So, you probably already know about how we made our way down to Donki City Square Mall and raided its many, many shelves for its savoury snacks.
What you may not know, if you haven’t been keeping up with The Snackdown (and why aren’t you, exactly?) is I promised you a second instalment, this time with the weirdest sweet snacks I could locate.
And hoo boy, was there quite a lot of it.
To recap, these are the three of the biggest lessons we took away from snacking, Japanese style; the condensed wisdom of the Snacktivist. Or the unbreakable compact between the Japanese snackmaker and its
hapless victims customers.
- No false advertising: If it says “powerful salty” on the packet, you can bet your pants and your impending kidney failure/heart disease that it’ll be powerfully salty. If it says korokke-flavoured rice crackers on the pack, you can bet your last McDonald’s french fry that it’ll look and taste exactly like the food it’s based on. You won’t find them pulling a fast one on you, like what Arnott’s did (insert indignant screech here) with its Gelato Messina Choc Cherry Coconut Tim Tams.
- It’ll work… somehow: Just like how a sex symbol can take the form of a young female with cat ears, tail and paws (absolutely not a human in a cat costume, à la Catwoman) or how a virtual Youtuber (who ‘herself’ is masquerading as a super-intelligent AI… wait actually that’s quite meta) can become a IRL sensation, those weird flavour combinations usually turn out well, or at the very least, semi-decently.
- Expect the unexpected: Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition, and nobody expects, or indeed, knows what the Japanese will come up with next. If you think unicorn vomit cupcakes, smoothies and ice cream is next-level snack gimmickery, I only have this to say to you: female dog, I beseech thee. How about a quintuple-patty Whopper, a burger where the buns are made entirely of camembert or even clear coffee/tea/Coke?
So now that you’ve had that little primer, atomic batteries to power, turbines to speed, and onward to…
Donki, Part Deux.
AHHHHHH MAKE IT STOP.
Mannan Life Coffee Konnyaku Jelly
So… there was this one time I was caught dozing off during a big meeting by my boss. Not my finest hour, but in my defence, I just had a huge lunch, his office was really warm, the air was really still and I was sitting in a sunbeam.
It would take people with far, far more willpower than a humble Snacktivist to stay awake. And as you know, the Snacktivist has terrible self-control. Remember, this is a person who can and will demolish an entire bag of Skittles or Yan Yan in one sitting.
Anyway, when he woke me up, he proffered some Airmen Beans, precision-engineered German coffee-and-guarana pastilles. They taste like crap, but they’re total rocket fuel, the closest legal thing to amphetamines you can get. And unlike Red Bull (the ones in the gold can, obviously), these are sugar-free, so the comedown isn’t as harsh.
The point is, Mannan Life’s Coffee Konnyaku Jelly reminds me very much of Airmen Beans, though far more palatable, since it has got some sugar in. But unlike regular Japanese fruit-flavoured konnyaku jelly, the coffee one isn’t cloyingly sweet. A pleasant surprise, to be sure.
The coffee flavour and aroma itself is very, um, Japanese, for want of a better descriptor. In that it doesn’t have the subtlety and nuance of an Italian espresso, the smooth caramelly nuttiness of a good local kopi, nor the howling-at-the-moon caffeine-and-sugar gut punch that is Vietnamese cà phê.
This konnyaku jelly is more fragrant than flavourful, though that’s not an entirely bad thing, like eating a slightly sweetened black cold brew. But more than that, it tastes like they used real coffee in the making of this jelly.
Either that or the Japanese have found a way to synthesise flavours and not have it taste artificial. Then again, I wouldn’t put it past them. This is a culture that’s famous for making Gundams and cyborgs that question their own humanity, right?
10-word review: Light, aromatic and nicely chewy jelly, plus with real coffee.
Best paired with: Some condensed milk as a topping, because like Guile’s Theme, condensed milk goes with everything.
Kabaya Kindan Chocolate Soda
I know I spoke earlier about the three commandments of Japanese snacking, but I might like to make a small addendum.
In addition to the original three points, you could add hyperbole into the mix. The shelf tag labels this as “forbidden chocolate”, and it’s not difficult to see why—this is a candy ball with a sour lemonade outer layer, milk chocolate mid-layer and a lemonade pop rocks core.
To many right-thinking people, this is a crime against nature. This is snacking’s equivalent of what Victor Frankenstein did with the body parts and the lightning.
But because I, Kabaya and ol' Vic, never let pesky things like right-thinking and morality get in my way, Kindan Chocolate Soda candy is the love that dare not speak its name.
It’s hard to objectively rate Kindan Chocolate Soda candy and it also tends to defy description, because there are so few analogues to compare it to.
How would you describe a homunculus cobbled together from various corpses? Or for that matter, the combination of tangy lemonade, mellow chocolate and the crackle of pop rocks?
Unnatural? Well, that’s a tough one. It depends on your point of view. I mean, if grave-robbing, dismembering corpses, putting them back together and reanimating them is the sort of thing you like to do in your spare time, then hey, you do you. Who am I to judge?
Wait, was I talking about necromancy or weird lemonade-and-chocolate candy? I forget.
10-word review: There are scant few stranger things than lemonade and chocolate.
Best paired with: An open mind and the willingness to explore new horizons in
KitKat Otona no Amasa Chocolate
There's some dark chocolate KitKat in there and it’s pretty good, but WHO EVEN CARES.
I bought an entire bag of dark chocolate KitKat just to get at the THREE WHOLE BARS of miso-flavoured ones hidden somewhere in there.
Now, when I grabbed this particular bag of KitKat, I neglected to read the fine print (not actually that fine, but since I can’t read much Japanese, I’ll just leave that in), which would have told me the miso-flavoured ones were a bonus. A blessing from Nestle on the occasion of KitKat’s 45th birthday to us benighted heathens who have never had the privilege of sampling this limited-edition flavour.
If you were expecting salty KitKat, well, you’re going to be disappointed, as I was. Yes, it’s far more savoury than regular white chocolate-coated KitKat, but not in an overly so. It’s like the sweet soy glaze you get on those red bean-filled grilled rice balls on a stick (mitarashi dango, if you must know).
Miso KitKat reminds me of a malty white chocolate, if that makes sense. Like white chocolate embraced gently by umami.
I’m not entirely sure where I’m going with this, but hey, look at the time!
10-word review: Regular old white chocolate KitKat given a subtle umami kick.
Best paired with: Japanese lessons so you don’t get suckered into buying just THREE DAMN BARS of something.
KitKat Tamaruya Honten Wasabi
The first thing you’ll note about this particular KitKat isn’t the depiction of wasabi on the box.
Never mind that real wasabi looks distressingly like an alien’s severed appendage. What’s even more distressing is how much it costs. A box of 12 twinned mini bars costs (are you sitting down) $13.90, making the cost of each bar $1.16.
Far as I can tell, the net weight of the 12 mini bars comes up to 150 grams. This works out to 9.2 cents per gram, making wasabi KitKat cost $92 per kilogram.
Holy hell, that’s like more expensive than wagyu.
See, that’s why math is scary.
Don’t do math, kids. It’s a hell of a drug.
So anyway, after I recovered from that little bill shock, wasabi KitKat. It’s wasabi-infused white chocolate, though like miso KitKat, its flavour is a lot more subtle than I initially expected. It just has a slight spicy edge, like black pepper-laced chocolate.
Pretty enjoyable, and I’d have another in a heartbeat, but I fear my credit limit won’t allow me to eat too many things that work out to almost 100 bucks a kilogram.
10-word review: Good, but scandalously expensive, as most good things usually are.
Best paired with: The sobering thought that you could get yourself decent wagyu for the money.