Takoyaki Roll – $2.60 from Fuji-Pan, Goulburn St Sydney (next to Fujiya Restaurant, 605 George St)
Long time readers may remember my first foray into snack takoyaki as a solid but otherwise underwhelming experience. Today I introduce you to another variation of the humble octopus ball, reimagined by those purveyors of strange snacks, Fuji-Pan. Without repeating myself too much, takoyaki is a traditional Japanese snack of small octopus dumpling balls, served at a temperature usually reserved for molten magma, and garnished with bonito flakes that dance like Swayze in the heat.
In a fashion one can only describe as unnecessary, Fuji-Pan have made what on first glance appears to be a giant takoyaki, around the size of a cricket ball. My stomach lit up at the thought of such a feast, and all the tentacular goodness within. On biting into the snack though, I quickly realised that this wasn’t an oversized dumpling at all, but rather a cold bread roll made to look like a giant takoyaki, complete with sauces and some fairly limp bonito. I would by lying if I said I wasn’t a little disappointed at this point, not the least because I was again let down in the temperature department.
Upon further excavation though I uncovered something unexpected – the roll had some sort of filled centre. Then the eureka moment – the centre of the giant takoyaki was in fact another takoyaki, like some sort of edible babushka doll. I quickly dissected the inside takoyaki in the hope of finding a tiny pea-sized dumpling, but found only a chunk of cepholapod appendage.
On the one hand, Fuji-pan have done something incredible here, in creating a snack wholly enclosed inside a giant version of itself. However, this doesn’t hide the fact that neither the core nor crust resemble anything close to the piping hot takoyaki of my youth, and the bonito flakes look more like me dancing than the late great Swayze. Another promising snack let down by poor execution. 2 1/2 stars.
Originality – Excellent
Execution – Poor
Value – Fair
Overall judgement: 2 1/2
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.
Nicky Sausage – $2.80 from Fuji-Pan, Goulburn St Sydney (next to Fujiya Restaurant, 605 George St)
While it is true that the Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder classic did describe Ebony and Ivory as living together in perfect harmony, they could just as easily have been referring to ‘Pork Floss and Girls’ Names’ (which rumour has it was the original working title of the song, but was later changed due to rhyming issues). There’s something about the sweet simplicity and lingering satisfaction of pork floss that lends itself to female nomenclature, and our friends at Fuji-pan obviously agree.
The Nicky Sausage is a creative little treat, consisting of chunks of hot dog, wrapped in a bun, and coated in pork floss. It doesn’t have the same facial appeal of the Tuna Dog, or brooding mystery of the Bacon Potato Goro Goro, but does have a certain simplicity and rotational symmetry that is pleasing to the eye. The three lobes of the snack come together as a sort of meaty Venn diagram, encouraging the eater to consider the bread, sausage, and pork floss as both singular ingredients and an intimidating snack triumverate.
The pork floss and sausage of unknown origin combo is brave, and most snack purveyors avoid mixing meats, but I think Fuji-pan are on to a good thing here. The rubbery hotdog chunks give real body to what might otherwise be a slightly insubstantial affair. After eating a Nicky I feel sated, giving me time to relax and contemplate my busy life, rather than greedily peering into windows in search of my next floss fix. A good, solid snack for any time of day. Three and a half stars.
Originality – Good
Execution – Good
Value – Good
Overall judgement: 3 1/2