I travel abroad expressly because my taste buds demand new flavors. Singular dining experiences are always on the itinerary - but an equally important element of any well-rounded gastronomic adventure is eating what the average person might consume on any given day. And what could be more democratic than roaming the aisles of a local convenience store?
If one country has snack aisles that I long for more than any other culinary destination on this planet, it’s Japan. But with Japan still closed to foreigners, even as they prepare for the 2021 Summer Olympics (formerly known as the 2020 Summer Olympics), we must turn to alternate solutions. To cure my fairly acute case of what the Japanese call kuchisabishii, a word that directly translates to “lonely mouth” or “longing to have or put something in one’s mouth,” I’ve turned to the world of Japanese snack box subscriptions.
My mouth, soon to be cured of its loneliness, recently received a box of 17 snacks from the monthly subscription service Tokyo Treat. This cornucopia of treats included some sweet, savory, crunchy, chewy, and liquidy items, all of which were categorized as either “premium” or “classic.” As far as I can tell, however, these designations had little bearing on the quantity or quality of the snack.
The box also included a pamphlet providing a mini description of each snack, and I recommend keeping that pamphlet because, if you’re like me, you’ll graze through this box over the span of a few weeks. Without the pamphlet or a good grasp of Japanese, you might be confused as to what you just popped into your mouth. Take, for example, one snack I tried with the shape of a pool noodle and the texture of a cheese puff. It was, surprisingly (and deliciously) pollock flavored. Rich in umami and deeply savory, this was a very satisfying five-bite snack.
Each month also features a full-sized beverage, and the one I received was Cheerio Kiss Choco Mint Soda, which tasted a bit like if an Andes Mint and a cream soda had a baby. Admittedly, this is the item in the box that I was least enthused about, but I could see a certain enclave of people enjoying it. If you enjoy Junior Mints, mint chip ice cream, or anything of this ilk, this might be the beverage for you.
Another premium item in the box was a bag of Kit Kat Whole Grain Biscuits - and the boring, “healthy” sounding name betrays how sublime these were. The Kit Kat’s white chocolate exterior has some pleasant caramel notes, while the biscuit inside provides a nice textural change from the normal wafer (while still remaining Kit Kat-esque).
There were also some truly singular items including Fish & Chips flavored Pringles, (which didn’t shy away from the fish flavor), Texas Corn Potage Snacks (crunchy little corn puffs that taste uncannily like corn-and-potato soup), and two perfectly bronzed, bite-size Maple Syrup Hot Cakes. While Japan has become known for fluffy souffle-style pancakes, these little cream-filled treats are closer to traditional dorayaki, and they’re perfect with an afternoon cup of coffee.
Overall, the treats in my box ranged from tasty enough to incredibly delicious. But no matter where they landed on that scale, they all brought a level of entertainment and novelty regardless of craveability. So if you’re longing for the adventure of new taste sensations, Tokyo Treat will definitely bring some novelty to your normal snacking routine.
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