A while back I stumbled upon a story about Japanese Kit Kats on the NPR blog. Kit Kats in Japan go way beyond chocolate. Part of it may be due to the fact that the shelves on the super-popular convenience stores are very precious real estate, and they must entice shoppers with new and original merchandise at all times. Moreover, Japanese seem to love ‘limited edition’ anything, so Nestle Japan has been constantly coming up with surprising flavors. At NPR a panel comprised of Steve Inskeep and Lourdes García-Navarro, among others, tasted some of these Kit Kats. The comments were fairly negative, but my curiosity chain had already been rattled. I am pretty adventurous when it comes to food, and I love trying new things, especially if that new thing is candy. As for the negative comments, it has been my experience that whenever you take certain people out of their food “safe zones”, they feel as comfortable as a hippie at a gun show. So I made it my mission to find Japanese Kit Kats and judge by myself.
I looked for them online. I asked for them at Asian stores. I went to Japantown in San Francisco. It didn't matter: I came out empty handed…
Fortunately, I had a plan B: my good friend Mitsy. Her job brings her to California a few times a year, so I asked her if she could get some of those precious Kit Kats on her next trip. She did, and damn be NPR, they were delicious, every single one of them.
From the top, soy sauce, wasabi, citrus and green tea.
The soy sauce Kit Kat tasted more like maple syrup. I wouldn't mind having it every day.
The wasabi was spot on. This was more of a weekend treat.
The citrus was very creamsicle, and perhaps the least remarkable of the lot.
The green tea was vaguely tea-like, yet again, I'd love to eat it daily.
Mitsy has recently sent another care package, and sure enough, there were more Kit Kats.
She had explained previously that some of the Kit Kats are only available in certain geographical areas. For example, on the back of the apple Kit Kat, she wrote “Special Edition: Apple from Shiusyu, Nagano Prefecture”. The green tea comes from Kyoto, the wasabi from a “wasabi producing area”. I am particularly intrigued about the one that looks like banana, only that’s not what it is. Mitsy wrote: “Special Edition – only from the region – Japanese Chili with one kind of spice”.
There were other goodies in her care package, like this trio of green bags. One looks like toasted peas and corn kernels, covered in wasabi. The spongy round ones remind me of marshmallows, only these ones have the picture of a green tea cup. I have no idea what the round balls with the dark center are. Maybe a dried plum covered in green tea flavored candy?
Otsumami is what we would define here as “beer nuts”: any snack that you would pair with a drink. The bag with the white fibrous bits makes me think it’s going to be some sort of desiccated fish. The other bags have a picture of baby silver fish, the size of minnows, along with slivered almonds (I may be wrong). I have had the silver minnows before, and I could eat buckets of them.
The little bottle contains some “Gold Medal Winner” wasabi salt. This is the only item we have opened so far, and it is delicious. My concept of wasabi was the green paste they plop next to your sushi. Wasabi and subtlety were two words I could have never put together, till I had the salt. It is elegant and nuanced, and far superior to any wasabi I have had so far. When Mitsy was here last time, she told me that the soy sauce we see in the US is not really all that great. I don’t know why this surprised me, but like with anything, there are categories of soy sauce, and the gourmet types stay in Japan. The same thing must occur with wasabi paste, judging from this incredible salt. It certainly deserved that gold medal.
Finally, we got soba noodles. I’ll venture that soba is Japanese comfort food. You can eat them hot or cold, in a wide variety of styles. I like them in a simple broth. Mitsy is quite the noodle purist, so I am sure these will be wonderful. We will do our best to honor her by not overcooking the soba, a terrible offense.
So this little window into Japan makes me want to go there much more. All the flavors and textures I may be missing! Thank you, Mitsy, for this incredible gift.
(Note: since I first searched, a couple years ago, it looks like now you can order Japanese Kit Kats online. In fact, I am very curious about the Chocolate Grilled Sweet Potato)