31 Days of Halloween: Pass (on) the Cheese, Please

I'm a meat man. When I list my favorite foods, animals top the list: burgers, chicken wings, hot dogs. Really, if it's made with chicken, I'm interested. Beef and pork is certainly welcome too!

Yes, I do love corn, peas, and carrots. Broccoli is tasty, and white Japanese radishes are a tasty snack. But rarely do I have a meal without a piece of meat. I just haven't found something appealing enough. Sure, breakfast might be a bowl of cereal or a stack of pancakes, but usually it's a tuna, ham, or egg sandwich.

So a meat snack has gotta end up in this food post marathon. Beef jerky is available here, and given the cost in the US it's not much more expensive here. But it looks like these little sticks of meat are much more popular. That's probably due to their size and packaging - they're quick snacks with a wrapper that also holds the rest of the snack until the last bite, keeping hands off the food.

Below is a longer-sized version of pencil calpas. It's a little thicker than a pencil, and a bit shorter. There are short versions (about 2 inches long) that sell for about 8-10 cents each. Also available is cheese, both in the longer length seen below and shorter lengths to go along with the sausage.

Calpas is a Russian-style sausage, usually lightly juicy with lots of pepper or other spices to give it a bunch of flavor. There are larger versions found in convenience stores and supermarkets. One online poster mentioned that some of them are covered in a second plastic skin, so be aware of that.
The smaller calpas snacks like the one above are decent, though the larger sticks are better for adults. The cheese has never been that good. You can see the dates of expiration or sell-by dates - they aren't meant to last a long time - but even fresh the cheese tastes a little dry and like other Japanese cheeses doesn't have much flavor.

The tiny meat sticks are great if you're craving some meat flavor but want just something small to cut that craving. But avoid the cheese. Or give them to kids at Halloween...

31 Days of Halloween: Potato Cheeseburger?

As far as starches go, rice is still number one in Japan. But even this country knows rice cakes just aren't that tasty of a snack. Sure, you can have senbei, which are similar to rice cakes (but oh so much better) but if you want flavor that involves something more than soy sauce you have to leave the traditional snacks aisle and find the massive potato chip section.

Sure, you can find the usual salty, oily potato chips just like Lay's makes back in the States. But it's the random flavors that really stand out. If you look back through my posts, you'll see some interesting Doritos flavors, and I've seen plenty of other chips with really exotic flavors - at least for my tastes. Most chips are potato here - there are a few corn snacks but I think corn is fairly expensive to import. The cheapest bags of tortilla chips are about $3-4 each, a sad truth for someone who loves salsa and nachos.

But that's for another day. Let's look at a couple small packages with "Potato Fry" snacks!
Yes, potato fry. French fries are called fried potatoes here, and switching the words around means you end up with something that's almost a potato chip. You see butter flavor on the left, and cheeseburger on the right.
Which one is which? Inside each package are four large round chips. They're just a little thicker than potato chips, and much larger. I'd say they're about four inches in diameter.

The flavors for both are noticeable, and pretty accurate. The butter flavored chips taste like a baked potato. The cheeseburger flavor tastes like a cheeseburger - meat, cheese, tomato, lettuce, and even some spice that tastes like a burger sauce.

At about 30 yen each, they're an inexpensive way to have a snack. You won't fill yourself up on one or even three or four, but for kids it's a nice way to tide them over until dinner. And at this price, they're an easy thing to toss into a trick-or-treat bag!

31 Days of Halloween: You can even eat the package!

Sticking with the tropical fruit theme from yesterday, today's two packages contain something modern and something traditional. Let's start in the future. Or present.
Mango is BIG here. Seriously, you'd think it was ambrosia. It might just be popular this year, because I don't remember seeing so much before this summer. Anyway, this is "Chewing Candy" in mango flavor.
They're like giant Skittles. No, seriously - the shape, the chewiness, and the thin candy shell are all like Skittles.The flavor is pretty strong too, with the citrusy tang you'd expect plus the unique flavor mango fruit provides. Now I'm craving a smoothie...
This is a box of "Bontan Ame" (Bontan Rice Candy), a traditional Japanese snack. The design of the box harkens back to an earlier time, and I'm all about nostalgic and vintage style.
Inside the box are five soft cubes which you might be able to see are wrapped in a clear plastic-like paper. That paper is actually edible (oblaat - a Dutch creation, to be specific), and dissolves when you put it in your mouth!
The wrapper isn't exactly tasty, to be honest with you. It's almost tasteless, not exactly the perfect way to start a piece of candy that you want to be sweet. Actually, oblaat is used to coat capsule medicines as well, which is a horrible correlation for your tongue to make.

But you get to the bontan pretty quickly. Bontan (or buntan) is a grapefruit-like citrus fruit, except it's much larger. I see them from time to time in the supermarket. The flavor isn't very citrusy, but I noticed it. I'm not a big fan of grapefruit, but the flavor here is milder and sweeter - possibly due to manufacturing, or due to the fruit itself being sweeter.

Note that this shouldn't be confused with Botan Ame, another candy that comes from Japan.

31 Days of Halloween: The Placebo Effect

So, I've been gone for over a week. I had a financial emergency that still hasn't resolved itself - hopefully things will be relatively normal in the next couple of days. That brought on an immense amount of stress and even some depression. I'm still not 100%, but I am feeling much better now. Once the situation clears up I'm sure I'll be fine.

With the stress and accompanying exhaustion, plus a lot of stuff going on at work, I just had no desire to write. I didn't feel like doing much at all, really, and my apartment is still a bit of a mess!

Again, I am feeling much better now. It's time to sweeten things up again and get back to the big pile of candy that I haven't touched in almost two weeks.
Perhaps I should have ate these last week. These "pills" are supposed to help you in various areas, depending on which one you choose. They are "プチプチいらない" which translates as "Bubble Wrap Divination" though I think it's just a wish for good luck. Some notable benefits are in popularity, health, sports, friends, love, shopping, travel, and the future.
There are red, yellow, green, and orange balls. I'm not sure if the colors actually correspond to anything, and I didn't notice if the other packages of this candy had the same colors in the same spots. There are five of each ball, except for yellow which only has three. Luck of the draw? Anyway, these are just like MnMs - candy coating with a chocolate inside. Pretty tasty, though the shell is kind of hard.

If, somehow, everything turns around wonderfully for me tomorrow, I'll let you know. Otherwise, these are just another novelty. (Duh.)

I love chewy and gummy candies, so I was looking forward to trying this little package. It's called Fruit Tree (フルーツの森) and the picture on the front implies a lot of different flavors.
There are three flavors inside - pink, yellow, and green. I couldn't tell any difference between them. The toothpick is there so you can stab them and eat them one by one without touching the candy. I guess if you're a germaphobe or had been playing in the dirt this would be fine, but they're pretty hard and handling with fingers wouldn't cause a mess. The flavor was unique, but I'm not sure if it's really that good - there are plenty of soft gummy candies in Japan that are excellent.

So, now that I'm back to the blog, let's see if I can be consistent with posts this week!

31 Days of Halloween: Tiny Bits of Big Flavor

This is Mini Cola. You can't drink it, though. The container is about the is meter of a quarter and looks suspiciously like an Atlanta-based soft drink can. And the top even has a pull-tab to open it!
Inside are a bunch of tiny tablets which are like Cola-flavored Smarties. I don't know how else to describe them. I think the novelty of the container is better than the candy, in the end. 
The other candy today is Puchi Chocolate. The multi-colored balls are about the same size as the Cola candy, but instead taste like MnMs. Actually, there's more candy shell than chocolate here due to the small overall size so they're sweeter and less chocolatey than MnMs. I don't remember the name, but there is a similar candy in the US. 

Both have neat containers that can be repurposed to hold beads or tiny pebbles if you're a kid! The chocolate box lid is also a small whistle, to irritate others around you! And they are each under 40 yen, so they're pretty cheap for trick or treating!

31 Days of Halloween: Trains and Animals

Today's treats come with a bonus. You see, each pack has something extra besides the edible goodies inside.
The first pack is called Train Card. If you couldn't tell. What does this have to do with candy? Well, these packs are found in the candy section, and do have something sugary inside.
Each pack has two cards plus one pack of gum. There are several "food products" that exist solely to offer collectible goods. In addition to cards, there are small posters, figurines, and toys. The gum isn't special but it's enjoyable. The train cards are neat and I might just have to try to collect all 20 cards.
And here is Pokemon Wafer Choco. What do you think's inside?
Why yes, it's a pokemon sticker and a chocolate cream wafer. Many small food releases are issued this way, mainly centered around anime. The sticker I have uses a refractive coating, but I'm not sure if it's special or they all come that way. And frankly, I don't care enough to try to find out.

How's the wafer? It's edible. There are better ones that I got packaged with other cards, but I think these taste just about as good as the ones I remember having as a child from the grocery stores in America.

And that gum? It still has some flavor left after writing out this entire post, so give it a bonus point for that!

31 Days of Halloween: Japanese Twix?

I have one crazy sweet tooth. Why other would I be undertaking such a unique project? And the tangible thing I miss most from America is the supply of candy and other foods. There are plenty of substitutes in many areas, but peanut butter mixed with chocolate just isn't popular here. So Reese's Cups, peanut butter MnMs, and peanut butter Twix don't make their way across the Pacific. Actually, regular Twix don't either, although I've found those in South Korea. Go figure.
Sequoia is a chocolate bar made by Furuta, a name which I usually see on children's novelty chocolates. The packaging here is a bit more geared to adults, and I found two flavors: chocolate and strawberry. Seriously, Japan loves its strawberries. Shortcake isn't shortcake unless it's strawberry shortcake.
I managed to open one of the packages so perfectly I could have probably sealed it back together again. Should I be worried about that? Anyway, there are two wafers with a layer of chocolate between them, and the whole thing is coated with another layer of chocolate. These are a bit smaller than Twix, and there's a distinct lack of caramel. Otherwise, they are almost the same, right down to texture and crunch.

The chocolate melts quite easily though; it's definitely a comfortable room temperature and just handling the chocolates outside of the wrappers got me a bit messy. But after washing my hands I can write this post to tell you that these taste pretty good. Nothing special, of course, but if you miss Twix, you could probably dip the chocolate version in caramel and be satisfied. I might try that with peanut butter. The strawberry version tastes just like strawberry chocolate always tastes in Japan, mild but apparent flavor.

Now I just need to get my US candy fix somehow. Maybe Hong Kong or Singapore has some good import stores!