokkaido Yubari Melon Hi-Chew 北海道夕張メロンハイチュウ

Hokkaido is well known for it's Yubari Melon, in fact it's the most popular melon in all of Japan. They are named after the small town near Sapporo where they come from. Yubari Melons are the most expensive melons, costing anywhere upwards of $40 just for one!

The first time I ever went to Japan I saw this Yubari Melon Hi-chew and was in awe. I never tried it. That was 2004. Now, more than 5 years later I finally got my hands on a packet of it. Why did I wait so long? I don't really know, to be honest, it just panned out that way.

Yubari is dear to my heart. My husband's family are from Hokkaido and still live there, so I have a very personal relationship with melon in general. I've always loved the yellow fleshed melon that we call Rockmelon or Canteloupe.

The colour of the chew is a very pale orangey white colour with an orange strip through the middle. The melon scent is very strong even before the wrapper is entirely off.

The exact flavour of the orange flesh is present in the first bite. It's just like eating a real melon, albeit a rather chewy one. Further chews make the chew softer and more pliable in my mouth but the flavour doesn't increase or decrease but stays the same. Towards the end I get a flavour reminscent of an overripe banana, but it's not bad tasting, it just reminds me of that, but also reminds me so much of the Yubari I eat when I go to Hokkaido. Oh my goodness, it makes me feel so homesick for Hokkaido.

This Hi-chew is full of Yubari flavour and doesn't really deviate from the taste at all. I couldn't stop eating these, and I'm already on my third one. The only thing bad I have to say that would probably be true for all Hi-Chew's is that after eating a few it makes me thirsty, and the taste left in my mouth is like bubblegum more or less.

I think this Hi-Chew is probably more suited only to those who love this type of melon. It's very full-on, and offers nothing different in the way of new taste sensations. If you want a trip down memory lane, like I did, then this is your bet.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Ramune Kit Kat ラムネキットカット

Ramune is the Japanese word for Lemonade. In drink form it comes in a clear glass bottle that is sealed with a marble. It is pronounced rah-moo-nay. On Wikipedia it states that Ramune is traditionally a lemon-lime flavour though I disagree. All the ramune's I've ever had tasted more like just plain lemonade, no lime flavour at all. Yasu said he's never been able to taste lime either, so thankfully it's not just me.

Well as a generally sought after ingredient to any Otaku/Japan geek's party, it was a given that eventually Nestle would make a Kit Kat version. And so they did.

They come in a large pack of 14 mini's, but I just got 4 mini's singularly.

Opening the wrapper, I can smell the scent of fizz, and a mild generic bubble-gum like scent. The colour of the chocolate is a wishy-washy blue coloured white chocolate. The wafer inside is amazingly golden with a white cream that packs a fizzy punch when bitten into.

The outer chocolate has a real bubble-gum flavour with very small bits of sourness not unlike a strawberry. The cream in between the wafers is where the real fizz texture and flavour are pronounced.

The chocolate is sweet and milky, but made interesting by the occasional burst of sour. I think this Kit Kat tries to embody the fizz of drinking a bottle of Ramune and succeeds. I think it would be interesting if they made a peach or melon ramune kit kat. I would really like to try that.

In all I was very happy with this Kit Kat, I think it delivered on what it set out to do, and it was a very good imitation of the soft drink.

Another review and thumbs up for this kit kat.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Asahi Mitsuya Cider


It wasn't a concious decision to review more Japanese beverages, it's that it's the only thing I've bought recently from the Japanese supermarket! I promise though there are some more Japanese Kit Kat reviews on the way from tomorrow.

I bought this bottle of Asahi Mitsuya Cider at the same time as the Kirin Lemon Tea. Mitsuya Cider is popular enough that it stays around the Japanese supermarkets here constantly. It's not one of those drinks that comes and goes and never returns. Because of that I have bought this drink several times but this is the first time I have reviewed it.

The bottle is 500ml. The nutritional information states that there is 175.5 kg of energy, 0 g of fat, 11 g of carbohydrate, and 8 mg of sodium.

When I opened the bottle there is a loud sound of the gas, but not much fizz. The smell reminds me of bubblegum or a gobstopper bubble gum ball. Ultimately I think this is Japan's version of lemonade. My thoughts are that usually cider is made with apple, and there are no apples or fruit in this drink. The ingredients list water, fructose, flavour, and caffeine. Just what flavour it is I don't know.

Although the drink doesn't look fizzy, when I take a sip the cider fizzes in my mouth. The taste is firstly like a soda water with a dash of lemon, or a weak lemonade, but the end is like the taste of having chewed bubblegum until it had no more flavour. It's not really a nice flavour to end on, and really just makes me thirsty. I really want to have a tall glass of water after drinking this.

I wouldn't even recommend this for curiosity's sake though my husband loves Mitsuya Cider, and that is why I keep buying it. I guess it holds something that I can't fathom to others who have grown up with it.

A little bit of info, the red symbol on the front of the bottle is actually 3 arrows joined together. In Japanese "mitsu"is 3 of something, and "ya" is arrow. So you get 3 arrows.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Kirin Afternoon Tea Lemon 午後の紅茶・レモンティー

I must admit, I'm a big fan of the royal milk tea that Kirin make. Today I was passing a Japanese supermarket and had such a thirst, I needed something really refreshing. The canary yellow label on this bottle sang out to me and I bought it.

It didn't disappoint. It really is a very refreshing drink. Despite the fact that the label states there is only 0.1% lemon juice in the tea, the lemon is quite present in the flavour. It's basically Kirin's straight tea with a dash of lemon. The label says it has water, sugar, tea, spice, lemon juice, and vitamin c. I'm not sure how much actual vitamin c you would get from drinking this, but as it's last on the list, I would say not much. It's an afternoon tea anyway, not exactly the place to look for vitamins.

However, it's pretty good if you're watching your weight as there is 1 gram of fat per 500ml bottle. 0 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of salt and 34 grams of sugar.

This is a greatly refreshing drink for a hot summer's day and in my case an unusually sunny and warm winter's day! I will definitely be buying this again.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Kinoko no Yama Tiramisu - きのこの山・ティラミス味

Kinoko no Yama (Mushroom mountain) has been around since my husband was a boy, and this year marks their 30th anniversary. It's a favourite of Japanese children and originally just came in chocolate top with plain pretzel bottom. The past few years have seen more and more exciting and interesting flavours being developed for Kinoko no Yama, and Tiramisu is the latest, released for their anniversary celebrations.

I've only recently jumped on the Tiramisu bandwagon and realised how great the dessert is, so I thought this would be a good way to try out more of the flavour.

Kinoko no Yama is a favourite treat of mine. I really love the cute little mushrooms and my favourite way to eat them is to bite off the top first.

The mushrooms are 4cm high by 3cm wide, double the usual size. That means that while the package weighs 22.4 grams, you only get 7 individually wrapped mushrooms, not as many as usual. A great waste of packaging and space.

The individual bags are see-through with red writing. It's evident that the mushrooms have been bumped around abit in transit as there is a fair bit of chocolate dust on the inside of the bag and the chocolate itself looks abit rustic.

There is no obvious smell from the chocolate, but once I bite in I get a brilliant taste of a rich, golden roasted coffee, it is so divine. The chocolate is smooth like silk and at the end has a small bitter bite. The layer of chocolate underneath is mild, not too tangy or sour, but creamy and has slight black flecks in it which might be vanilla. On the box it says this layer is marscapone cheese, something I have never tried so I'm not sure if this is a true taste or not.

The pretzel itself is dark chocolate, lots of cocoa in there, some salty notes and finishes off with a slightly bitter note. It's almost music for my mouth. This chocolate-cookie combination is a triumph and well done to Meiji for getting it right! It really tastes like a Tiramisu but alot crunchier.

This would make a nice, albeit less-is-more gift, or just be a little bit decadent and treat yourself!

To learn more about Kinoko no Yama you can visit this site.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Takenoko no Sato Cheesecake - たけのこの里・チーズケーキ味

Takenoko no sato (or Bamboo Shoots in the village), is shaped like a bamboo shoot with a cookie base and a flavoured chocolate covering. They have a brother called Kinoko no Yama (mushrooms on the mountain), which is pretzel based, and looks like a mushroom.

As my husband is a big cheesecake fan I bought this Takenoko for us to try. Takenoko is his favourite, he prefers the cookie base, while I prefer the pretzel base of Kinoko.

While this box is large, it only weighs 23.4 grams and there are 7 large indivdually wrapped bamboo shoots. A major waste of packaging and space. These are 3cm x 3cm, double the size of the normal chocolate Takenoko.

There is no perceptible scent from the cookie. The cookie is covered in a creamy coloured chocolate with Vanilla Bean specs within. The first taste when biting in is a creamy vanilla chocolate, followed by a more milky taste that develops. The crispy biscuit underneath is good, crumbly in texture, sweet but not too much. There is some saltiness that develops at the end that rounds out the flavour.

I found this to be more vanilla flavour than cheesecake. There was no cheese flavour, or tangy yoghurt like flavour that is usually present with cheesecake flavoured snacks. It was disappointing for me as I expected a nice creamy cheesecake. My husband wasn't disappointed though because he loves the cookie crunch and really loved the vanilla flavour anyway.

I just wish that Meiji had labelled this better, or developed the flavour better, because it did not deliver it's promise of flavour. This is a really nice cookie-chocolate snack if you don't expect it to be cheesecake. If someone had blindfolded me and told me it was vanilla bean, I would be really happy.

I wouldn't go out of my way to get another box as a) the flavour is quite pedestrian, and b) the contents of the box in no way match the price.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Citrus Ginger Throat Candy

Japanese Nodo-ame (のど飴) or throat candy, have a reputation for being more like a regular candy than something to medicate when you have a sore throat. At the time I bought this pack, my husband was sick with a cold and a sore throat. I took them home but somehow he overlooked them and didn't use them.

This time around it's me who has a sore throat, and I thought I could give an accurate review in regards to my feelings on the candy's effectiveness.

This throat candy is made by Kanro, a company known for it's candy and gummy. The flavour is Citrus and Ginger, and the pack shows a picture of lemons, an orange, and grapefruits. The pack itself is somewhat rustic looking and quite different to other throat candy packets I have seen. It seems to be more "homestyle" as if trying to represent a feeling of nature or natural.

There are 10 individually wrapped pieces of lemon-yellow candy. They are approximately 1.5 x 2.3 cm, and 0.8cm high. There is a vague smell of grapefruit from the candy itself.

The first thing I taste when I put the candy in my mouth is the citrus flavour, mostly of grapefruit. It's a nice flavour, not too sour, but also not too sweet. Other moments I can taste the tang of lemon, or juicy orange, but mostly the grapefruit comes through. As I suck the candy piece, a ginger taste starts to build up in my mouth until it becomes a very hot feeling. It's mostly on my tongue and inside of the cheeks than at the throat. Even swallowing the burning hot, does not make my throat feel hot. The hotness stays in my mouth.

Surprisingly my nose started to become unblocked after sucking on this candy for a few minutes. My throat also felt slightly less sore. I can only attribute that to the ginger, as I know that it has healing properties, and is a well-used ingredient in cold and flu remedies.

The hotness in my mouth is not like eating a chilli, it's more like someone turned a heater on in my mouth. It's hard to describe. It's not uncomfortable. I imagine if you are eating it in Winter as I am, It's a very nice warm-up for a cold night.

The candy is hard all the way through. I'm glad of that though. I'm not really a fan of the candies that have liquid in the centre.

I think this candy lived up to expectations and absolutely topped them. My throat has definitely benefitted from this candy, unlike most other Japanese throat candies I have tried. It also has a nice natural flavour, and the heat which the ginger generates in my mouth is a welcome relief from the cold.

If indeed you like these flavours in general, you needn't stick to eating them only when you are sick. I think this candy could be enjoyed at any time of the year.

I thoroughly recommend these throat candies. Please note that Kanro have changed the pack design and the amount of candies contained inside to 11. The image of the new pack is here.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Hokkaido Azuki Apollo

This Hokkaido Azuki Apollo was a limited release, along with other flavours like Muscat, and Peach.

On one side of this box is a photo image of Clark, as in "boys be ambitious". The other side is a normal Apollo box with a square stamp on the top showing the product is from Hokkaido.

The Area of Tokachi in Hokkaido is well known for the tasty Azuki they produce. The fact that this Apollo is made from those Azuki is meant to make this all the more attractive to Azuki consumers.

The box is the regular size and holds 22 pieces inside. They are contained only in the box without other packaging, and because of that I think that the pieces look abit rustic. As in, they have rubbed together and been thrown around in the box, so they are somewhat dusty with bits of chocolate.

The colour is somewhat different than I expected. I thought it would be a dusky rose colour on top and brown on the bottom (though the box has a picture of a light pink on top, brown on the bottom). In actual fact, the chocolate is light brown on the top with flecks of darker brown, with a dark brown chocolate on the bottom.

The smell when I opened the box was similar to that of the Oshiruko Kit Kat. However, when I pop one into my mouth, the taste is a fully flavoured Azuki bean, and the texture is exactly the same as if I popped a spoonful of Azuki beans in my mouth. You know that crushed up texture of Azuki, it's very hard to describe. The chocolate at the bottom is very lightly there, and is a very good match for the Azuki that takes centre stage.

I loved this version of Apollo, it was fantastic and tasted great, and very true to Azuki. The chocolate was a very good combination, offering a slight bitterness at the end to offset the sweetness.

If you see these I recommend you pick up a pack, you won't regret it!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Morinaga Ichigo Caramel (Strawberry Caramel)

This Ichigo Caramel was released for Mother's Day (May) in Japan. It was only around for a little while before petering out. Fortunately for me I received it as a gift with a bunch of other food gifts, and it makes a change from the usual Milk, and Matcha flavours that Morinaga usually make. Not to say I don't also like those, but I do like to try new flavours of caramel when I can.

This box holds the same quantity as usual. 12 individually wrapped pieces 1.5cm x 1.5cm in size. When you push the bottom of the box, the top slides up, similar to a matchbox. You can also push down from the top and have the same effect.

Each piece of caramel is bubblegum pink in colour. It doesn't carry much scent, a very faint strawberry mousse flavour, if anything.

The first taste is a very floral, almost musk-like flavour. The caramel is quite hard and takes a couple of chews to reduce the size. While chewing I get a vague strawberry mousse flavour, but there is still quite alot of floral flavour in there. The strawberry flavour never really builds up in intensity, while the floral notes are extremely strong and overwhelming. After swallowing this caramel I'm left with a taste similar to having chewed pink bubblegum for a few hours. It's not a pleasant taste, and the floral taste has burnt my throat.

This caramel was not enjoyable. Where was the strawberry?? I can just imagine the poor mum's that got saddled with this for Mother's Day. They probably hid it in the garbage when their kids' weren't looking. I guess Morinaga should stick to the basics.

Luckily this was a seasonal thing so I don't have to warn anyone off trying it. It's unlikely you will come across it, but if you do, buy at your own risk! And don't say I didn't give you fair warning. If you have tried this, let me know what YOU thought about it!