New Philippine mail order site makes Japanese items available at the click of a button

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RocketNews 24 (by Jamie Koide):

Philippine residents can now get their hands on a plethora of Japanese items at TOKYO STYLE.

Although a rising number of Japanese food, media, and accessory retailers online are beginning to go international, it still stands that the majority of the products produced within Japan are for domestic sale only, despite the increasing demand for these items overseas.

Especially in the Philippines, Japanese products are often praised for their high quality, and are favored by a growing number of young consumers. Started by offshore developer Glocalizer and goods distributer and remittance service Transtech, TOKYO STYLE is a new website that aims to cater to this demographic through their easy shopping set-up, as well as further strengthen the relationship between the Philippines and Japan.

The site offers Filipino residents the ability to make group orders off Rakuten and other sites using the website’s order form. A domestic buyer than purchases the items for them and ships them to each customer’s address though Transtech’s Balikbayan Box cargo service.

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Popular items include Cup Noodle and other instant or pre-packaged Japanese foods and snacks, as well as diapers and other daily goods that are also popular with Chinese tourists and other Asian visitors.

Make your best-tasting onigiri taste even better with this easy recipe!

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RocketNews 24:

Onigiri, or rice balls, are one of the easiest ways to dabble in Japanese cooking. It’s almost as easy to make homemade onigiri as it is to buy from a store. The popularity of the simple rice ball is so great, there is even a store that sells one from each of the 47 prefectures.

In the RocketKitchen, our aim is to show you the best way to make fabulous Japanese dishes right in your own home. This time, we’re going to share with you foolproof wayto create the best-tasting onigiri you’ve ever made. Hope you’ve got some rice cooking–it’s time to level-up that onigiri!

Trust us when we say this will be the best rice ball you will ever have. In fact, make the best onigiri you’ve ever made to compare it with. Or if you live in Japan, head over to the nearest convenience store. Go ahead, we’ll wait.

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Back? Good. Introducing the sesame oil onigiri! All you need are two things, an onigiri and some sesame oil. Take an onigiri and follow these instructions:

Step 1- On one side of the onigiri, brush on some sesame oil.

FINISHED!

That’s right, that’s all you need to do. Yes, we know that sounds like a joke, but it’s unbelievable how a little bit of sesame oil changes your onigiri game and makes it taste exponentially better.

The best part about this “recipe” is how well it goes with every kind of onigiri filling. Your old standbys, like salmon, tarako (fish roe), mentaiko (fish roe with spiced red pepper),okaka (bonito), and tuna mayo will taste great. It even goes well with strong-flavored fillings like ikura (salted salmon roe) and umeboshi (sour plum)! Seriously, get yourself some sesame oil (known in Japan as “goma abura” if you need to ask for it) and give this a try –  you won’t regret it!

Salmon filling!

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Mentaiko filling (fish roe with spiced red pepper)

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Takikomi rice (soy sauce and/or dashi seasoning)

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The secret to the best ever onigiri is making sure you don’t spread too much sesame oil on there. It is possible to have too much of a good thing! Our kitchen found, through trial and error, covering only one side of the onigiri gave it the best flavor. Feel free to try a little experimentation yourself though.

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For those of you who enjoy nori (dried seaweed) on their onigiri, we recommend that you brush the oil on the rice and not the nori, that way you can keep your hands clean. See? We take this food business seriously!

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If you are hand-making the onigiri, meanwhile, try putting a bit of the oil on your hands as you shape the rice ball, that way you can get a nice coating all over it. But again, be careful that you don’t overpower the other flavors.

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This might be the easiest recipe we’ve ever featured in the RocketKitchen, but don’t let the simplicity fool you, it still packs a great flavorful taste, and you’ll be sure to impress all your friends at your next Japanese potluck picnic.

Mini bakeable Kit Kats return to Japan — this time in cheesecake flavor!

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RocketNews 24:

Some of our readers are undoubtedly aware that we here at RocketNews24 are quite fond of Kit Kats. And while we’re used to seeing the popular chocolate snack in an array of interesting flavors, we have to say we were genuinely intrigued when we heard about “bakeable” Kit Kats last year, as were many other Kit Kat fans across Japan, judging from the fact that the unique sweet attracted enough attention to be turned into pizzas.  Now, the bakeable Kit Kats have returned, and in a new flavor to boot! Of course, we weren’t about to be kept away from such sweetness.  Join us as we try the new Bake ‘N Tasty Mini Kit Kats Cheesecake Flavor (Kit Kat Mini Yaite Oishi Cheesecake Aji)!

When we heard that a new version of the bakeable Kit Kats had come out this week, we naturally rushed to the local supermarket in search of the snack.

▼ Sure enough, we found the new Kit Kats being sold for 256 yen (US$2.15) for a bag containing 13 mini pieces.

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▼ Last year’s bakeable Kit Kats were in a custard pudding flavor, and this time, as it says on the package, it’s cheesecake!  The illustration of the toaster oven also makes it clear that these Kit Kats are meant to be baked.

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▼ Toasting the Kit Kats should turn them golden brown like this:

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▼ On the back of the package, there were instructions on how to bake the Kit Kats.

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▼ You place the Kit Kats on the toaster tray after covering it with aluminum foil …

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▼ … and turn the toaster on to heat for two to two and a half minutes. Once the surface starts to turn brown, the Kit Kats apparently can get burned quite quickly, so you’ll need to be careful not to heat it for too long.

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▼ We opened the bag …

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▼ … and the mini Kit Kats came individually wrapped in cute green and white checkered packages.

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▼ The Kit Kat looks like just regular white chocolate before it’s toasted.

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▼ We turned on the heat and waited …

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▼ … and they were done in just minutes!

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▼ Beautiful! Now we were ready to taste them.

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So, now that the Kit Kats were toasted, how did they taste? They had a delightful texture, crispy and light, and although we maybe could taste the chocolate more than the cream cheese, the flavor was definitely enjoyable. And the sweet smell of warm toasted chocolate and cheese was indeed wonderful enough to make our mouth water even before tasting the actual treat.

Nestle Japan had actually previously sold a baked type cream cheese Kit Kat from the Kit Kat Chocolatory shop, which we tasted last year along with the pudding flavored bakeable Kit Kats. Having tried both, we thought that last year’s Chocolatory cream cheese Kit Kats had more of a cheese flavor, while these new cheesecake flavor bakeable Kit Kats seemed to be sweeter, and perhaps closer to how you might expect a typical “chocolate” snack to taste.

That doesn’t change the fact that we think the new Kit Kats still make a highly tasty treat. Plus, their small size makes them very convenient to eat as a quick snack. There’s apparently also a smaller package containing just three of the mini Kit Kats available exclusively at convenience stores, so if you’re in Japan this spring, you may very well come across this newest offering from Nestle Japan, in which case we wish you sweet and happy toasting!

KFC potato chips return to Japan this spring

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RocketNews 24:

Last year, something beautiful came to Japan. It was only here for a short while, but in that time, it left a deep impression on many people. And while we were sad to see it go, it’s time to dry our tears, because this spring, it’s coming back again!

So, all excited for cherry blossom season? That’s great, but what we’re actually talking about right here are Kentucky Fried Chicken-flavor potato chips.

Once again, Japanese snack company Calbee is teaming up with the world’s most famous fast food fried chicken outfit. Whereas last year’s version was billed as “Colonel’s Crispy-flavor,” this new batch of fried chicken-inspired fried potato slices emulates the taste of KFC Japan’s honenashi Kentucky paripari umashio, or Boneless Kentucky Crunchy Delicious Salt flavor.

We’re a little puzzled by the “Boneless” part of the product name, since we don’t recall any bone-like flavors in the KFC chips we tried last year. In more specific terms, Calbee says the chips draw out the natural deliciousness of chicken with a simple mixture of salt and pepper, so you can be assured that they make use of at least those two of Colonel Sanders’ 11 herbs and spices.

In a rarity for Japanese snack foods, Calbee is leaving pricing up to individual retailers. The larger, 83-gram bags are available exclusively at Japanese convenience storesstarting March 2. A smaller 58-gram bag will go on sale March 16, and both packages will include a coupon for a discount on an order of Boneless Kentucky Crunchy Delicious Salt chicken at KFC locations in Japan, in case munching on the chips has you craving the real deal.

Snack review: Japanese wasp-filled crackers

RocketNews 24:

Although the above picture might look like something out of a nightmare, these crackers are very real and on sale in Nagano Prefecture, Japan.

It’s a senbei, which is a Japanese style of rice cracker, that in this instance, has had a bunch of wasps added to it for flavor or…health or something. We don’t know why exactly but we recently had the pleasure of sitting down with a bag of wasp crackers, only to find that they actually weren’t nearly as horrifying as you might expect.

They were only partially horrifying.

■ “Popular in Japan”
These crackers recently surfaced on the website 9GAG when someone posted a picture of one with the heading “So apparently this is quite popular in Japan… I give you the nope-cake!”

The image triggered feelings of disgust and fear from all who saw it, either from the plentiful wasps inside the snack or filthy fingernail holding it.

“Dude…beecareful”
“Oh fak, there’s a cookie among my bees.”
“Those are some big chocolate chips (I hope).”
“Enough food for today.”
“Japanese ppl…f#@ked up.”
“I thought that was Pikachu roadkill.”

As many other comments pointed out, these really were not at all famous in Japan. However, there are some pockets here and there around the country that have a custom of eating insect foods. The wasps used in these crackers (Vespula flaviceps or Kurosuzume bachi) are farmed in certain parts of central Japan for human consumption. Their larvae in particular is said to be eaten with rice.

■ Best served with a bucket

Thankfully, the wasps in my crackers didn’t look nearly as big as the ones in the 9GAG photo and my fingernails weren’t nearly as dirty. However, those were the only two silver linings in this assignment.

I decided to set my table with what I felt were the necessary tools. First, I made sure to have a bucket to puke in. Then I put out a plate and napkin, because I’m not a savage after all. Finally, I got a bottle of whiskey to make my brain stop yelling at me not to go through with this.

Normally I don’t encourage drinking at work, but when your job is eating wasps, it’s always Miller time.

The wasp crackers were sold in packs of two, which I think is almost obnoxiously presumptuous of the makers. Upon opening them up there was an unusual odor. It wasn’t really disgusting, but it wasn’t terribly appetizing either. The smell reminded me of the food I used to feed my pet tropical fish as a kid.

I stared at the crackers for a good few minutes just to make sure they weren’t going to suddenly reanimate like I kept envisioning they would. Then, I went in for a bite.

The sweet and slightly savory taste of the senbei cracker was firmly present and to be honest I could barely taste the wasps at all. Feeling more confident, I went in to a second bite, this time from a spot more densely packed with wasps.

This time I could get a better sense of their taste and texture. They were very much like raisins but had a slightly acidic and bitter taste to them. In other words, they tasted burnt, which I guess made sense since they were baked in a cracker.

However, I can’t say it was a bad taste. It certainly was a disgusting sensation to bite down on something round and squishy and know that it must have been either a head or an abdomen, and when a wing or a leg got stuck between my cheek and gums it wasn’t the best feeling in the world. But in the end, those were more just figments of my own squeamishness rather than anything truly disgusting about the wasps themselves.

■ Conclusion
Crackers filled with wasps aren’t that bad at all, but they aren’t very good either. Personally, I will probably never eat them again. However, I could absolutely see them as an acquired taste that some people could get into after eating a bag or ten. They’re probably really healthy, too, and full of protein and whatnot, but I’m in fairly good shape so I’ll pass.

And so I give wasp-filled crackers from Nagano Prefecture 19 stars out of 44 which means you can probably forgo the puke bucket and whiskey but it also probably won’t be love at first taste. If you want to try some you can order them from the Amazon link below where two bags of 12 sell for about 2,000 yen  (US$17).

Wasp Crackers from: Alps no Sora Jibachi Senbei – Mount Takei Saburo Shoten(Amazon)
Source: 9GAG (English) via Yurukuyaru (Japanese), Mie University (English)
Photos: RocketNews24 unless otherwise noted

Craving Asian snacks from your childhood? Check out this homemade Choco Pie recipe!

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 Audrey Magazine:

When I was young, I spent most of my Saturdays at my grandmother’s house, secretly picking flowers off her houseplants, overfeeding her goldfish and eating up all her snacks that she would get from Chinatown. I say “all her snacks,” but my grandma really only had two snack foods in her cupboard — one was the family pack lemon puff biscuits, which always tasted dry and slightly artificial, and the other was Garden coconut wafers, which I knew had been laying around for a while. See, to save money, my grandma would buy the wafers in these big metal tins, which would take forever to finish. And for that reason, all the Garden wafers I’ve ever eaten at my grandmother’s house always tasted a bit stale. Still, I opted for the wafers over the biscuits.

I had a very specific method of eating the wafers. Because I was only allowed to have a few per visit, I would split the wafers into individual layers, so that it would seem like I had a whole lot more to eat than there actually was. As a kid, I would do this to all of my snacks, just to prolong my time with them. Sounds kind of silly, right?

But it’s funny how when I share these stories with my Asian friends, nearly all of them reciprocate with their own stories. My friend Timmy from Taiwan would freeze his lychee before eating them like little frozen popsicle balls. And my college classmate Grace, who grew up in Brooklyn, would take Haitai French Pie cookies, eat everything except the middle, and save the center apple pie filling for her last bites. “Always the last two bites because that was how the center fit perfectly into my mouth,” she says.

Of course, my love of Asian snacks didn’t end as a child. As a college student, the Japanese fruit gummy candies — you know, the ones that come in apple, kiwi, strawberry and lychee — were my ultimate companions for late night studying. A small confession is that I would bring them into the library as well. (An even bigger confession is I’ve prob- ably brought a snack into every library I’ve ever been in — and the culprit snack was usually Asian. I know, I know, but it’s hard to walk away once you’re in the studying groove.) Anyway, any “library snacker” can tell you that the hard part is not sneaking the snacks into the library, but eating them in silence. That takes skill, especially when you’re eating those crunchy rice crackers.

Now as an adult, I still find myself watching TV and curled up next to a bag of prawn crackers or snacking on the latest red bean, green tea and sesame Pocky. To this day, Asian snacks remain a comfort food for me. So here’s my own attempt at recreating that magic with a homemade Choco Pie recipe.

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INGREDIENTS

Cake:
– 1 1/4 cup cake flour
– 1/2 cup sugar
– 1 egg
– 1/3 cup milk
– 1/2 tsp baking powder
– splash of vanilla extract

Filling:
– 1/2 cup Marshmallow Fluff pr marshmallow creme

Chocolate Ganache Coating:
– 8 oz chocolate chips
– 1 cup heavy cream

 


 

DIRECTIONS
1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Make batter by mixing dry ingredients into the wet ingredients.
3. Fill whoopie pie pan or muffin tin with 1/4 inch of batter.
4. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until cakes turn golden brown on the underside. Let cool. (Tops may still look pale.)
5. Meanwhile, prepare ganache by bringing a cup of heavy cream to a boil.
6. Immediately remove from heat and pour on top of chocolate.
7. Whisk till smooth. Set aside.

 


 

TO ASSEMBLE
1. Cut tops off cake so that the surface is flat.
2. Spread about a teaspoon of marshmallow filling on the cake. Top it off with another cake, making sure the golden brown sides are exposed.
3. Place the assembled cakes on a wire rack with a sheet pan underneath to catch the ganache. Pour a small amount of ganache on top of each of the assembled cakes until the tops and sides are cov- ered. A spatula may be needed.
4. Let it set in the refrigerator for 30 minutes before serving.

 

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– Story and photos by Christina Ng
This story was originally published in Audrey Magazine’s Fall 2014 issue.