This Is Not a Shrimp: Extreme Snacking, Japan Style
Have you ever wandered the candy aisle of an Asian supermarket and wondered WTF is that? And who would eat it? We would, thats 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.
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A cow, a bird and an angry duck
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Ol blue eyes
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The Insane Clown Posse of Japanese snacks
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A cracker with identity issues
TOHATO CARAMEL CORN
Mark: Lets 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: Its good, but its probably because of the almond. His nose is an almond! It looks like shrimp, even though it doesnt have shrimp.
Gendy: They also had shrimp and ketchup-flavored ones.
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, theyre not bad, but its tough going getting past the sour part.
Gendy: Reminiscent of logs you use to build a campfire. It tastes like bread! Whats wrong with the inside?
Mark: They taste better than they look. Its 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. Its called Furuta.
Mark: All right. Doesnt taste furut-y.
Gendy: Its like a weird M&M, but it comes in a foil blister pack Great, now I cant get pregnant.
Mark: It doesnt prevent STDs, though. Well, thats pretty boring. Someones 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! Its like air, if air were solid. And wet. Its like solid, polluted air. Tastes terrible! Make it stop. Its like smog jelly.
Mark: Oh, it comes with a fork! Two forks! . . . Auuuugggh. I cant swallow it. Its 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 Im ingesting all at once is making my head spin.
Gendy: On the package is a cow, a bird, a horse and a very angry black duck. Theyre at an art party and theyre smoking cigars. Or theyre 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. Youre 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 doesnt 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 cant 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 theyre made with purple corn and palatinose!
DESSERT PIE (GREEN TEA CRACKER)
Ed: Look at that. Its adorable! Its so cute. It looks like baklava.
Gendy: I think its 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 dont really like green tea, so Im 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, its an assortment! I love assortments. Mmm, Coffee Beat! Its 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. Meijis kicking ass. Ooooh, some have little stars on them!
Mark: Why only some? Brought to you by the obsessive-compulsive disorder candy company.
Ed: Theyve 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 Im eating it.
Ed: Thats 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 dont think were eating these right. Youre supposed to do something else to it maybe boil it?
RE-MENT TOY BAGEL DISPLAY
Mark: This is really beautifully designed candy. It doesnt even look real. Oh, wait a minute maybe its not.
Gendy: This isnt candy, its 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 werent 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. Id 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 whats 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 theyd slip and fall. Supervillains love these. They taste pretty good.
Mark: I was worried this was going to be another eat-with-a-fork messy jelly thing, but theyre 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 wasnt 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! Im sure if we had milk, it would turn the milk pink. And frankly, Im pretty glad we dont have to actually see any pink milk right now.
Gendy: So this is basically just breakfast cereal. Its really good, and its 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 theyre 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.
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