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.
The Perfect Roll – $2.70 from Barby, 2 locations in Haymarket
Banana. Chocolate. Bread roll. Grated cheese. I knew I was going out on a limb with this one, but it had to be done.
My hyperbole radar was flashing wildly as I wandered into Barby, and found what they claim to be The Perfect Roll. To add to my alarm, I noticed that this was one of those snacks I have coined a ‘fence sitter’, one that can’t decide if it wants to be sweet or savoury, so attempts both at the same time. I often find that these snacks tend either towards excellence or oblivion, as there’s little margin for error when two worlds collide.
Despite the unorthodox choice of ingredients, the snack had promise. Sweet and savoury are fast becoming friendly bedfellows, as demonstrated by the rise of salted caramel. The Perfect Roll however, suffers from a lack of execution, rendering it far from perfect.
The chocolate, coating the banana, appears to be a form of compound cooking chocolate, a big no-no in my books. This does allow it to remain solid at room temperature, but at the expense of taste and texture. On the other hand, the grated cheese used seems to be real block cheese. This seems a positive step, until you realise that grated cheese when left out in the air quickly hardens and becomes oily. The resultant roll is edible, but I wouldn’t go much further than that. Not my idea of perfection. 2 stars.
Originality – Excellent
Execution – Poor
Value – Fair (if you’re into that sort of thing)
Overall judgement: 2
Choc-pecan turtle – ~$2.50 from The Fudge Shop
Now I’m no biologist, but I’ve seen a few turtles in my time. And none of them looked much like my most recent snacquisition, the choc-pecan turtle. To see if I was missing something, I turned to the internets, and discovered that ‘turtle candies get their name from their whimsical turtle shape’. It seems that once in the distant past, the snack we speak of did resemble our reptilian friend, but the people these days seem to have forgotten. For a more lifelike example, check out my good friend The Certified Pastry Aficionado (who’s certification I’m yet to see, but her recipes are good).
The turtle, as it exists today, is a combination of pecans, caramel, and chocolate. Ideally the caramel should be soft enough to bite through, but hard enough to hold everything together, so softer than a Fantale, but chewier than a Caramello Koala. The Fudge Shop, in the Harbourside mall at Darling Harbour sell three varieties of turtles, a no choc-all caramel, a white chocolate, and the classic chocolate, which is the subject of my judgement today.
Before eating my turtle, I was excited. Someone had combined my favourite nut with my favourite sweet, then covered it in chocolate. The stage was set for great new heights, or snack disappointment. On first bite, the chocolate cracked, the caramel squished, and the pecans crumbled, the perfect outcome. This is one of the best examples of caramel I’ve ever eaten, the perfect level of chewiness. Chocolate was nothing to write home about, but didn’t let the snack down. A good amount of pecans balanced the snack, cutting through the sweetness. A solid effort, but they need to work on the whimsy. Four stars.
Originality – Good
Execution – Good, but needs more turtle
Value – Excellent
Overall judgement: 4