One of my favorite treats from Japan is karintou or crunchy, brown sugar blobs that look like, well, poop! Despite a substandard appearance, they really are delicious. Wouldn’t it be great to find these glorious snacks closer to home in Canada?
There are a few Asian food stores in our city and I thought at least one would sell karintou. So far we’ve had no luck, but Hitoshi found a possible stand-in while we continue looking.
“Use this great product regularly as part of your everyday diet.”
In Canada, strict labeling rules mean that imported food often has a very hard-to-remove white and black label slapped somewhere on the back of the package. Peeling, scraping or otherwise removing these labels can reveal gold, whether it’s interesting translations, delightful sales pitches for a different market or reading practice in another language.
My little bag of Uni-President Brown Sugar didn’t disappoint. While the bag proudly proclaimed the contents vegetarian on the front, the back was where the real fun lay.
I learned that this brown sugar snack is known as “oriental chocolate”. Not only was the snack I was about to consume “wholesome”, but it also “inspires spirit”. As a woman, I could join the crowd in proclaiming the value of brown sugar’s “trace elements”. I felt connected and happier already.
What is “oriental chocolate” really like?
After tearing open the little, black bag, the smell of molasses was almost overpowering. Despite not being a fan of black treacle, I persevered.
While the little blobs looked a little like Japanese karintou, they were smaller and reminded me of knobbly pebbles.
On first bite, the sugar had firm resistance but it then dissolved. It was like eating sugar (not surprisingly).
The taste was slightly bitter with an umbrella of raw sweet. By now, the molasses flavour was closer to medium and more tolerable. After chewing for a bit, black licorice candy came to mind.
While I’m not a coffee drinker, I figure these might complement. The back of the package suggests eating them with tea.
One at a time was best. The density and flavour were unpleasant when I tried munching on a small handful at once.
If you hadn’t already guessed, the main ingredients are Taiwanese cane sugar and molasses.
Do we have a winner?
Oriental Brown Sugar is not a replacement for Japanese karintou. But, it is a good snack that I would buy again.
I don’t recall ever seeing it in Japan but Hitoshi says he’s had it many times. If you are in Japan, share your thoughts if you’ve seen or tried it.
If you’re in/from/have visited Taiwan and know about the Uni-President brand or simply brown sugar snacks, fill me in! I’d love to know if there are a range of qualities and kinds or other interesting features.