Japanese Snacks: So Tasty!
In the interest of making this article brief, I'll focus on snacks that fall into the categories of sweet (candy and cookies) and crunchy (chips, crackers and other munchies). I'll leave out the rest of them until another day.
Sweet Tooth Snacks
Probably one of the most popular of the sweet Japanese snack foods is Pocky sticks. They come in a wide range of flavors... from basic chocolate, to blueberry cheesecake, mousse, strawberry, coconut and more. Pocky sticks are crispy cookie/cracker like sticks that have been dipped three-quarters of their length in a thick coating of flavor. The chocolate is obviously chocolate. Strawberry is probably white chocolate that has strawberry flavorings added... you get the picture. Some Pocky are so good you can sit and eat the entire box, while others are only slightly less so. You pretty much can't go wrong by choosing to snack on Pocky.
A very common snack food in Japan is Azuki Daifuku. This is a rice cake made of mochi, which is rice that is pounded and rolled over and over until it becomes a chewy, doughy mass. Inside the rice cake is a filling of azuki, or red bean paste. While not everyone will be keen on this chewy treat, if you like mochi and red bean paste, this is a great treat! Red bean paste is slightly sweet, dense and can be either very smooth or a bit gritty, depending on how well the beans have been mashed. Either way is fine with me. I like bean paste. The mochi is thick, a little squishy to the fingers, and chewy. There isn't a lot of extra flavor in mochi. The combined flavor is slightly sweet, but not overly so. It is filling, so one or two goes a long way.
Wasabi peas fit the bill for crunchy munchies plus they have a kick. These dried peas are coated with a baked wasabi paste. Wasabi is a large root that is grown for its spiciness... most commercially available wasabi at the grocery store is actually horseradish, so that may prepare you a little for the kick you're going to get if you pop too many of these at one time. The dried peas give a nice crunch in between the gasps for air when you are in the grips of the wasabi. Be prepared with a nice cool drink to wash them down with.
Pretz are large pretzel sticks. Nice and crunchy, they come in several flavors like tomato, honey mustard, salad, pizza, plain, potato and more. Some are better than others. These are less salty than what you may associate with a pretzel and a little denser. They make a good crunchy snack, and many of the flavors actually are done very well.
Sable biscuits are a slightly sweet cracker that is also available in a few flavors. Cheese and Milk Tea come to mind. They are like a combination of a graham cracker and a Ritz cracker with a sweet glaze on the top. While the cheese variety really has very little cheesiness to it, the milk tea variety smells and tastes of green tea.
There are many, many more snacks in Japan, and this is just the tip of the iceberg. Be bold. Try something new.