SKC Abroad: Japanese Snacks

When you think of typical American snacks, Goldfish, Cheetos, Pringles, Oreos, Rice Krispies, and Milanos come to mind. Typical. Pedestrian, even.

The Japanese have taken snack food to a whole new level.

I think the most interesting aspects of Japanese snacks is the abundance of choice. Consumers dig the limited time products and companies come out with unique seasonal flavors throughout the year. They keep things exciting. The Japanese snack industry also uses unusual ingredients in its snack foods. They don’t just combine vanilla and chocolate, or salt on some chips but rather bring in different spices or textures into the mix to make snacks interesting and different. They capitalize on distinct shapes and fun characters to give the snack its individual personality. Though they may not be your healthiest option of foods, hey a little snacking never hurts.

**Top 8 Japanese Snacks**

1. Best Overall Snack: Pocky
Pocky is by far the most famous Japanese snack. The traditional version is a thin pencil-sized biscuit stick coated in creamy milk chocolate. Since 1966, Pocky has come up with dozens of unique flavors. For example, Men’s Pocky is coated in dark chocolate for that “manly “bitter bite, while Strawberry Pocky is studded with tangy but sweet strawberry bits. While some start eating from the chocolate tip, others like to end with it. I recommend just nibbling right to the bottom. You can even race your friends! Pocky showcases seasonal flavors like coconut covered chocolate, kiwi mango, and honey and manufactures regional favorites like grape, melon, mikan (tangerine) and more! They even have a sister product, Pretz, whose famous “salad flavor” embodies the same fun concept with salty flavors. 

2. Best Alternative to Potato Chips: Calbee Sayaendou Crisps
Sayaendou crisps are virtually peas, in snack form. Sounds healthy! The green pods and are light and almost fluffy inside. Many are devoted to this authentic and distinct pea taste (Think split pea soup but snack-ified). The texture is unlike any potato chip you’ve ever had, which makes it a great way to transition out of  your potato chip rut.

3. Best With Beer: Kaki No Tane
Instead of snacking on mixed nuts with your beer, why not try Kaki No Tane, a popular bar snack? In Japan there are traditional savory snacks like okaki and senbei, which are air dried flavored rice crackers. Kaki No Tane consists of small seed shaped rice crackers flavored with soy sauce and chili flakes, combined with creamy salty peanuts that balance out the spicy crisps. These will be sure to replace your bar nuts for good.

4. Best Salty ‘n Sweet Combo: Caramel Corn
Have you ever imagined a sweet cheese puff? Yes, they exist. Caramel Corn has the flavors of a corn muffin with the texture of a cheese puff with its crunchy exterior and airy inside. Merge all of that with the deep qualities of rich caramel. If you pop one in your mouth, they melt away immediately…and deliciously. This snack is a new textural experience that you’ve never had before.

5. Best for the Midnight Munchies: Baby Star Ramen
Ever wondered, late at night, what the ramen in your Cup Noodle would taste like… alone? No boiling water to steep the noodles? Baby Star Ramen is just that. Crispy noodles in snack form. Don’t doubt this delicious creation, they’re meant to be eaten as is. The original chicken broth flavor is by far the best but there new flavors like pizza, soy sauce, and spicy have surfaced. Even if I warn you that they’re highly addictive, it just won’t stop you from consuming the entire bag.

6. Best Fruity Snack: Hi Chew
Hi Chew is the most highly requested Japanese snack by my best friends, and they happen to be the #1 selling fruit chew in Japan. Texturally, if starbursts and taffy had a child, it would be Hi Chew. Chewy but not too chewy that it gets stuck in all of your teeth. With that said, those with braces, be ware. Hi Chew has a fruity center covered in a yogurt layer, two in one! This snack is most likely accessible via your local Asian grocery market. Green Apple is by far the best flavor.

7. Cutest Snack: Koala No Maachi
Koara No Maachi, or Koala’s March, is the most adorable one-bite cookie ever. You thought animal crackers were cute? Wait until you see these. Each koala-shaped biscuit is filled with creamy milk chocolate. Absolutely delicious. The outside is perfectly crunchy and then you get to this slightly hollow yet silky smooth center. The biscuit-to-chocolate ratio is perfect every single time. There are hundreds and thousands of different koala prints, and you’ll never see exactly the same one. Dancing koalas, athletic koalas, happy koalas, you’ll find them all. You almost feel bad because they’re just so adorable…but not quite enough to stop you from gobbling them up.

8. Best Foreign Adapted Japanese Snack: Kit Kat Bars
“Gimme a Break Gimme a Break, Break Me Off A Piece of That Kit Kat Bar!” Remember that ol’ jingle from your childhood? You’ll really be asking for a piece once you discover what Japanese Kit Kat Bars offer. I first discovered the magical world of Kit Kat Bars when my dad told me about his campaign to find the most unique flavors for his coworkers. He’s come back from business trips with wasabi, apple vinegar, roasted corn on the cob, baked potato…I kid you not. Though there are some bizarre flavors that make you wonder if they even passed a taste test; some, like espresso, caramel macchiato, flan, chocolate banana sound scrumptious, don’t they? How about trying some of these exotic new flavor combos in that familiar Kit Kat Bar form? You may be shocked as to how surprisingly good they taste.

Megumi Sasada is the BGSK Ambassador and Small Kitchen College newsletter and article writer. She’s a junior at Colby College in Maine and an avid food-blogging (Every Last Morsel), Food Network-watching, nutrition-conscious acapella singer.

Originally posted on Tuesday, November 29th, 2011

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