Japanese snacks abound! Let’s dive in and see what this Tonosama Gold Prize Grab Bag has in store for us!
Since I started blogging I find I am getting more and more into the groove of putting my thoughts to paper….or computer screen, as it were. Even more recently, I find myself doing things outside of gaming and having an internal monologue as if I’m prepping for a post. For instance, I’ll be helping my son put a Lego set together and making bullet points in my mind about what I like and don’t like about this particular set, how this set differs from sets I thought were better/worse and things along those lines.
Now, at first I chalked it up to just me struggling for post ideas or maybe stretching myself too thin between work, blog and family. Upon consulting my better half she said maybe you just need to write this stuff down. If you’re interested in it enough to be thinking about it so much then maybe you need to take the opportunity and just write it out…even if you never actually post it…she’s wise like that.
So, I decided to mull it over awhile, a.k.a. I completely forgot about it. That was until my wife surprised me with a big bag of mixed Japanese treats and some homemade Senbei rice crackers. We were still polishing up our Persona 5 playthrough and thought we’d make a night of it with some tasty, aptly themed snacks. Upon munching into a Umaibo (Japanese for “delicious stick”) I thought to myself “Hmmm now this could be fun to write about!” And so here we are! Let’s get snacking!
We’ve purchased this particular mixed bag of Japanese snacks a few times before from an Amazon seller called Nippon Tomodachi. The reason being they always offer prime shipping, which is rare for things of this nature. And I’m all about prime shipping.
Off topic, but let me say I am completely and utterly spoiled by prime shipping now. Ruined for life!! Anything other than 2 day shipping seriously makes me second guess online purchases! What would younger me, who was used to having to wait like a solid month for ordered items, think!? But I digress, I will unabashedly continue to use my beloved prime shipping for all things necessary or otherwise because I am an adult dammit! Adulting requires speedy shipping for all things, including the times when you forget people’s birthdays! Anyway back to the snacks!
We typically receive the same 30ish items with maybe some different flavor variations. There’s always a handful of different items tossed in the mix that are new to us and those are always the funnest to try out. The first time I ordered this I half expected there to be alot of fish/shrimp flavored snacks included since, aside from Pocky, that’s what I’d seen the most in grocery stores when it comes to Japanese snacks. Thankfully, there was really only two or three seafood flavored things in that first bag and maybe only one I can think of in bags after that. There really wasn’t much that both of us didn’t like actually, maybe only one or two things I can think of off hand.
Firstly, let me say that I love the packaging for all the different snacks. Their penchant for bubbly lettering, brightly colored packaging and various adorable animal mascots is very eye catching. Also, the discovery that some of the packaging gives you absolutely no inclination as to what you are about to eat really just adds to the feeling of adventure… or dread. Maybe it’s just me though, I mean I’m sure someone else would look at a wrapper with a picture of a cat in a clown suit riding unicycle and say “Ah yes Vegetable Salad flavor”. Ok, that’s just one extreme example, but honestly it’s the mystery that makes it fun. I also don’t read Japanese, so I’m sure there would be much less subtle hints there and that’s no ones fault but my own. I’ll finish learning Japanese some day…*looks wistfully at nothing in particular*… some day.
Let’s get started on this mountain of morsels with the snack I mentioned earlier: the ever versatile Umaibo. These things are really like giant Cheetos with more of a corn aftertaste. The most common flavor is actually corn potage which is basically corn chowder. The corn potage Umaibo seasoning is much sweeter than I was expecting and I’m not a big fan of it. And this time around we got that flavor along with cheese, vegetable salad, mentai, sugar rusk, and teriyaki burger.
The cheese flavor is exactly what you’d expect. It tastes like your typical, run of the mill Cheeto. I’m not sure what the dancing sunflowers on the package have to do with cheese, but you do you Japan, it was tasty either way. The vegetable salad flavor is my wife’s favourite so far. She said she wouldn’t have guessed “fresh veggies” as the flavor, but more like a Funion kind of seasoning. Mentai is marinated roe of pollock. It surprised me how un-fishy it was, but it definitely had a unique flavor with nothing comparable coming to mind. This one had another unhelpful package sporting a busted up looking chemist (scientist? wizard?) type of guy with the Umaibo mascot popping out of his flask…..because why not? Sugar rusk was not something I was familiar with either, so after some Googling I found out that it is a common Japanese snack of dried crispy sugar toast, kind of like a big, sweet crouton, I’m definitely down with that. The Umaibo tasted like caramelized sugar with an undertone of corn. I’m not totally into the sweet Umaibo, but it tasted pretty good. Teriyaki Burger tasted pretty spot on in my opinion. I’ve never tasted a teriyaki burger in its non Umaibo form, but there was definitely a distinct beef and teriyaki flavor so I’d say they nailed it. Kind of reminded me those instant teriyaki beef Yakisoba bowls, but in powdery snack form. From what I can tell these snacks are super popular because they are tasty, have a large variety of flavors and are extremely inexpensive. Only about 140 yen (approximately 14 cents) each!
And if those descriptions didn’t entice you then check out this excruciatingly cute Umaibo advertisement by Yaokin’s Umami-chan:
Source: Umami-chan (うまみちゃん)
There were also two small bags of corn puff snacks that tasted similar to the Umaibo, but came in the form of smaller round bits instead of long tubes. Like the Umaibo they come in a variety of flavors and this time around we received corn potage (yay…) and pizza (yay?). I’ve already disclosed my feelings towards corn potage, but the pizza flavor was new to me. I haven’t had the pleasure of a pizza umaibo yet, so I can’t compare, but I gotta say there is a huge difference between this pizza flavor and that of other Western made snacks. Usually the focus on the taste of tomato sauce and cheese in pizza flavored snacks, but these ones were more about the spices, very basil-ish. Not necessarily bad, just different from what I’m used to….which is really what this whole shebang is all about no?
By the Light of the Ramune!
My son’s favorite thing to find in these bags are anything marshmallow. We received three things this time and my wife barely had enough time to get some pictures before they were promptly devoured. He was kind enough to give Daddy a taste at least before he inhaled his post dinner treats.
What? How dare you good sirs and ladies! Of course it was after his dinner! It definitely wasn’t 10AM, five minutes after the box landed on our doorstep! The nerve….*cough*
Anyway, two of the marshmallows treats had fillings: one strawberry, one hot chocolate. Confusing packaging strikes again, I thought the hot chocolate one was going to be green tea since the little marshmallow guy was holding a green tea mug. Go figure. Both were delicious though, based off of the scant taste that I was given. The third puffy delight was just that. A two color, twisty marshmallow confection. All three were extremely soft and fluffy, much different than any store bought marshmallow I’ve had before.
Munching right along, I have to say I always like seeing what little candies we will get. While most of them aren’t anything different than what we can get here, I just love the packaging. Every possible edge of paper or plastic is covered with text, and pictures and cute characters. A fantastic assault on the brain. Most of the packaging is pretty straight forward and you can easily guess what kind of candy is inside. In this mix there wasa grape soda gummy and a cola flavored gummy. I love grape soda so thumbs up there while the cola one tasted like flat soda that was left out in the sun all afternoon, so not so thumbs up.
There was also a sour lemon drop hard candy, nothing special there. My son was excited by the Pikachu gum, but he’s still too little for that. The gum was fairly flavorless anyway and kinda just dissolved in your mouth. The package of grapefruit gum had a lot more flavor, but still really just disintegrated once you started chewing it. The box of candy labeled Milky had me wary at first, but it was filled with simple, sweet milk candies that were much better than they sound believe me. They were like hard caramels without the caramel if that makes any sort of sense. Also, interesting fact, the little bag of pink and purple Nerd like candies are what the star bits in Mario Galaxy are reported to be modeled after. Cool beans!
The package I assumed was popping candy I kind of just disregarded at first because pop rocks are nothing new and fantastical. But fantastical it was my dear reader! This particular brand is called Pachi Pachi Panic and the pop rock flavors are similar to what you’re used to (ours was grape), but also had little tiny Ramune fizzing candies mixed in with it. Ramune is a popular soft drink sold in Japan where its main novelty comes from the fact that it is sealed with a glass marble that’s held in place by the pressure of the beverage’s carbonation. I’ve had them a few times and the funnest part is using the little device provided to pop the marble down into the neck of the bottle. The flavors are just alright, but it’s a fun thing to show your kid for sure.
Another sweet oddity included in our parcel was this little blister pack of multi-colored candies. The fact that they were in a blister pack was enough to make them seem strange and a tad sketchy if you know what I mean. But once I popped one out and ate it I discovered it was not fruit flavored like I so rashly assumed, but in fact chocolate. A lot like those Sixlets candies you always find in the bottom of your halloween bag. I noticed that under each blister there was text and thought that made it worth a bit more research. This candy is called Puchu Puchu and it seems that these are used for fortune telling. You know the silly kind that no one ever takes seriously…right? Right?! Each blister has something like finance, health or love written under it and behind the candy on the foil backing will be a corresponding shape that means very good, good or bad and the like. Well, that’s just pretty darn neat. I will have to pay closer attention should I get this again next time! Not that I put any stock in such things….
The Slimmest Jim
One of the snacks we received was a teeny tiny meat stick which I dunno why but amused me to no end. It was about a quarter of the side of my index finger and I suppose it was just the thought of someone bringing this up to the cash register at a convenience store that just made me giggle. My wife, impervious to my occasional bouts of childishness, did some interwebs perusing and found they were very rarely sold outside of fifty piece packages and are akin to the western “fun size” candy bars. So, in other words not fun at all. Merely in wrapped in tiny packages that are really meant to hinder your progress throughout eating the whole bag anyway.
It never ceases to amaze me how Japan can take anything and make it adorable. In the West we have Sasquatches and bulls on our meat sticks, the mascots of manliness (I guess?), while in Japan they have kawaii (cute) pandas and rainbows….straight up awesome. We also received a Big Katsu, which is really the snack form of a breaded, fried pork cutlet, so damn good. I could eat 1 to 18 of those suckers with ease. There was another meat product (I use this term with reservation) in there that was a cross between dried seaweed and dried fish. It was a little strange and a bit chewy but I didn’t mind it, honestly fishy snacks are not really anything I ever crave.
My personal favorite thing to see in these mixed bag are these little packages called Babystar ramen snacks. These things bring me back to being a kid when I would smash up a package of Top Ramen and sprinkle on the seasoning and eat it just like that. I assure you it was very much a popular thing when and where i was a kid. I haven’t done it in years, of course, because it’s frickin’ weird, but it was cool “back in the day”. These little bags of crunched up ramen are equally delicious, but much less messy. You can get seasonings similar to any ramen you’d find in a grocery store like beef and chicken, but also yakisoba and tonkatsu (kind of a Japanese BBQ sauce), which I would very much like to try sometime.
There was also a bag of rice crackers that were puffy and crispy and tasty. Again the packaging left me wondering what it was I was about to ingest, but it turned out to be just some innocent rice crackers. The little Panda shaped cookies were needlessly adorable yet magnificently buttery. A lot like those tins of danish butter cookies you see everywhere around Christmas time. You know the tin your grandmother uses for her sewing stuff. Yep that’s it!
The Good, The Bad and the Questionable
So, we are at a grand total of 27 snacks now. Gone the way of all good snacks, in my belly, and sent off with a wistful regret filled wave. I’ll eat you again someday! Not to worry! But what about the last three snacks you promised Pixel Bites!? You said there were thirty! And thirty there was dearest reader. Three snacks that had reared their ugly heads time and time again in this mixed bag of deliciousness. A small plastic cup of nondescript grainy white cream? Flavor was citrus-like? I honestly have no idea. It was gross and we quickly moved on. There was a dried pickled plum that I’m not sure needs any more explanation that that. The last and final snack was not necessarily bad, just not good and kind of indescribable. It was super light and airy but still crunchy. The flavor was almost like burnt sugar, but also soy sauce. Not really something I would go to the store and buy for myself, but to each their own.
And there you have it folks! A sack of superb delights from the grand country that is Japan. It was a long and arduous journey of never ending confusing packaging and tasty tidbits, but I do it all for you! I totally wouldn’t have eaten that all by myself anyway. Yeah….
So how about it? Anything pique your interest the most? Have you tried any foreign snacks that really resonated with your soul? Lay your suggestions upon me good people and I will most graciously snack and report!
If you’d like to try out some cute and fun Japanese snacks and support my blog while your at it you can use the below affiliate links*. Happy Snacking!!
Japanese Happy Snack Grab Bag on Amazon
Japanese Snacks and Foods on JList
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