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Salted butter biscuit ice-cream

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Haagen Dasz is known around the world, but in Japan they take things one step further. All year round you will find limited editions or seasonal items. When I visited this month there was a so-called salted butter biscuit ice-cream. I can assure you there was no hesitation this time.

It was love at first bite. The ice-cream was rich and creamy, but more pleasantly tasted exactly like a butter cookie. It is so rare to find a mass produced food item that doesn’t taste like it is laced with chemicals, but the good people of Haagen Dasz managed to pull one out of the bag. There were also some pieces of actual butter cookie mixed throughout for an extra dimension. The only reason I’m not giving this a ten is that there wasn’t really any evident saltiness.

Fear Factor: 0 / Taste Test: 9

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Chestnut chocolate

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Japanese food is very much based on what’s in season at the time. Even in fast food joints and supermarkets things change with the season. I was there in autumn and picked up a box of chestnut flavored chocolates, along with some sweet potato ones which I will mention later on.

I had made a dessert before with chestnut puree and chocolate, and that turned out to be great. The chocolate bar was filled with chestnut in the middle. As much as I tried to use my palette, I could not taste any chestnut, just chocolate. It was fine chocolate, but I was rather hoping to taste some chestnut, as that was what was being advertised on the box. Perhaps the sweet potato chocolate would fare better.

Fear Factor – 1 / Taste Test – 6

Grilled dried ray fin

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At the game meat restaurant Rice and Circus in Tokyo I ordered a portion of grilled ray fin. I had never seen ray on a menu anywhere, but in hindsight it could have easily been skate, which is a little more common. Still it was unusual in the way it was prepared, as it was dried first.

The ray fin came cut into strips with a side of mayonnaise to dip it in. It definitely needed that, as on it’s own the fish was quite dry. No wonder, of course, as it was a dried piece of fish after all. It wasn’t exactly as dry as beef jerky, you could still chew it without too much effort. It tasted just like any other white fish, which is to say just fine. I might have enjoyed it more if it hadn’t been dried.

Fear Factor – 2 / Taste Test – 6

Yakisoba sandwich

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On arrival in Japan it was already nearing midnight. I wasn’t exactly in the mood for popping down to a restaurant, so I just entered the nearest 7-11 instead. They had lots of cakes and other treats as well as a good offer of sandwiches. In amongst those, I found a soft bun stuffed with fried noodles, also known as yakisoba. The sales assistant started grinning and proclaimed it was his favorite, so it had to be good.

I can assure you that it was indeed extremely good. The noodles were really soft and fresh and were slathered in a wasabi mayonnaise that gave it a little kick. The wasabi wasn’t overpowering though, and the bread was hardly noticeable. It was so soft it blended in with the noodles. You’d hardly know it was there. This was unexpectedly one of the best sandwiches I’d ever eaten.

Fear Factor – 2 / Taste Test 9

Basil seed & tamarind drink

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Just the other week I found a chia seed drink, and this week I came across a basil seed drink. It does seem like drinks with seeds are all the latest rage here in China. I know many people cook with coriander seeds, but I had never actually tried basil seeds, not had I tried tamarind before.

I guess I’m still not quite sure what tamarind tastes like as the drink tasted quite generic. It was a little savory, and a little sour, but mostly tasted plain. The basil seeds made for a very interesting addition though. They looked like tad poles, and were soft on the outside yet hard on the inside. It was as if the outside layer of the seed had gotten softer from being in the drink. Interesting, yes, but I think I’ll stick to my regular fruit juices.

Fear Factor – 1 / Taste Test – 6

Citrus KitKat

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I have previously written about KitKats from Japan. When I recently went to travel there I found a great opportunity to buy some of these more unusual candy bars. One of the limited edition packs I found was a citrus flavored one. White chocolate was mixed with lemon, orange and a local citrus fruit that resembles a tangerine.

I wasn’t a hundred percent sure if lemon and chocolate would work, even though I had liked it before, but it most definitely worked. The three fruits blended into one sour citrus flavor, that I found was mainly just lemony. They could have easily made a pure lemon flavored KitKat. Having said that the lemon and white chocolate worked perfectly together. You got a shockingly refreshing lemon taste, without it being to astringent due to the sweetness of the chocolate. I would rank this my favorite of the KitKats I have tried so far.

Fear Factor 1 – Taste Test – 9

Gold leaf matcha ice-cream

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A new matcha green tea dessert shop opened up the other week at a shopping mall in town and I made a visit to do some research for my blog, or actually I just wanted to eat ice-cream. I case you were unaware, I like ice-cream. Green tea, now that’s still a little unusual to me, but I’ve grown to like it. Actually the matcha ice-cream is not the reason I’m posting this. It’s the big leaf of edible gold that they put on top. I mean, who eats gold.

Eating gold is not something you see every day, but it does happen. Mostly in fine dining desserts, and sometimes in a drink. I’ve had some small pieces of gold before on a truffle ice-cream, but this was a much bigger piece. As I went in for a bit, and my lips touched the leaf of gold, I could actually feel the texture of it, which I didn’t feel before. There is not flavor to it though, it’s purely for decorative reasons. Or decadent reasons if you prefer. The ice-cream itself by the way was perfectly balanced between bitter and sweet. Definitely one of the better green tea desserts I’ve tried.

Fear Factor 0 – Taste Test – 7

Hawthorn Fanta

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I’ve written before about hawthorn, a berry-like fruit that grows around the globe, but is mostly popular in Asia. In China this sweet fruit is often turned into candy. Recently Fanta developed a hawthorn flavored drink for the Chinese market that I was dying to try.

The drink looked different from regular Fanta in that it was colored red. Of course it also tasted different, otherwise what’s the point. This Fanta was a little sweeter and not as sour as regular Fanta can be. In fact I found it a bit sickly sweet, not sugary though, just naturally sweet. I’m not quite sure what would compare well. Perhaps if it was possible to juice a date you would come close. It wasn’t exactly bad tasting, I just didn’t enjoy it much either.

Fear Factor – 0 / Taste Test – 6

Salted beef tongue skewers

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I had tried ox tongue before at a Korean restaurant, where the tongue was very thinly sliced and then grilled on a barbecue. I had wanted to try again to see if I would also enjoy a bigger piece of tongue. On a visit to Japan I finally got my wish. After a long train journey from Tokyo to Osaka, I sat down at the counter of a yakitori grill restaurant and found an exciting array of chicken and other meats on the menu.

Among the options was a so-called salted beef tongue. When my platter of skewers arrived, one of them contained big chunks of tongue, covered in sliced spring onions. Funnily enough this time I had a completely different experience. I didn’t find the taste to be all that profound. I mean, it tasted of beef, but not as concentrated as I had had before. The texture, on the other hand, was much more exciting this time. There was something to chew on, without being chewy. Not like steak at al, but closer to the texture of a chicken breast. After two tries I can definitely conclude that tongue is a pretty tasty part of a cow.

Fear Factor 1 / Taste Test – 7

Seaweed chips

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I’ve tried dozens of different kinds of potato chips over the past few months, but luckily the guys at Lays keep on pumping out new flavors. This time around it’s that good old Asian staple, seaweed. Now, back in Holland I would only eat seaweed when it involved sushi, but here it’s often eaten on its own as a snack, or even as a chocolate bar and I’ve grown quite accustomed to the taste.

Usually my potato chips review go one of either two ways. Or I can’t taste the advertised flavor at all, or it’s only there in the first bite or so. These ones spun my review writing skills round and round, as the flavor only kicked in right at the end. It was nice to see flecks of seaweed scattered all over the chips, but I couldn’t really taste anything but plain chips until that last bite or so, when that familiar umami flavor popped up. Perhaps I should have shaken the bag before use.

Fear Factor – 1 / Taste Test – 7