[Snackshot!] Yan Yan – Solving Australia’s Dexterity Crisis

Yan Yan by Meiji – available at all good Asian food stores

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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.

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Peanut Swirl – May contain traces of maggots

Peanut Swirl – $2.40 from Breadtop, plenty of locations all over greater Sydney (except for Sussex St which has closed)

 

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This week sees us return to Breadtop for a Peanut Swirl. Now right from the start this snack has me in two minds. On one hand, I do appreciate the literal naming of snacks (see the Sascha Pork Floss Roll), but on the other hand, I can’t stand this new trend of turning verbs into nouns (or vice versa, as my good friend Bernard Black would agree). This time it’s going to come down to taste, so lets potter along in order to learn more about this snack shall we?

Firstly a few warnings. Those of you with nut allergies should not attempt a Swirl, and perhaps should even stop reading this review now, as recent research has shown that even pictures of nut based products can cause a mild reaction in some anaphylaxis sufferers. Additionally, the unique appearance of the swirl may require a bit of a leap of faith from new eaters, who could be forgiven for thinking the roll was covered in maggots, but anything more than a cursory glance would show that this isn’t the case (or at least that the maggots are now dead, providing an additional protein boost).

The Swirl starts as many similar snacks do, with a sweet bread roll base, which in this case is twisted prior to baking to give the swirled appearance. Next the base is covered in a unique nut mixture, unlike anything I’ve eaten before. It’s more pastey than crushed nuts, more crumbly than peanut butter, but is somehow reminiscent of both – no mean feat. On top of the nuts comes another swirl, this time of custard, adding a splash of colour to an otherwise fairly brown snack. Finally comes the small white worms populating the top of the Swirl, which luckily are nothing more than extruded noodles of milk powder paste, adding a welcoming crunchy finish.

The peanuts really are the heart of this snack. The unique sweet-yet-savoury flavour and crumbly-yet-smooth mouthfeel are a triumph, recalling features of many childhood snacks while still retaining a refreshing modernity. The subtle layering of flavours and textures completes what is a very satisfying afternoon treat. Minus half a point for the noun/verb thing though. 4 stars.

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Originality – Excellent

Execution – Excellent

Value – Good

Overall judgement: 4

Flossy Hamchez – For when one pork product just wont cut it

Flossy Hamchez – $2.60 from Barby, 2 locations in Haymarket (Sussex St and Market City)

In life, as in pork-products, two’s company.

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Author’s note: If you are reading this, you are one of a small minority of people blessed with the honour of being able to read this highly informative and socially important blog. However, dwindling numbers of visitors have caused me to reconsider my approach. After researching the successes of other major media outlets, I have decided to convert the blog to tabloid format, to cater for those commuters who find the broadsheet version just too unweildy. To take advantage of this new format, simply rotate your computer screen or mobile device 90 degrees to the right.

There comes a time in a man’s life when he feels that eating one pork based product at a time is just not enough. Luckily, the buzzing brains at Barby’s have their fingers on the pulse, and have created a snack for such a man, the Flossy Hamchez.

This snack is a throwback to the days of the once great Porcine Ingestion Group, who campaigned for years for mandatory minimum pork standards. The PIGs popularity peaked in the late 1980s following a heavy media campaign, but soon fell out of favour after a tell-all documentary revealed just how poorly the animals were treated. A number of snack purveyors, who had invested heavily in gaining ‘two-pork preferred’ certification, were left to cut their losses, and few have been game to combine pork products ever since.

Barby have bravely returned to the territory though, and have come out with mixed results. The Flossy Hamchez combines pork floss, diced ham, melted cheese, tomato sauce, mayonnaise, and herbs, presented attractively in a plain bread bun. At first, eating the Hamchez feels like a flavour overload. Sauce is the first to tickle the tastebuds, then the herbs and ham hit you like a one-two punch. The floss adds a lasting chewiness and texture, but for the life of me I couldn’t find the cheese. I knew it was there, but it became obscured in the face of so many other flavours. If I had some advice for Barby, it would be to put the cheese on last before grilling, giving eaters enough time to savour some dairy goodness before diving headlong into pork paradise. All in all, a solid snack, but just doesn’t have the same appeal as other options. I applaud Barby’s bravery though in attempting a two-porker, and look forward to other eateries following suit. Three stars.

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Originality – Excellent

Execution – Good

Value – OK

Overall judgement: 3

 

* For those of you who were wondering,  I’m not counting the Nicky Sausage as a two-pork snack, as we all know frankfurts aren’t really meat, and if they are, we can never be sure what animal it came from. Most likely horse.

Smarter than the average Cheese and Bacon Roll

Cheese and Bacon roll – $2.00 from Barby, 2 locations in Haymarket (Sussex St and Market City)

Barby are renowned for pushing the envelope when it comes to snacks (see the Perfect Roll), so it was with some trepidation that I purchased the innocuously named but outrageously shaped Cheese and Bacon.

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A perennial favourite at Vietnamese hot bread shops all across suburban Australia, the humble cheese and bacon roll has filled the stomachs of school children and shift workers alike for nearly four decades. For many, this is probably their first foray into the world of hot bread snacks. In their search for snack market domination, Barby have combined the familiarity of the cheese and bacon roll, with the uniqueness of an small vase of flowers, to create what could be the perfect gateway snack for new eaters.

Eating the roll took me on a rollercoaster ride of emotions.  Firstly denial – This can’t be a cheese and bacon roll, it just cant. It looks like an explosion! Then anger – What? Where’s the hidden boiled egg or chocolate chips? This is just a plain roll! It’s not fair! Then  bargaining – I’ll give anything for a tiny bit of pork floss, some corn, anything. Then depression – It’s over, it really is just a cheese and bacon roll. I don’t know why I even bothered to buy it. And finally acceptance – Actually, this makes a lot of sense. It looks like mushroom, but tastes just like a cheese and bacon roll. It’s going to be OK. This reaction is not uncommon, and is known in snack circles as the Five Stages of Grease.

When I reached the fifth stage, and accepted the roll for what it was, I found myself eating what is possibly the best cheese and bacon roll I’ve ever had. The bread is flawlessly soft, like a blanketing of powdery snow on a misty morning. A light crust on the outside holds the roll together, without adding chewiness. The bacon and cheese to bread ratio, a common downfall of the traditional variety, is just about spot on. Finally, a light smear of sauce and a sprinkling of herbs add the finishing touches and provide a welcome colourful variety to the protruding top.

Barby have succeeded here, in making a snack that doesn’t look out of place next to the Pork Floss Sushi Roll,  but at the same time is approachable and familiar, like the Salvo’s brass band at Christmas. But beware! – you’re on the edge of a slippery snack slope, soon you will be salivating for something more adventurous, and Barby are ready to show you just how deep the rabbit hole goes. 4 stars.

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Originality – Excellent

Execution – Excellent

Value – Good

Overall judgement: 4