Treats for a sweet tooth

February 25, 2011

The Japanese diet is known for being one of the healthiest in the world but along with the low fat, mineral rich sushi, they still have room for some sweet treats.

There are lots of weird and wonderful Japanese sweets for people with a weakness for confectionary, in lots of different flavours. Chocolate, sweets and biscuits are a culinary market that has grown significantly since the end of the Second World War, helped along by the adoption of  popular Western festivals like Valentine’s Day and Christmas.

Pocky is one of the most commonly found sweets and has been a staple of Japanese shop shelves since the 1960s. It consists of pretzel sticks, coated with a variety of different toppings. The original flavour was milk chocolate but now it comes dipped in everything from strawberry or banana to honey and green tea. There is even a mysteriously titled Men’s Pocky which is the dark chocolate version. A similar product called Mikado has recently been released on European markets though purists will tell you that Pocky is the best.

Green tea may not be the first thing that springs to mind when thinking of confectionary but it is a very popular flavour in Japan for deserts, ice cream and sweet treats. It is delicious but has a very distinctive, tangy taste that takes the edge off very sugary dishes. Ginger is often used to the same effect as a desert flavouring with a bit of an edge.

Combining chocolate with biscuit is very common and appeals to the nation’s love of adding texture to its food. With many confectionaries, it also enables them to indulge the popularity of quirky and cute characters. In Japan, home of Manga, cartoon characters are not just loved by children but adults of all ages as well. There are a number of popular character-shaped confectionaries such as Lotte Koala - bite-sized biscuits filled with milk chocolate in the shape of a koala bear with a picture of the cartoon creature printed on the shell.

Other ‘cute’ sweets include fish-shaped Meiji Pucca Chocolate which has a slightly salty, crunchy shell that compliments the smooth chocolate inside and, also made by Meiji, Choco Baby which are small milk chocolate treats printed with stars and smiley faces.

Lots of Japanese confectionaries are ideal for snacking and sharing and combine texture and unusual flavours with classic sweetness. There is an emphasis on unique characters and combinations that may just change your mind about the Western dominance of the sweet food market.

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