Sunday, June 30, 2013

Evangelion Wafer Cookies, Japanese Gummies, and Doraemon Food Rement Models

I'm still writing away at my science fiction novel Neo-Ace Academy which is the main storyline for Exocrisis Blue, my mecha SF series.  Pretty tough to do while working a regular day job, but I do take time out to have snacks!

Evangelion Wafer Cookies - Young Ace Cover Illustrations
The cookies are pretty standard, but they are crispy chocolate goodness.  Not too sweet, but satisfying.  The box they came in along with the packaging was pretty darn nice and the plastic trading cards inside are very nice cover illustrations from the manga magazine.
Evangelion Wafer Cookies - Young Ace Cover Illustrations Box
You get 20 packets in a box.
The packets each contain one card and one cookie.  You take one a day just like a multi-vitamin to get that Evangelion fix.

Doraemon Food Models by Rement
These tiny little food models are always so detailed for their size.  This particular set is all about Doraemon (Ding Dong) the adorable time travelling cat / alien that is beloved through Asia.  This Japanese series was also being celebrated while I was visiting Tokyo earlier this year.  This set of food models has Doraemon curry, bento, ramen, cake, etc.  It is pretty darn cute and a nice addition to anyone's collection of food models.  There are 8 boxes inside the big box shown below.  They are blind boxes so you don't know which one you are getting, but generally you should have one complete set per big box.
Doraemon Box

Japanese Snacks / Ramen Loadup
I loaded up on instant ramen for a bit along with a bunch of other snacks for a bit.  The red and green packets of instant ramen are from Taiwan and are "healthier" as they are dried and not deep fried.  Lots of crackers and candy here.  Of interest are these very tasty gum and gummies in the photo below.  The gums are very fruity in flavour and the plum gum was very nice and tart with fruit flavour.  The sour grape gummies were tasty too.  Fruit flavours tend to be very intense and fruity, but not artificial tasting over in Asia.
Snacks and Ramen
Two kinds of gum, including Kirby!  and Grape gummies that are flat like fettuccine.

Limited Edition Doritos
Got these down at the 7-11 when I went to get a slurpee.  Not Japanese, but it is different.  They had limited edition flavours for Pepperjack, and Pizza.  Both were pretty good.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Menraku Instant Bowl Ramen

Today, I'll show you bowl noodle products from Menraku.  They caught my attention in the old Asian supermarket as they have localized their products in English to some degree.  Over the last few years I've noticed that Japanese food companies are becoming more aware of international sales.  Companies like Nissin are big international corporations with many different brands and subsidiaries that make noodle products for localized markets.  Like other big companies like Nestle, Nissin will have bought local food companies and then market under their umbrella.  This is the big multinational game that plays out with beer companies, beverage companies, food products manufactures, etc.  Fortunately there is still diversity in the market place.

Menraku has some nicely packaged products and come in many more flavours than these, including noodles with a disc of tempura.  I only had the three kinds on hand: a shoyu, a shio, and a tonkotsu flavour.  All were very pleasant to eat, salty of course, and the tonkotsu actually looked like a tonkotsu broth.  I'd say my favourite of the three was probably the tonkotsu, but the other two were good too.  As usual empty the sauce packets into the bowl, add your boiling water, and wait three minutes or so for some tasty noodles.

Soy Sauce Ramen
A very traditional flavour of ramen with a soy sauce base.
The soy ramen bowl.
Comes with a dry ingredient pack and a small sauce packet.
Ingredients are in.
Some tasty noodle soup.
Shio Ramen
Salt flavour ramen on top of the base stock.  Should be salty but it brings out the flavour of the stock underneath.
Shio ramen
There was plenty of corn, seaweed, and green onion.
Tonkotsu Ramen
This is pork bone flavour with a milky soup that has lots of rich undertones for savoury goodness.  While it wasn't as good as a fresh tonkotsu, it was okay for instant.
Tonkatsu ramen
The soup.  There were chunks of dried garlic in it.

That's all folks.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Pocky, Ramen Drops, Matcha Green Tea Japanese Chocolate, and more.

One of the wonderful aspects of Japan that you can get by visiting the country or going to an Asian supermarket is the snacks.  Chocolate is one of the things the Japanese do really well and they also have all sorts of more esoteric snacks.  Some of it is really a cultivated taste too (e.g. natto), but most of it is pretty tasty to a regular palate.  The snacks are rarely cheap when imported from Japan, and in Japan they are on the expensive side for chocolate, but they are cheaper!
Ramen Drops
These are hard candies with a ramen-like flavour base.  They are salty, sweet, soy-like, and just plain odd.  I`ll just say I tried it and never managed to finish off more than a few.  A candy that is not a candy and it isn`t ramen either.
Ramen Drops

Pocky, Pocky, Pocky
These iconic little cookie sticks covered with chocolate or another type of coating are awesome little snacks.  Anime characters are always eating them.  There are all types of Pocky and they come in all flavours from milk chocolate, dark chocolate, black sesame, coconut chocolate, strawberry, green tea, caramel, etc.  They have chocolate sticks, green tea sticks, regular sticks, thick narrow sticks, and even giant pocky sticks.  Not all flavours are always available as many are seasonal or limited editions.  So when you visit Japan, you`ll find what you can find at most konbini. All pretty yummy in one form or another.
Pocky midi.  Thick short sticks.

Regular long and narrow Pocky sticks.
Kit Kats
By Nestle, but very well adapted to the local market.  You`ll find Kit Kats in many flavours other than the regular chocolate.  In Japan there are regional flavours of Kit Kat that show off the special foods of the area, and there are even these gift packs of Kit Kat you can buy that have a small sample of each of the regional Kit Kats.  I couldn`t figure where to find one of these when I was visiting Tokyo myself.  There are also many limited edition Kit Kats.  Most of the flavours are pretty good and one of my favourites is the green tea that starts out creamy and ends with a nice hit of matcha.

When you are in Japan, do stop by the convenience store or a supermarket and load up on these different snacks.  There are far more varieties of chocolate than I can list so try as many as you can.  Long after your visit is over, you can still enjoy a bit of the country in the snacks you bring back.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

My Fun Craft - Japanese Candy Toy and Snack Box Collage Art (Evangelion, Gundam, Pocky, and More)

Over the last ten years I've been collecting just the front side portion of various candy boxes, candy toy / blind boxes, and other snack boxes.  Half the fun for getting something from Japan is the packaging and it seemed like such a waste to throw it away sometimes.  I really like the fact that the Japanese still use cardboard boxes for many of their products instead of just a piece of printed plastic wrap.  The product often looks very nice with the box too and it is a good way to promote the products.  Anyhow, over many hours, I made these collages out of the very pretty pictures of the boxes by gluing them to foam core board and was going to put the darn things up in the garage or some place where they could brighten up an otherwise dull wall.  There are probably a hundred different products in the pictures.
How many types of treats do you recognize?  There's Japanese Kit Kat, Pocky, Pretz, Melty Kiss, and other treats.  You'll also see tons of boxes from blind box figures.  How many of the anime series do you recognize? Some of the big ones are Gundam, Evangelion Sergeant Frog, and Macross.  I have my favourite poster out of the three shown below.  What's yours?  I'd love to read it in the comments!

Anime Collage #1 On each poster I tried to get a variety of products and types of snacks. 

Anime Collage #2  It was pretty hard to adjust all the different sized boxes to fit. Lots of cute mini-figurines in this one.  I really liked the Matcha (green tea) Melty Kiss

Anime Collage #3  I think this was actually the second one I did.  The Unagi (eel) Pretz was an interesting snack.  Those dessert Pocky are just deadly. Godzilla is front and center in this one.

I think my favourite poster is #2 for the variety.  What's yours?

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Canadian Rocky Mountains With Wild Critters, But No Japanese Tourists

I was up in Banff and Jasper National Parks on the weekend to attend a wedding in the wonderful outdoors in June.  June is still early in the mountains and you're taking your chances with the weather and temperatures.  I've hike a good chunk of the trails south of the Trans-Canada Highway and it is a very pretty place that I have had the privilege of experiencing.
Stayed at the Deer Lodge Hotel for a night.  This is an old vintage mountain hotel with character. No TV either!
Just a short walk away was Lake Louise.  You have a 50/50 chance of seeing ice on the lake in June.
Canoes on the lake with Victoria Glacier in the back.
View from Chateau Lake Louise of the lake.  You pay premium for rooms, but you're getting the view and the fresh mountain air.
Pastries for lunch at the Chateau. Baked in house.
Big cream puffs.
Dandelions down by the creek bank.  One of the earliest flowers out.

There used to be throngs of Japanese tourists that would come by bus tour to see the Canadian wilds and they are still here, but in far less numbers these days.  Did you know you could buy souvenir Pocky / Pretz with Canadian Maple flavour here to take back to Japan?  Best of all, it is giant Pretz or Pocky the size of a breadstick.  So go to Canada to buy Pretz sticks... wow!
Giant Foot-long Pretz Sticks!
Plenty of the shops in Banff have Japanese signs and there are even Japanese restaurants there.  In Banff, I'm usually going for the steak after a long day of hiking myself.  I'll have to post some scenic mountain photos one of these days, but on this trip I didn't post anything about Peyto Lake, Bow Glacier, etc., as they would have been fogged out.
Atmospheric photo of Crowfoot Glacier in the mist.  Snowing and blowing here.
The Icefields Parkway.  You're way up in the mountains.
The Columbia Icefields.  This glacier recedes every year.  Gobal warming for you.  You can take a special glacier buggy up onto the thousands of years old ice and walk around.  It is quite a cool trip. 
Another shot of the glacier.  Look at the teeny cars and RVs parked in the foreground.  The big pile of rocks and debris at the foot of the glacier is the terminal moraine where it leaves deposits as it recedes.  People climb up on this stuff.
We took the Icefields Parkway to return to Edmonton via a scenic mountain route instead of driving in the foothills and prairies. The weather was trying to figure out if it was spring or summer with a dash of winter because it snowed on us too! Still, the trip back was scenic when you could see through the rain / clouds / fog and we saw lots of wildlife.  I've seen my share of wild critters up close when hiking / driving through the mountains, but I don't think I have seen this much in one day.  We saw a black bear, bighorn sheep, mountain goats, elk with calves, mule deer, and a squirrel (yes, the legendary and elusive mountain squirrel).  There is no bear picture as I wasn't running back from the car to go say hello to Mr. Bear and take his picture.
Big horn sheep.
Big horn sheep.
Lots of elk and a fawn.
We have solar powered bobble / dancing bears in Canada.  Who needs the  Hidamari no Tami by Takara Tomy when you have bobbling bears.
Yoga Frogs in a Jasper Shop.
Mountain goat.  These guys are pretty rare to see, but they frequent this stretch of highway on the way from Jasper to Edmonton in the park.
Mountains near Jasper
Lots of freight heading towards Edmonton on the CN Line. Chinese containers.
 Thats all!  It was good to get that fresh mountain air and the car washed in natural rain.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Original Nissin Chicken Ramen - A Taste of History

The first instant ramen was manufactured by Nissin in 1958.  Instant ramen was invented by Momofuku Ando who wanted to invent a food product that was could be stored and be conveniently cooked up for the common folk.  He went through a great deal of trial and error before he perfected his concept.  I went to visit the Nissin Ramen Museum in Yokohama and learned all about the history of chicken ramen and cup noodle.   Chicken (aka Chikin) Ramen was a luxury food product when it was first introduced as it cost five or six times more than fresh ramen.
Chicken Ramen Package
Earlier this year I found Chicken Ramen at the T & T Supermarket for the first time and I bought a five pack just to try it.  I'd definitely buy it again if I had the opportunity as it doesn't show up on the shelves often - it is pretty rare actually.   Chicken Ramen comes in an attractive package and shows the cute little chick logo you see below.  They have made little stuffies of this chick and there is plenty of merchandise too at the museum in Yokohama.
Unlike many instant ramen, the ramen shows up in a disc.  There is also no powdered soup packet.
One morning, I just decided to cook a pack of these up for breakfast and mostly followed the directions on the back.  This ramen has the chicken flavour kind of built into the noodles - not infused but it is part of the noodles and it gives a subtle chicken flavour with a hint of smokeyness.  It is very mild and it was tasty.  They recommend you add an egg to it and let it cook in the soup while the noodles cook.  The noodle disc actually has a round indent in the middle for you to put a cracked egg into.  Very cool!  I cracked an egg into it, but let it cook longer than they recommend to make sure it was more cooked.  The noodles mixed with the egg were very nice and the egg gave it additional flavour and texture all in a good way!

Cooking chicken ramen!

More Ramen Posts

Nissin BIG Cup Noodle - An Instant Ramen Extravaganza

I think I've mentioned that I like Nissin instant ramen before.  Well, they have both nornal size cup of noodles and then they have the BIG Cup Noodles.  I'd say the bigger cups are about 1.5 times the regular cup noodle and they make for a much more satisfying fill for a lunch (don't forget a piece of fruit or some veggies for fibre!)  The flavours I'm covering today are the regular BIG Cup Noodle, the BIG Chili Tomato, the BIG Cup Noodle Curry, and the BIG Cup Noodle Seafood.  You can find most of these in Japanese konbini in either the big or normal sizes.  These are the common flavours and if you're lucky you might run across one of their limited time specials.  They are not cheap in Japan either, being over a couple of hundred yen, but they are like double that price (could hit $5 - depending where you buy it over here in Canada and I'd suspect in the USA).
I don't think I have ever seen these over here outside of an Asian supermarket, but I did see cup noodles in a 7-11 down in the states.  Just an interesting fact is that 7-11 is now owned by the Japanese subsidiary which bought out the American parent company  years ago.  No slurpees in Japan, but lots of other goodies at the Sev.
Three common flavours of cup noodle.
For my first of four cup noodles I'm covering, here is the common soy sauce flavour.  This is the classic flavour of cup noodle or oriental style in generic terms.  It is salty with a nice full set of savoury soy type flavours.  Like all cup noodles, you pour in the boiling water to the fill line, wait three minutes and you have wonderful noodles ready to eat.  Don't forget to close the lid after you pour the water in.  One of the things I like about the Japanese and some of the Hong Kong made Nissin cups is that they are insulated so you can hold the cups without that burning feeling!
Regular Flavour
There are ingredients like: big freeze dried shrimp (another wonderful Nissin innovation), pork, egg omelet, green onion.
After cooking, you can just see all of the ramen toppings on the top before you mix it up with the soup to make sure all of the flavours are spread out.  YUM!
My next type of cup noodle is the seafood flavour.  For the salty flavour of a seafood broth that the noodles swim in.  Another tasty product if you don't mind fish, but if you don't like seafood like clams, crab, anchovies, octopus then this isn't for you. 
Seafood flavour
You can see plenty of seafood ingredients.  No big shrimp though.
Rehydrated noodles with octopus, crab (actually pollock), corn, green onions, and more.
Now onto some flavours that you don't usually find over in North America as much.  The Big Chili Tomato Cup Noodle - with the snazzy tomato logo on the side of the cup.  Before I tried this one I was a little leery of it, but it actually tasted pretty good.  It isn't as spicy as it sounds and the tomato and chili powder give it a nice zesty tomato flavour.  The combination with the ramen noodles worked far better than I thought and I'd definitely have more of these.
Chili Tomato Ramen
You can see the tomato/chili powder, dehydrated veggies including tomatoes!

It made for an interesting taste with all of the veggies and tomato flavour. Plenty of ramen toppings again!
Now onto one of my favourite cup noodle flavours.  Curry!  The cup noodle curry flavour is a nice Japanese style curry flavour that makes for a nice hearty meal of ramen.  The curry is spicy, but not too spicy and reminds me of Japanese curry - no surprise.  Lots of flavour and noodles in this package and it is good.  When I was in Tokyo last I had curry udon noodles in a shop there and it was darn tasty, but had a different type of curry flavour (there are tons of different kinds of curry).  This reminds me more of the regular curry like Glico or some of the shops at the train station where it is all just tasty.  Not surprising that curry is like on of Japan's national foods.
Curry Ramen
Lots of curry powder.  Little red peppers, onion, pork, and dehydrated potatos, etc.
One of my favourite things about the curry cup noodle is the nice chunks of potato and pork in it.  Very savory and  yummy to make a satisfying meal.

Well, that's it for the big cup of noodle edition.  I don't find these too often at the market, but when I do, I definitely stock up even if it is pricey on the import side.  Too bad they don't have posts with smell-o-vision for the great aromas.

More Ramen Posts