Monday, June 15, 2009


Oyatsu seems to the company that takes the most pride in the recycling of seconds from the factory floor and turning it into junk food. On their website they happily promote the concept of "re-born" food.

Their big brand of packaged snackables is the Baby Star line of chips. Reforming and repackaging the remains from the manufacture of their instant ramen they launched the brand in 1959. From that time, they've taken this highly successful "noodle" chip, adding different "seasonal" flavors to keep consumers coming back over and over again for more.

ベビースタードデカイ焼そば夏しお (Baby Star Dotekai Yakisoba Natsu Shio) is an early summer rainy season chip that hit the shelves in June. Little sailor boy, Captain Beichan - a variation on their Beichan and Bichan vaguely Chinese kewpie doll mascots - smiles from the package, announcing a world of wet summer fun.

The chips themselves are thin little ribbons of crisp fried wheat noodle dough - this one gussied up with the vague taste of squid. All things considered, they're innocuous enough, crispy crunchy, not too salty, just squiddy enough and fairly enjoyable.

Japanese food culture has been brilliant in the recycling of food products. Look at the humble soybean, for example, and the myriad variation on this legume. The process of making tofu leaves several by-products - tonyu (the milk), okara (the leftover pulp) and yuba (the skin) - all adding more to an already remarkable cuisine. It's no wonder one of Oyatsu's main marketing ideas is in the idea of using everything, leaving no waste - which fits perfectly into national self-identification by the Japanese of mottainai (もったいない) culture, the culture of thrift.