Tuesday, December 25, 2007
The Lotte Snow brand Condensed Milk Milk Bar (strawberry flavor) is another one of those stratified dairy treats that put the Japanese at the forefront of quiescently frozen confections. Actually, this milk bar is a mix of quiescence and agitation caught in a moment of icy stasis. The outside is a classic sweetened ice milk - extrusive in quality, the ice forming crystalline columns of melty goodness. Immediately beneath that crust lies the delicately flavored strawberry ice cream, comparatively fluffy in its texture. And then there's more! At the heart is a liquid core of evaporated milk thick and oozing. The Japanese, once again at the cutting edge of ice cream bar design! Ah, but what would this sweetness be without the edge of bitterness that comes with eating corporate food? Snow Brand, founded in 1925 is yet another one of Japan’s mega-milk corporations. It's been questioned and called to task for production of its infant formulas, recommending them over breast feeding and for swarmy advertising campaigns around its flagship infant formula brand, Smart Baby. Plus in the summer 2000 it was at the center of Japan’s biggest food poisoning outbreak in which about 14,500 people fell sick and had to recall its Snow Brand milk products. Mmm, good.
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
OK, the big soft pillows by every konbini counter are calling your name. They're cheap and quite wonderful. And they are a fine introduction to the world of daifuku - filled mochi treats. Daifuku (大福), or daifuku mochi (大福餅) are glutinous rice balls filled (in convenience store cases) with anko, a sweet red bean paste - the favorite filling of many a stuffed sweet, whether made with rice, bread, or whatever. Daifuku can be filled with many other fillings. A notable and delicious variation are the ones filled with ichigo (fresh strawberries) surrounded by either cake, whipped cream, or custard - or all three. Daifuku means great luck. The word fuku means both belly (腹) and luck (福). It appears that the original meaning of big belly, referring to the filled belly-like nature of the confection (not the fact that eating too much will give you one) has morphed over the years into a bringer of good fortune. Not too sweet, they have the pleasant chewiness of the mochi itself, a glutinous rice that can be a choking hazard for the elderly and the very young and the ubiquitous sweet red mung bean paste, which is quite delicious. You've got basically three choices, maybe a few extra seasonal daifuku at the konbini. The plain ones, the mame or shio-mame daifuku, and the yomogi daifuku. The mame daifuku (豆大福) are the ones that have little salted bean islands attempting to pop out of the surface. Giving the daifuku the appearance of a little Dalmatian lump, they add a light saltiness and toothiness to the whole thing, bringing out and contrasting with the light sugary taste. The yomogi daifuku (蓬大福) are the green ones. In this one the mochi is colored and flavored with mugwort, a slightly bitter herb - a close relative to wormwood, the active ingredient in absinthe and vermouth.