Sunday, March 30, 2008


The old tradition of not wasting anything is still being kept alive by corporate giants. On one level, this is a good thing. The rapaciousness of living rich in the first world has created an epidemic of wastefulness. Though perhaps more concerned with the bottom line than virtue, milk, soy beverage, and juice giant, Meito, has created a whey-based line of refreshments with their Milfull Mix series.

And just in time for hanami (cherry blossom viewing) season, they've come out with a seasonal mix for your rehydrating pleasure after a long weekend binge under the cherry trees on your blue tarp. Milfull Mix 白桃&さくらんぼ (white peach and cherry flavor) is a perfectly innocuous mix, in a lovely pink carton, that may be perfect for a quick chug before having that next One Cup. Beyond that, there's not much to recommend it. It has a very mild peachy flavor, a hint of cherry (or was that my imagination?) and a very slight milky-ness. Reach for a Calpis instead. Or better yet - how about that last spider at the bottom of the sake bottle? Remember - don't be wasteful!

Monday, March 24, 2008


Generically, this snack falls under the larger kingdom of yukashi (油菓子), or "oil candy." It's a particularly oily variation on senbei. The cracker in question is the tsuna arare (つなあられ - rope rice biscuit) in the Great Value package. One can also find these wonderful little fries marketed under the name of hineri age (ひねり揚げ - twist fry).  Whatever one calls them, they are a brilliant piece of work. Not too salty, with an amazing crunchiness and an incredibly rich oily mouthfeel, they are a perfect accompaniment to anything with alcohol in it.  The astringent tastes of sake, shochu, and beer are tamed and soothed by the unctuousness of these bite-sized twists.  The hard serrations of these clever extrusions make for maximum crunch (more surface area deep fried = more crispiness).  A perfect mix of tradition and technology. And they're cheap, too!

ポテトチップス ハム&チーズ味

In the world of Japanese chips, there are three big rulers of the kingdom, Calbee, Koikeya, and Yamayoshi. Yamanoshi dances on the nuttier edge of chip tastes and flavor technology with such things as hamburger, buta karabi, Chinese stir fry, and yakitori flavored chips, so we reached for a bag of their "ham and cheese taste" (ハム&チーズ味) chips and decided to have a go of it. And by gum, if they didn't taste like ham and cheese and potato chips all rolled into one!  Hold the sandwich, I'll just have chips with my beer.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

CRATZ チェダーチーズ

CRATZ is a line of beer snacks - you can tell by the picture of the beer on the package - that are a mix of almonds and little crunchy pretzel-like sections that come in three different flavors, Cheddar Cheese, Pepper Bacon, and Krazy Salt & Chicken. A surprisingly infectious snack, they've got a hard crunch, overwrought flavors, tons of salt, and the mediating factor of natural almonds. Sampling the Cheddar Cheese (チェダーチーズ), the palate and the nose are immediately assaulted by an ur-cheese flavor and smell. After a couple of chews, though, sensory fatigue sets in. The flavor of cheese powder, salt, and flavor enhancers lend to overload that can only be balanced with drinking a lot of beer. Insidiously brilliant!

These little buggers are brought to you by Glico, the Osaka-based food giant that staked its claim on the industrial food landscape of Japan in 1919 when founder Riichi Ezaki discovered he could extract glycogen from oysters for use in confectionery production. Hmm. The name Glico is a glycogen shortened. They hit the market with their trademark caramels, but are perhaps most famous to westerners from Pocky, the fun candy sticks, originally made in chocolate, but now in myriad flavors. 

Glico hit the news big in the mid 80s with an unsolved mystery involving the kidnapping of  then-president, Katsuhisa Ezaki, by a man who described himself as the Monster with 21 Faces (かい人21面相). Ezaki escaped, threats of poisoning the candy supply, various other news-catching criminal exploits, and the self-immolation of the Shiga Prefecture police superintendent at his failure to capture the Monster (who was now being described as the Fox-Eyed Man  - キツネ目の男) followed. 

After the death of the police superintendent, the Monster sent his last missive stating:

"Yamamoto of Shiga Prefecture Police died. How stupid of him! We've got no friends or secret hiding place in Shiga. It's Yoshino or Shikata who should have died. What have they been doing for as long as one year and five months? Don't let bad guys like us get away with it. There are many more fools who want to copy us. No-career Yamamoto died like a man. So we decided to give our condolence. We decided to forget about torturing food-making companies. If anyone blackmails any of the food-making companies, it's not us but someone copying us. We are bad guys. That means we've got more to do other than bullying companies. It's fun to lead a bad man's life. Monster with 21 Faces"

With that, he ended his moment of terror and disappeared.
It is interesting though, that a recent ad for CRATZ shows an ostensibly humorous situation, wherein the consumption of these crunchy bits creates a shape-shifting in the visages of the happy snackers - perhaps a clue to one of the 21 faces.