I am not one to require too much of a reason to throw a mini cream puff party in the office, but Beard Papa‘s announcement of karintō cream puffs was a good one; so, I take the liberty of starting this spring snack write-up with our impressions.
If you’re not familiar, karintō are those things in the snack aisle or local dagashi-ya (sweet shop) that look like dirty twigs. The dirt, however, is brown sugar and the twig is best explained as “fried.” Not fried “something” but just . . . fried. The main ingredient besides sugar is flour, and they’re crunchy like cookies despite being cooked like doughnuts. By the time you get that far, it’s only a couple leaps to the cream-puff idea.
The website copy calls it a “masterpiece confection that can be confidently recommended to karintō fans since it captures the flavor of the real thing.” Here are some comments from our tasting panel . . .
Mark: “The mega sugar hit is almost too much, but the consistency of the cream — not too light or gooey — is perfect. What makes them great is the crunch of the karintō, and I doubt they’ll get soggy and limp like the regular cream puffs.”
Rina: “It was really tasty! The outside is crunchy, but inside it’s smooth and creamy, so it’s a good combination.”
Andrew: “These are bound to be a hit with Japanese folks nostalgic for a corner-store sugar rush.”
Mizuho: “There wasn’t enough. I want to eat more! If you eat a couple karintō, you’ll want to keep eating and be unable to stop. In that way, this was very true to [the real thing].”
Alan: “This cream puff is full of yumz!”
Kate: “I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy to be a guinea pig! I was a little bit concerned with the aesthetics of its look, since my mind drew a parallel with a certain brown substance, but the taste was worth ‘the risk’!”
By the way, if you are wondering what the flecks are in the cream, they’re azuki (red beans)! An appropriate extra, but hardly noticeable in the overall caramel-y sweetness. For me, the overwhelming impression was the nostalgic taste of pancakes with syrup. The cream gives it that buttery finish. I wonder if eating karintō themselves dipped in whipped cream would produce a similar effect . . .
Beard Papa will pack your puffs with cooling pouches, so they are definitely transportable to your favorite blossom viewing location.
Here are some other snacks that might be fun under the cherry trees:
Ghana chocolate-covered Kappa Ebisen? These limited-time-only shrimp chips are not new, but they are rather elusive in the konbini wild. It’s possible that someone in your hanami party might be impressed with your hunting and purchasing skills if you bring them, but it’s also possible that you open the bag and no one takes a bite. The shrimp flavor is mostly eclipsed by the chocolate coating at first, but there is a bit of a hazy aftertaste.
Who or what is The Poterican? Koikeya‘s latest potato chips boast “American taste” and a wavy shape. Don’t let the hokey, red-nosed sheriff mascot stand between you and the “Sour Cream Onion” and “Cheddar Cheese” flavors, if they’re your kind of thing. Before that, though, take a moment to place your tongue firmly in cheek to applaud the website copy (an example of which can only be fully appreciated in Japanese): サワークリームの濃厚なコクと、さっぱり酸味がオニオンの香りとマッチしてＳＯＯＯＯ ＧＯＯＯＯＤ！！！ ＭｙワイフもＦＡＶＯＲＩＴＥ（大好き）さ！(Translation: “The depth of the rich sour cream and acidity of the onion flavor match and are so good! My wife loves them!”) At least, they will go better with hanami booze than candy.
But speaking of candy, if there are kids to
sugar up entertain, Kracie Foods has a couple new items that might keep them busy for more than a minute. One is Pazuru Choko (“Puzzle Chocolate”). Don’t expect anything so fun as a solution featuring all the jigsaw-y pieces in the bag, but “You’ll find yourself wanting to put them together.”
Secondly, the Petitte [sic] series has grown. These tiny soft candies come bunched together so little fingers can enjoy ripping them apart and sharing. With flavors mainly consisting of fruit, it makes you wonder if a bunch of actual grapes or bananas wouldn’t accomplish the rip-and-share goal just as well.
Another new snack under the “Why not just eat real food?” umbrella is Calbee‘s asparagus-bacon Jagariko. If you were really serious about hanami, you might undertake the challenge of actually wrapping some asparagus in bacon, but in a pinch, this flavor of potato stick snack might be interesting to try since it’s the result of a Jagariko fan brainstorming session.
OK, OK, enough with the random munchies. It’s cherry blossom season for crying out loud, so we know what you’re here for . . .
Sakura-themed food and drink 2014 (an in-no-way exhaustive list)
•Craft beer made using cherry blossom petals from SanktGallen Brewery
•Spring Blossom sakura-flavored peach tea from Kirin
•”Melty” Sakura royal milk tea from Coca-Cola
•Sakura amazake from Morinaga
•Sakura tea latte and sakura cream doughnut from Krispy Kreme
•Nihonbashi Sweets sakura pudding with chunky red bean paste from Meito
If store-bought items don’t quite do it for you, take a tip from Higuccini (in Japanese) and make your own sakura-maple mixed nuts!
Finally, before you head to the park, check you local Don Quijote for the latest seasonal party wear . . .