Pretz by Glico – available at all good Asian food stores
For our second Snackshot I thought we should have a look at Pretz, another popular packaged snack from Japan. As with Yan Yan, Pretz bears similarities to a popular local snack, but brings some fresh elements to the table which I think Australian audiences will enjoy.
Much of my adult character was formed around schoolyard snacking. I have this friend, who for the entirety of his schooling career had BBQ Shapes for morning tea/recess/playlunch/little lunch/tiffin (circle the appropriate word for your region). By around the age of 11, this friend being a generous gent, would give his daily allowance of Shapes to his friends, which over time led to much discussion about barbecues, shapes, and snacks in general. We began to ask those great questions often faced by snack eater – What does a BBQ really taste like? Which Shape is the best? And which Shape shape is the best? Which is better – Chicken Crimpy or Dixie Drumstick? Can you hit that kid in the head with a Shape from here?* It was around discussing these questions that we became accepting of each others different opinions, and our friendship blossomed.
But we aren’t here to spend all day talking about Shapes. Enter Pretz, Japan’s heir apparent to the Shapes throne as King of Snacks. What makes Pretz better than Shapes? For starters, the shape. Pretz are long thin sticks which lend themselves well to sharing, storing, and maximising surface area. Shapes treat their shape as a gimmick, and there’s really only so many variations of a hexagon.
Second is the startling array of flavours, which currently tops 74 flavours compared to a paltry 21 for Shapes. And the flavours are wild. Are you ready for Asparagus Pretz? Hairy Crab? Blueberry Cheese? Hawaiian Pineapple? French Toast? Probably not, but there really is something for everyone.
My personal favorite flavour, and the subject of todays Snackshot, is Salad Pretz. I like salad because like BBQ, it’s an attempt to turn an arbitrary concept into a specific flavour, that in the end has very little resemblance to the original foodstuff. The picture on the packet suggests a salad of tomato, onion, grated carrot, and two types of lettuce. The taste? Pretty similar to BBQ shapes really.
I think I’m a fairly well rounded person (in both life and waistband), and I owe a great deal to BBQ Shapes. However, I think the new kid on the block could take the social development of snack seeking schoolchildren to a whole new level. I urge school canteens/tuckshops/refectories/cafeterias across Australia to begin stocking Pretz, and watch on as our future generations rise up to become the leaders of tomorrow.
* My answers for those playing along at home – a) fire b) Pizza c) triangle d) Drumsticks, Crimpys are too frothy e) yes
Yan Yan by Meiji – available at all good Asian food stores
Author’s note – A number of readers have commented to me recently that this blog is becoming a little one-dimensional, and that limiting myself largely to baked snacks denies the world (and my snack swallowing stomach) my reviewing talents in other areas. After long consideration, I introduce the Snackshot, a new style of post which will be appearing regularly on these pages. These posts will be reserved for pre-packaged snacks, as sold in convenience stores and international food marts, which I have found myself frequenting more of late. There wont be an overall score, just a presentation of some of the hidden gems that make their way to Sydney’s shores.
There was a time when a packaged snack was more than just a meal, it was an activity. As a lad I would look forward to those summery school days when I had that most famous of recesses, Le Snack (now my French is not great, but I believe this loosely translates to ‘The Snack’). The dip-in combination of savoury biscuits and cream cheese required considerable skill to eat. Too much pressure and the biscuit would snap in half; too little and no cheese would be forthcoming. Le Snack, and other snacks of its ilk taught a generation of children lessons in dexterity, patience, problem solving, and foreign languages.
In this modern age of touch screen technology and on-demand entertainment, I worry that our children are missing crucial developmental stages. My regular correspondent and friend of the blog, Kindergarten teacher Ms Crocodile, informs me that the problem has gotten so bad that some children are now missing the fine motor skills to open even the simplest of snacks, and as such miss out on eating recess altogether. Compounding the issue are the Australian snack manufacturers, who have dumbed down their foods to match the limited skills of todays youth (what is an LCM anyway?) I fear the problem is way out of hand, and something must be done soon, lest future generations fully lose the use of their extremities.
To solve this problem, I think we need to look to Japan, where snack purveyor Meiji has given us Yan Yan. The snack follows the tried and true biscuit and dip combination, presenting a number of slightly sweet biscuit sticks along with a velvety chocolate cream. Like Le Snack, Yan Yan requires a deft hand, but the real inspiration comes on the biscuits themselves. Each stick is printed with the face of a well known animal, accompanied by a related quote. These quotes are sometimes unorthodox, but provide hours of wonder and amusement as each new stick is extracted and the quote is read. Eating Yan Yan gave me the kind of joy I haven’t experienced since opening my christmas presents as a child. Fox – Beware of lies? Genius.
So parents of Australia, if you’re looking for a way to give your child a head start in the rough and tumble of modern society, you have your tool – Yan Yan.
Walnutmeats – from all good Asian food stores
If you’re wondering, that sound you’re hearing is once again the sound of my hyperbole radar beeping at outrageous snack claims. This time, the beeps come to you courtesy of The Best Food No 1 – Walnutmeats. “But that’s a packet!” I hear you say. “I thought you only ate baked goods?” Well dear reader, snacks come in many forms, and limiting myself to the lovely yet limited world of baked snacks would be doing you, nay the world, a disservice.
I’m not much of a gambler. With my addictive personality, I fear that a few small wagers would lead me down a destructive path, ending in financial ruin and personal turmoil. I do like a bit of a flutter though, so instead of trading in currency, I use cultural ignorance. For me, gambling sees me head to my local Asian supermarket, buy an unknown snack with limited English descriptions, and eat it. As with regular gambling, sometimes you win (Yan Yan) and sometimes you lose (dolphin satay sticks).
Walnutmeats are the caramelised combination of walnut kernels, honey, sesame seeds, oil and glucose. Popular in both China and Korea (or so I’m led to believe), this “Super Quality Health Food” are a high density source of nutrients, including essential fatty acids. The snack is tasty, as expected, with a slightly airy mouth-feel. The crunchy caramel coating contrasts with the meaty centre, and leaves a smooth sugary sesame finish. As for The Best Food? Unlikely. No 1? Maybe not, but I’m definitely counting it as a win.