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This Is Not a Shrimp: Extreme Snacking, Japan Style

A cow, a bird and an angry duck
Mark Mauer

Have you ever wandered the candy aisle of an Asian supermarket and wondered WTF is that? And who would eat it? We would, that’s who. Welcome to the world of Japanese processed sweets, where a treat that looks like shrimp might just taste like nuts. Where potato is a candy, and chocolates look like gerbil pellets, and nothing is sacred, not even the packaging. So grab a fork and join us for some yam jelly.

   

Mark Mauer

   

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A cow, a bird and an angry duck

     

Mark Mauer

   

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Pink wheat

     

Mark Mauer

   

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Ol’ blue eyes

     

Mark Mauer

   

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The Insane Clown Posse of Japanese snacks

     

Mark Mauer

   

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A cracker with identity issues

   

 TOHATO CARAMEL CORN

Mark: Let’s start with something that looks pretty normal.

Gendy: And by normal he means a bag with eyes and a mouth like a bird, or a gopher. Like the bag is eating itself. Sweet but not too sweet. Slightly powdery. But in a good way.

Mark: It’s good, but it’s probably because of the almond. His nose is an almond! It looks like shrimp, even though it doesn’t have shrimp.

Gendy: They also had shrimp and ketchup-flavored ones.

 

SUPER LEMON

Gendy: This is the stuff you pour down the shower to make the clog go away. It looks like a jawbreaker or a gumdrop.

Mark (physically recoiling from his own mouth): Ouuwwhwuwhwwhwwwhhhhh! Oouwuwwhh!

Ed (from I.T.): This is great!

Mark: The label says, “Oh! Powerful candy!” Once the horrible sour taste goes away, they’re not bad, but it’s tough going getting past the sour part.

 

LOGS

Gendy: Reminiscent of logs you use to build a campfire. It tastes like bread! What’s wrong with the inside?

Mark: They taste better than they look. It’s like eating packing material, like a very sweet Styrofoam. These would also be good giant novelty cigars. Amazon could use these when we order books.

 

CHOCOLATE IN BIRTH-CONTROL-PILL-SHAPED CONTAINER

Mark: Should we try the birth-control pills?

Gendy: Sure. It’s called Furuta.

Mark: All right. Doesn’t taste furut-y.

Gendy: It’s like a weird M&M, but it comes in a foil blister pack Great, now I can’t get pregnant.

Mark: It doesn’t prevent STDs, though. Well, that’s pretty boring. Someone’s going to a lot of trouble in packaging here for just an M&M clone.

 

MADE IN TAIWAN JELLIES

Gendy: Do we need a fork for these? They come in little clear, sealed plastic cups. No, seriously. Be careful when you open one — it squirts! It’s like air, if air were solid. And wet. It’s like solid, polluted air. Tastes terrible! Make it stop. It’s like smog jelly.

Mark: Oh, it comes with a fork! Two forks! . . . Auuuugggh. I can’t swallow it. It’s so unpleasant. Wait ... this is the problem, it comes with a dipping sauce. Hmm. The dipping sauce looks like honey but tastes like a household cleanser. The number of chemicals I’m ingesting all at once is making my head spin.

 

SOMETHING-C

Gendy: On the package is a cow, a bird, a horse and a very angry black duck. They’re at an art party and they’re smoking cigars. Or they’re drinking the Something-C. Hard to tell which. Are we supposed to drop these in water? Do they fizz? They look like smaller versions of Alka-Seltzer tablets. Or very large aspirin. But very colorful. Oh, by the way, remember when we almost bought and drank seawater? (It was 5 bucks and came in a tiny cow/man-shaped bottle. You’re supposed to drop it into rice. When we asked a worker at Mitsuwa if you could drink it, she looked horrified and said, “Oh no!”) Two tablets are dropped in water.

Gendy: No, it doesn’t fizz. But it taste likes cleaning products. Is that the Asian palate?

Mark: Well, Asians do seem to be a very clean people. Maybe they like their candy to taste that way.

Gendy: I can’t believe you just said that.

Five days later, Gendy finds that Mark is still eating Something-C.

Gendy: Do you like these?

Mark: No, but they’re made with purple corn and palatinose!

 

DESSERT PIE (GREEN TEA CRACKER)

Ed: Look at that. It’s adorable! It’s so cute. It looks like baklava.

Gendy: I think it’s meant to evoke that thing in the picture — it looks like cheese to me, like mozzarella with pesto. I kind of like it.

Mark: Oh no. (Disappointed sounding. Shaking head.) I don’t really like green tea, so I’m not crazy about this.

Gendy: Ed and I like it. There are only five pieces to a bag, though.

Five Little Boxes from Meiji

Gendy: Oh, it’s an assortment! I love assortments. Mmm, Coffee Beat! It’s GOOD. They even look like coffee beans.

Mark: Best thing so far. Actually tastes like real coffee and chocolate.

Gendy: These ones called Choco Baby look like the pellets that hamsters eat and rabbits poop. And look at the attention to detail. Meiji’s kicking ass. Ooooh, some have little stars on them!

Mark: Why only some? Brought to you by the obsessive-compulsive disorder candy company.

Ed: They’ve actually done something that makes sense here. Meiji company, the world leader in weird candy.

Mark: The back of each of the five boxes has a playing card on it. Collect all 52 empty boxes to play some poker. Good luck shuffling.

 

YAM STARCH DESSERT

Mark: These come in straws, and you squeeze out the jelly.

Gendy: I hate it, but I’m eating it.

Ed: That’s pretty much the company slogan.

Mark: No yams were harmed in the making of this dessert.

 

DRIED KELP AND BONITO STRIPS

Mark: These look like green strips of plastic that are harder, tougher and more durable than a surgical plaster.

Gendy: Oh my god, no! I say no to the kelp!

Mark (spitting): I thought this one would be a good half-way point in the taste test. Like a salty thing to cut through the sugar.

Gendy: I don’t think we’re eating these right. You’re supposed to do something else to it – maybe boil it?

 

RE-MENT TOY BAGEL DISPLAY

Mark: This is really beautifully designed candy. It doesn’t even look real. Oh, wait a minute — maybe it’s not.

Gendy: This isn’t candy, it’s little tiny toy food.

Pandora Young, assistant to the editor in chief and Barbie performance artist, arrives and discusses, in extreme detail, her collection of teeny-tiny plastic food, explaining how to set up the plastic food, and how she has this same thing in a doughnut version and how it comes with a menu.

Gendy: You know, Pandora, if you weren’t here, Mark would be eating this toy food right now.

Mark: It was in the candy aisle — of course, I thought you could eat it. I’d have probably choked to death by now.

 

PLUM & POTATO HARD CANDY

Mark: These are tiny purple spheres that also look like they could cause a — what’s the legal term? — choking hazard.

Gendy: They look like BBs or shotgun pellets. These are good! You can really taste the plum.

Mark: Or, if there are any superheroes around, you can throw these at them, and they’d slip and fall. Supervillains love these. They taste pretty good.

 

PUDDING SNACK

Mark: I was worried this was going to be another eat-with-a-fork messy jelly thing, but they’re individually wrapped and not jelly-like at all.

Gendy: These are good! They really taste like pudding.

Ed:Mmm. They look like cute little flans!

Mark: These are really good. I wish I wasn’t already feeling ill so I could have more.

 

STRAWBERRY WHEAT SNACKS

Gendy: This company took Sugar Smacks and repackaged them in Japanese packaging.

Mark: And turned them strawberry! I’m sure if we had milk, it would turn the milk pink. And frankly, I’m pretty glad we don’t have to actually see any pink milk right now.

Gendy: So this is basically just breakfast cereal. It’s really good, and it’s a nice shade of pink. Not as sweet as Sugar Smacks.

 

ANGRY CLOWN MASK SPICY RING CHIPS

Mark: These are the Insane Clown Posse of Japanese snack foods.

Gendy: I think they’re more of a Mexican wrestling mask. Mmm! Crunchy.

Mark: Very crunchy, and pretty spicy too. They look like little calamari rings, or little gear sprockets, like you could use them to build a spicy machine.

Gendy: The ingredients say they actually contain three different peppers.

Mark: Thumbs-up!?

Also read "Little Tokyo's Cheap Thrills" by Gendy Alimurung.


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