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

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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

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

White chocolate Twix

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So yeah, I like candy bars. There’s no denying that. On my blog you will find quite a few different KitKats, especially from Japan. The other usual suspects like Mars and Twix don’t actually come in that many variations. Therefore I was pretty excited when my friends from Holland came over to China and handed me a bag of goodies including a limited edition white chocolate Twix. Exactly how limited this edition is, I’m not sure as I think you can buy it in supermarkets around the world.

Other than replacing the outer layer of chocolate for white chocolate, the interior of the candy bar remained the same. I love the combination of the sticky caramel and that crumbly biscuit. The white chocolate did impact on the taste though. Unlike other white chocolate products, this bar didn’t taste overly sweet. You could actually taste white chocolate, which was nice. In fact I would say there was an almost buttery yet slightly salty taste to it.

Fear Factor 0 / Taste Test – 7

Haw flakes

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Haw flakes is a candy from China that is made from the hawthorn fruit known as haw. Hawthorne is a small tree that grows around Europe, Africa and Asia. The Chinese hawthorn bears a fruit that resembles a red berry. These berries can be eaten raw, but are often made into a sweet dish, such as  these haw flakes.

The berries are treated and compressed into small discs the size of a quarter. Stacks of these discs are sold in supermarkets resembling a fire cracker. I tried some recently and found them to be very sweet indeed. It wasn’t exactly too sweet though, and you could still taste some sourness from the fruit as well. The interesting part was the texture. It was a little like eating old Play dough, soft yet crumbly.

Fear Factor – 0 / Taste Test – 7

Wood ear mushroom jelly

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A popular snack in China is a jelly cup. They have them in all kinds and flavors. Mostly fruity, but also coffee for instance. It’s a fairly healthy snack as it’s mostly water. At a local supermarket I noticed a cup of wood ear mushroom jelly. That must have been one of the weirded snacks I have set my eyes upon here in China. I just never pictured a jelly made from mushrooms.

Wood ear mushroom, also known as Jew’s ear mushroom, is a very thin, black and curly fungus that is used in China in many soups and vegetable dishes. It has a chewy texture that often balances out a dish.  This jelly cup was brown and see through, but with loads of pieces of the mushroom through it. Although the taste was slightly savory, I actually found it had similar taste to raisins or even sherry. I was a bit weirded out though by the bits of mushroom in it. That was just one step too far for me.

Fear Factor – 3 / Taste Test 6

Red bean scone

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Since starting this blog I have eaten a handful of red bean desserts here in China. At first I was grossed out by the idea of having sweet beans, but I have gotten over my initial shock. Now I think if I don’t have that waxy texture that beans have, I will be fine. So it happened that I picked up a red bean scone at Starbucks for a late breakfast.

Through the middle of the scone, there was a layer of red bean puree. This made sure that you had the sweet flavor, but not the off-putting texture of the beans. I thought the scone tasted perfectly normal to me. If anything, it was a bit dry. On top there was a handful of red beans that were left whole. To my surprise though, they also didn’t offer a waxy texture. They did look a bit shriveled. Perhaps they were dried like raisins.

Fear Factor – 2 / Taste Test – 7

Blueberry & raspberry Oreos

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Oreos used to be my favorite cookies as a kid. They were tough to find in Holland, and if I ever found them they were simply cookies and cream. These days more and more different versions are being released, especially on the Asian markets. In China I came across a blueberry and raspberry flavored Oreo.

Funnily enough the raspberry and blueberry weren’t mixed but used separately. One half of the stuffing was bright pink – the raspberry, and the other half was blue. We don’t need a Master’s degree to figure out what the other half was.

When eaten separately I found the raspberry side had a strong sour note to it, whereas the blueberry side was a lot sweeter. However, if blindfolded I would never have tasted either of those fruits. Simple sweet and sour. Eaten as a whole I can only describe the taste as chemically sweet, such bubblegum can be.

Fear Factor – 0 / Taste Test – 5

Fresh sunflower seeds

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As some of you may know, I don’t like nuts. At least not the ones with a nutty flavor. Therefore I tend to stray away from seeds as well. Recently one of my student’s moms offered me some sunflower seeds straight off the flower. I thought it would be impolite to refuse and had a cautious nibble. I was immediately swept away by the taste of flowers. Something you normally only find in really good honey. I always knew sunflower seeds to be dried and salted, but in hindsight it makes sense that they would taste flowery. It turned out to be a great discovery.

Fear Factor – 6 / Taste Test – 8

Raw herring

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When in Rome, do as the Romans, but when in Amsterdam do as the Rotterdammers. A typical Dutch delicacy is raw herring. People generally eat it with raw onions and pickled. In Amsterdam it is cut, but in Rotterdam it’s eaten whole by taking it by the tail and simply biting into it. I found myself in Amsterdam at a fish stand, but I still asked for Rotterdam style, as that’s the touristy thing to do. I was on holiday in my own country after all.

I have to say I was a bit worried about this as I had never eaten raw herring before. In my mind I thought it was going to be fermented or sour, but it was so much better than I expected. As I dipped the herring first into the onion and then into my mouth I found the flesh to be very delicate and very sweet. The tiny bones were so soft you could just eat them and the skin was not rubbery at all. It caught me by surprise how much I enjoyed it.

Fear Factor – 5 / Taste Test – 8