Review: Ma Po Tofu Calbee Potato Chips


Review: Sichuan-style Ma Po Tofu Calbee Potato Chips
Gifted & Reviewed: May 2016
Best Before: June 2016

As you might know I’m a big fan of Calbee’s potato chip offerings, particularly their various pizza chips, and so when I heard about their two new “Asian Collection” flavours (Tom Yung Soup being the other), I was curious, but resigned myself to not getting to try these very limited edition snacks. However just this past weekend I was lucky enough to receive them as a lovely gift from my good friend Debora Aoki, and so I felt I owed Deb (and all of you still reading) a real review, if not a quick one.

According to Calbee they used the flavour of Douchi (fermented soybeans) and Chinese pepper to simulate the taste more accurately–let’s see how they do!

Packaging: Really exciting, though perhaps a little busy. The Ma Po Tofu is well-represented with a bright clear photograph, and there’s a ton of writing (including a custom logo for the Asian Collection. The back is also pretty busy, but if you were a Japanese consumer with only a passing knowledge of Chinese cuisine, I’m sure you’d appreciate all of the explanitory info. Otherwise, it’s a standard foil bag.

Scent and Taste: The smell of the chips when you open the bag is pretty incredible! Big spicy chilles, a little acid from citrus? Pungency! It’s so promising! Unfortunately my first bit was a huge let-down because of how strongly scented they were. A single chip or two just doesn’t pack enough of a punch, and the flavour while very accurate is very mild and a little disappointing. But of course, these are chips, so you keep eating, right? And as you eat, their real strengths shine. The flavours build, the pungent, spicy heat promised at first suddenly arrives, and half way through the bag you’re almost ready to change your tune… Almost.

Verdict: Super interesting, and with incredible potential! But I think Calbee erred too far on the side of caution, and created something that wouldn’t scare away more sensitive palettes, which means missing the point of a good earthy, spicy dish of ma po tofu.

maptofuchipsphoto maptofuchipsinterior


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Review: Cinnamon Bun Lay’s Potato Chips (Canada)


Review: Cinnamon Bun Lays Potato Chips
Purchased: August 2014
Reviewed: September 2014

For the last couple of years, Lay’s Potato Chips have been taking suggestions for new chip flavours from the general public in the U.S. and Canada. Each country gets 4 new chip flavours, with one being declared the ‘winner’ and theoretically being made into a regular chip.

Previous chips included (U.S.A. 2013) Sriracha, Chicken & Waffles, and Cheesy Garlic Bread, (Canada 2013) Creamy Garlic Caesar, Perogy Platter, Maple Moose, and Grilled Cheese & Ketchup. Currently, the U.S. is running their second contest, featuring Cheddar Bacon Mac & Cheese, Cappuccino, Mango Salsa, and Wasabi Ginger. And here in Canada? Bacon Poutine, Cinnamon Bun, Jalapeno Mac & Cheese, and Tzatziki (winners in bold).

Why make this exhaustive list…? Heh. Honestly because we just never get stuff this cool in North America! One of the things I love about Japanese snacks is the diversity of flavours and tastes, particularly compared to North America. I’ve just been loving the hell out of these contests and getting a shot at tasting new flavours. Like a little bit of Japan back here in Toronto. So on that note, let’s start with the ‘weirdest’ flavour, cinnamon bun!

Packaging: Straight to the point, big clear image, easy to read. It implores you to vote too, which is great. Moreover, the designs on these special bags of chips are actually really clearly different than the regular bags on store shelves, with the white stripe down the centre making them stand out. All in all, a good move!

Scent and Taste: My husband did a quick sniff test and his head recoiled comically. These are STRONG cinnamon chips, and sugary. Amazing.

The taste isn’t nearly as strong unfortunately! I know it seems weird to have a ‘sweet’ chip, but these are loosely patterned after churros, a salty-sweet, deep fried cinnamon-dusted treat. I’ve had some great, fresh churros that have a mouth-puckering cinnamon dusting, and these aren’t those… but they’re still pretty good! The Lay’s potato chip taste comes through clearly, with sweet cinnamon on the tongue.

The strongest impression though, is a buttery mouthfeel. These chips are really surprisingly buttery, a sort of chip taste I’d only experienced in Japan. It compliments the cinnamon and sugar nicely. I guess that’s supposed to be the ‘bun’ part of things, but yeah, butter. It’s lovely!

Verdict: I was surprisingly happy with these! I don’t think they pair with literally anything but on their own, I totally dig’em. I wouldn’t be unhappy if these won the contest…!

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Hey folks, sorry about the lack of updates but I’ve had far less time to update in England than I’d hoped. It’s been a wonderful trip though, and I’m hoping I get to come back soon.

I should be updating next week, but in the interim enjoy this Kit Kat themed vending machine I came across at the train station! :)





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Review: Kirin Strong Sour Cherry Chu-Hai 8%


Review: Kirin Strong Sour Cherry Chu-Hai 8%
Purchased: August 2013
Review: October 2013

I know that I’ve become something of a candy hoarder since starting this site, though getting back into the review game is helping me break some of those habits and push some of these treats out the door. But if I can be honest for just a moment, I have NO IDEA how I managed to keep this can of Chu-hai in the fridge for nearly two months without drinking it. Chu-hai is awesome (in case you forgot: here’s a refresher review) and this is a Limited Edition flavour that I’ve never tried before! In fact, it was only available for the summer, and isn’t currently on Japanese store shelves, so… uh, sorry? I guess you won’t get to try it? Maybe it’ll be bad and you won’t have wanted to try it anyway, right?

(Aside: That is unlikely.)

Packaging: Sporting the standard Kirin triangle/diamond design that makes it harder for the can to slip out of your drunken hands, even with almost no English on the can the basics (STRONG, 8% Alcohol) are communicated, and that big picture of cherries at least hints at the taste. It’s actually a really sharp package, with a lady-oriented red/pink blush on the can, but the great big STRONG distressed type telling the gents that it’s alright for them to imbibe as well. This can of drunk is for Everyone.


Scent and Taste: The scent is incredibly strong, even for chu-hai. I guess the can isn’t lying huh? Seriously, I’ve described chu-hai in the past as tasting “like lemon paint thinner, but delicious” so for me to say that this is even bolder is a pretty big announcement. I’m even getting a hint of the sour, along with a heady cherry and white-grape-juice smell. It’s appealing.

As for the taste?

Strong, SWEET, a tiny bit sour on the aftertaste, but surprisingly it’s not nearly as potent as your average lemon/grapefruit chu-hai. It’s almost… pleasant… to drink. There’s still those low chemical flavours in there, and the bitterness of the low-quality alcohol, but it’s really effectively masked by the sour cherry flavour. Taking a few more swigs, I can taste more of the sourness at the back of the tongue, but it’s just like someone added “sour” to this, it doesn’t taste anything at all like a real sour cherry.

Verdict: That said, if I was looking to get a little buzz walking between my place and the train station, I wouldn’t hesitate to grab one of these from the case. It’s not quite as ‘put together’ as the standard flavours of chu-hai, but it’s an excellent addition to the family… Except it’s currently gone forever, so, uh, sorry?

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Review: Cheeza 77%


Review: Cheeza 77%
Best Before: March 2013
Review: October 2013

Well, we’ve dipped back into snacks that’ve gone past their best-before date again, but considering it’s an iteration of Cheeza that:

  1. I haven’t covered on this site
  2. Is no longer available in Japan
  3. Did I mention it was Cheeza?

I decided to just give it a go anyway. Just in case it’s gone off, I’ve got my limited edition STRONG Cherry Chu-Hai to wash it all down / kill the ‘active ingredients’.

To be honest, I’m actually a little shocked at how quickly Glico churns through Cheeza flavours. On my last trip, Cheeza Basil Camembert was no longer available, nor was the tomato variety, and there were only 4 months between that trip and the one before it! I guess if you wanna be a true Cheeza connoisseur, you gotta get on those flavours quick!

Packaging: I’ve been practicing my Japanese but I still don’t have much (any) Kanji, so while I could suss-out the flavour as Camembert (apparently their go-to cheese!) I needed to do a little googling to figure out what else was going on. Apparently that big 1.5 on the bag refers to the increase of “cheesiness” by a multiplication factor of 1.5, generating a powerfully delicious taste! One of those times that I wish I read Japanese, because if I read anything resembling “A Powerfully Delicious Taste!” on any bag of anything, I’d be prrrrretty likely to buy it. Oh, and that Googling also revealed that there were officially a ‘limited edition’ item, that stopped being sold in… spring 2012. So, 1.5 year old snacks here, folks!

Oh, and as always, the image, resealable bag, and dual-purpose design that allows the bag to stand up OR hang from a hook is genius. I wish other cracker companies in Japan were taking notes.

Scent and Taste: Opening the bag was like being punched in the face with rich, buttery cheesiness.

As for the taste, wow! Even a few months past their prime these crackers are FANTASTIC. You can really taste the cheese, and it really is markedly stronger and ‘cheesier’ than the standard camembert Cheeza. There’s also a buttery texture on the tongue, even though the crackers themselves snap and crunch wonderfully. It’s almost too much… It’s like eating a bag of parmesan crisps, where you just melt parmesan cheese on a griddle and then let it cool. I mean, that’s delicious as a garnish, but a whole bag of that?

Hypocritically, I am still eating them now, even as I talk about the possibility of them being ‘too much.’

Verdict: These are incredible, but they might have been the first Cheeza that I actually used the resealable package for, to save them for later. Of course, I didn’t, but I did share them with my better half who described it as “eating delicious butter,” so at least I didn’t polish off the whole bag. I think it’s a shame that these aren’t still available, they’re the strongest and most enticing cheese cracker I’ve ever had. Who knows, maybe Glico will cycle them back into production soon…?

(As for how they interacted with the STRONG CHERRY CHU-HAI, well, you’re going to have to check out the next review!)

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