Saturday, February 7, 2009

Nihonjin Nibbles: Crunky

According to Wikipedia...
Crunk is a type of music which originated from southern hip hop and EDM in the early 1990's.
The term "crunky" would then be seen as something to do with this type of music, not a Japanese candy bar.

Fig. 1: A Crunky chocolate bar.

The Crunky bar is manufactured by Lotte, a large South Korean company. The bar appears to be the Japanese answer to Nestle's Crunch bar, though the Crunky bar uses fine malt puffs rather than crispy rice. The Crunky bar weighs in at 48 grams and is 261 calories.

Fig. 2: Nutrition Information, in Japanese of course.

The first thing I noticed is that the bar comes in a box rather than a plastic sleeve like our typical American candy bars. Another unusual thing that I noticed with this Crunky bar, as well as the previously reviewed Pocky, is the packaging's instructions on opening. The instructions actually worked. Unlike so many American products, like cake mixes, that say press here and pull back to open (and you wind up denting the side of the box so bad that you say screw it and just tear open the top flaps), when you "tear here" on these products they actually open up properly. Amazing.

Fig. 3: The Crunky foil packet.

Once I got inside the package, I found a foil packet not unlike what a typical American candy bar would have been wrapped in 'back in the day'. (Most candy wrappers are now plastic.) The foil of the packet is quite thin and every easy to open.

Fig. 4: The actual Crunky bar.

Comparing to the Nestle Crunch bar, the Crunky bar is quite a bit larger and thicker. The tiny malt puffs give the bar a similar look to the Crunch bar, just there are more of the little bumps. The taste is, however, not the same. The Crunky bar has a similar texture and crunchiness, but is no where near as sweet as the Crunch. This is probably due to the Japanese palate not liking sweets as much as other flavors. I generally have a tough time with sugary candy as it invariably hurts my throat, and this bar did not noticably affect me. The chocolate seems to have a similar mouth feel as typical milk chocolate as it melts. The malt puffs do not seem to add anything to the flavor of the bar, and they may be there for texture only.

On the whole, this was a pretty good bar. I like Nestle's Crunch bar, and this would seem to be a good substitute for that.

I think this bar deserves a 7/10.

Nihonjin Nibbles: Mikan Pocky

I have been away from blogging for far too long, so this will be the first of two today!

Next in the series of Japanese Junk Food to review, and one that I have been especially excited to review is Mikan Pocky.

Fig. 1: Mikan Pocky

I am familiar with the chocolate variety of Pocky, having had them before on shopping trips to the international market in Cincinnati. Every time I go I make sure to grab some.

Manufactured by Glico (the famous 'running man' of Osaka), Pocky is a thin, sweet breadstick rod with a consistency not unlike a cross between a cookie and a pretzel. The rod is dipped in chocolate of some type, be it white, milk or dark covering about 4/5 of the stick. The chocolate variety is delicious and I have to control myself from eating every one of them on the ride home. This review is, of course, not for the mundane chocolate variety but for the Mikan flavored version.

Mikan is a citrus fruit like a tangerine. Most people in the US are familiar with Clementines, and they are similar, but not the same. I always looked forward to winter just so I could get my hands on some Clementines! Unfortunately, since the radiation treatments, most fruits don't taste at all good to me anymore (notable exceptions: pineapples, bananas & strawberries) so Clementines are out. I still do, however, love the smell of citrus.

Fig. 2: Nutrition information in Japanese.

The package of Pocky is a small box with four packs of five rods. Each little pack (I think it is each little pack, I can't read Japanese ... yet) is 67 calories, which is not bad. The rods are about as long as a standard Sharpie marker and about half the diameter of a typical pencil.

Fig. 3: The open box and packets of Pocky.

As with the previous entry on KitKats, I was shocked when I opened one of the packets. It is like an orange had exploded -- the intense smell of citrus filled the room and it was wonderful! I removed a rod from the package and tasted it. At first I got a creamy texture as the white chocolate melted and it had an almost vanilla flavor to it, but as time went on I began to get a definite orangey flavor, though light and subdued. As I consumed the remainder of the Pocky stick, more of the orange flavor started coming through. At no time was the flavor overwhelming.

Fig. 4: Size comparison for a Pocky rod.

I was apprehensive at first about these because of my problems with citrus. I so much wanted to like them. Thankfully, I was not disappointed!

Hopefully by time I get up the funds and courage to travel to Japan, I will be over my taste problems so I can enjoy the little Mikans for real. Barring that, the Mikan Pocky deserve a 9/10.

Here is a take on the Mikan Pocky from the always lovely Orchid: Mikan Pocky on Japanese Snack Reviews.