Weekly Japanese Pop Culture Thread (November 30, 2022)

Hey everyone! It’s Merve, returning to take over the Weekly Japanese Pop Culture Thread just for this week. Why me? Because Grumproro had a fateful encounter with Truck-kun Because Tokyo Treat was kind enough to send me their Santa’s Snackfest box to review. I’ve eaten a ludicrous amount of junk food in the past four days, to the point that I am probably now more high-fructose corn syrup than man. If you’re interested in reading my ramblings on KitKats and corn puffs, expand the box below!

Disclosure: Box received for free.

Like I mentioned, the box came with a lot of food. But it also came with something that isn’t food: a lovely little booklet detailing what each snack was and any allergens it might contain.

Just like your favourite manga (or your least favourite manga), the booklet was bound on the right. I thought that was a nice touch.

All right, let’s talk about food. Here’s what I ate, in chronological order of consumption.

Maneken White Chocolate Waffle

I was skeptical of a waffle that came in a wrapper (as opposed to the oh-so-high-quality toaster waffles that come in a box???) But I was pleasantly surprised with this one. It was shockingly light and fluffy. I wouldn’t say it tasted fresh-baked, but it was the next best thing. There was a lot of strong chocolate flavour here, with a pleasant interplay between the white and dark chocolate. It was a tad too sweet for my tastes, but overall I was quite impressed with this snack.

Jagatteru Potato Snack

These are basically just potato chips that are shaped like fries. Yes, they’re a bit of a novelty, but a successful one. These potato sticks tasted like a high-end kettle chip but had the crunch of a mass-market potato chip: the best of both worlds. Also, they weren’t too salty. Very tasty!

Ramune Christmas Surprise

This candy has a similar shape and texture to a Lifesavers mint. You’re not supposed to know which flavour—ramune soda, cola, or grape—you got until you put the candy in your mouth. I bit into grape. Now, I love me some grapes. They’re one of my favourite fruits. But artificial grape flavour? Not so much. However, I will give the candy credit for not tasting like artificial cough syrup.

Starry Night Corn Puffs

These corn puffs were very light and airy, but also extremely crispy. Texturally, they were an absolute marvel. Unfortunately, the flavour was lacking. There wasn’t much to these little puffs other than corn and some unidentifiable source of umami. A version of these that were more strongly flavoured, say with ranch or nori, could be my go-to snack.

KitKat Milk Tea

I always love trying new KitKat flavours, so I was eager to nibble on these bad boys. They had an interesting flavour profile, almost like white chocolate. There was a hint of tea flavour, and I almost would have preferred it to be a bit stronger, like it is in the more famous green tea KitKats. That being said, they paired surprisingly well with the next item on the list…

Sangaria Royal Milk Tea

Ooh, a beverage! Full disclosure: I generally prefer my tea without milk. (I was a heavy Oi Ocha drinker back in the day.) But the booklet recommended pairing these with the milk tea KitKats, and that turned out to be surprisingly wise. By itself, the drink was too sweet. But when paired the much sweeter KitKats, the tea drink tasted much less sweet by comparison, which actually enhanced the tea flavour. I probably wouldn’t enjoy this drink on its own, but it had some really good synergy with the KitKats. Milk tea on milk tea: a winning combo!

Knorr Salmon and Spinach Cream Pasta

I was most worried about this item, because creamy things can be a mixed bag. But a Japanese treat box wouldn’t be complete with some sort of cup noodles, so of course I wasn’t going to pass this pasta dish up. I actually had it for breakfast one day, because I figured it might be a bit too rich for a snack. That turned out to be correct: it was quite filling for a cup of noodles. It was also shockingly delicious. I really did get the flavour of salmon, not some generic seafood, and the noodles were nice and chewy. If I have a complaint, it’s that the sauce was a smidge too runny, even with its contents prepared exactly according to instructions. But other than that, a thoroughly successful cup of noodles! I should also mention that it paired surprisingly well with coffee. (That’s going to be a recurring theme; I drink a lot of coffee.)

Christmas Chocolate Daifuku

This snack faced a big uphill climb for me: I don’t care for marshmallows. I’ll eat them if I have to, but I never seek them out. This particular “daifuku” tastes kind of like a reverse hot chocolate: it’s a marshmallow with chocolate in it rather than chocolate with marshmallows in it, and from that perspective it was quite successful. Eating it felt a bit like eating hot chocolate, if that makes any sense. I’d call this snack the best possible version of something I don’t like.

Caplico Milk Stars

I wish chocolate came in more interesting shapes up here in Canada. You can find novelty chocolate coins shaped like loonies in most dollar stores, but that’s about where the fun ends. We certainly don’t have chocolate stars, and we definitely don’t get chocolate in packaging like this:

You pop out the stars by pushing from below. Each little compartment has a sign of the zodiac on the bottom.

So how did these little guys actually taste? Well, the milk flavour didn’t come through at first, but it lingered, creating a pleasant interplay with the chocolate. Unfortunately, they were also way too sweet, making them hard to recommend.

Cheese in Snack

How do I describe these? Imagine a Cheez-It, but with a soft centre and a stronger cheese funk. I think the outer shell of each puff is made of corn, but I’m not sure. I’d call these an acquired taste. That being said, they grew on me; this is a taste that I did manage to acquire!

Petit Potato Nori and Salt

I was expecting these to be more like traditional potato chips, but they were more like Pringles with a bit of seaweed flavour. Honestly, the seaweed flavour was more of an aftertaste; these really tasted mostly like Pringles.

Pocky Winter Caramel

It might say “CHOCOLATE” on the box, but make no mistake, the coating on these Pocky sticks is caramel. In fact, it’s really intense and really delicious caramel. Not what I was expecting from a Pocky! There was a hint of salt in the stick, and it really enhanced the flavour of the caramel. I loved these, and they paired very well with coffee. I should also mention that bottom portion of each stick is not caramel-coated, which is nice, because it means your fingers don’t get sticky.

Christmas Fugashi

Fugashi is a crispy wheat gluten puff coated in cane sugar or brown sugar. The brown sugar coating on this one was delicious: it wasn’t just sweet, but also bursting with flavour. The wheat puff on the inside was extremely airy, almost like cotton candy made from gluten. This snack paired well with iced coffee. I should caution you: if you eat one of these, make sure to eat it quickly; otherwise, a cardboard-like taste will linger on your tongue.

Chocolate Covered Wheat Puffs

Since the dawn of time, humankind has been coating random things in chocolate. Why not wheat puffs? Seriously, these were really good. They were slightly crunchy, and the chocolate was nice and dark, not too sweet. They paired very well with iced coffee.

Tongari Christmas Corn Chips

The final snack on our list. Whew! I actually started eating these as I was typing this write-up. These are basically Japanese Bugles. They don’t have a lot of flavour, but I think they’d be good if I could dip them in ranch or Caesar dressing. Off to the grocery store!

Well, there you have it. That was a startling amount of junk food. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go detox with a nice salad.

As always, what have you been playing/reading/watching/eating/listening to lately? Your thoughts on your favourite Japanese snack foods are most welcome.