Taiwanese Oriental Brown Sugar – a Japanese karintou replacement?

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.

Will this work for me?

Do you know what it says? Is it an exact translation?

“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.

Taiwanese Brown Sugar snack

I should eat it every day!

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.

first look at "Oriental chocolate"

first look (and smell)

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.

Taiwanese Brown Sugar snack

a delicious trail of brown sugar snacks

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.

6 thoughts on “Taiwanese Oriental Brown Sugar – a Japanese karintou replacement?

  1. I have tried the black sugar before and I really liked the taste but I agree with you – you can’t eat too many at a time.

    I prefer to enjoy the black sugar in the form of a toffee like substance between salty cookies. You can buy them at supermarkets or night markets. The sweet and savory balances out and makes the perfect combination.

    • Interesting! I finally got a pic of the treat’s bag on the post. Would you mind taking a look? I’m curious if the name actually is a direct translation and if you’ve seen the brand before. And the sugar between salty cookies sounds amazing! Is the cookie similar to a sugar cookie thickness or more like a macaron?

      • It says ‘Taiwan Flavored’ and the big letters says ‘Black Sugar.’

        As for Uni-President, they own all the 7-11s and Starbucks in Taiwan. They also have a lot of products as well. Plus, they own one of the baseball teams here called Uni-Lions.

        The black sugar cookies I mentioned are similar to smaller Ritz crackers with toffee in the middle. The next time I see them [or buy them], I will take a pic.

        • Egads! Where did the last two weeks go?! Thanks so much for your help translating the oriental brown sugar packaging. And wow! Uni-President is quite the organization. Yes! I’d love a picture of the black sugar cookies. We just got a shipment of goodies from Japan and I asked for a Japanese version of the Taiwanese sugar. I’m looking forward to cracking open the package and seeing how they compare!

  2. Mmmm – when I was younger I always used to eat the sugar cubes(white) often sitting in the middle of the table in cafes and restaurants for adding to tea and coffee – the little packets you get now are not nearly such fun. These look absolutely delicious, especially as I love black treacle and molasses.

    • Ha ha! Yes! Those sugar cubes were around when I was a kid, too… as well as the packets. I guess when people got more afraid of germs, they were whisked away. And of course, I enjoyed munching on them, too. My parents love to tell the story about finding my little sister sitting on the kitchen counter munching brown sugar directly from the bin. Who knows how she managed to get up there in the first place along with managing to wrestle the large container out of the cupboard! Determination is a powerful thing. 😀
      I wonder if you can find this treat in Aberdeen? I’m not sure how common the brand is but I finally got a photo of the package posted.

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