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Product Review: Green Tea Mochi ice cream

mochi 

When at a sushi restaurant recently with my family, we saw mochi ice cream on the menu and had to try a few. Both the azuki and green tea flavors tasted great, so when we saw the latter sold in a nearby asian grocer, we couldn’t help but pick up a box of six.

Flavor

When I pulled one from the package I had kept in the freezer, it was covered by a frosty ice coating. This isn’t too appealing in terms of taste of texture, but it it’s easy to wipe off with a wet towel, or by running it quickly under running water.

This dessert consists of green tea ice cream wrapped in a very thin layer of Japanese-style ‘mochi’, made from sticky, glutinous rice. The stickiness and the creaminess really strike a perfect balance here.  The ice cream is extremely sweet, with an equally strong flavor of authentic green tea.

I find I get the most enjoyment when I cut this into little slices using a knife, and then pop them into my mouth one at a time to savor. It helps  me to appreciate the bold sweetness without getting overloaded.

All in all, great taste in a unique package.

Nutrition/Ingredients

One serving is 2 pieces (80 grams), and has 180 calories with 2 grams of protein.  A single serving also has 22 sugars. The sugar/weight ratio is pretty close to high-sugar ice creams such as some of the Talenti products, but the density is much higher here because all that sweetness is packed into a tiny ball.

The ingredient list is pretty safe, with real green tea used in the flavoring and no artificial flavorings. The one exception is “mono & diglycerides”, which are used as emulsifying agents to extend shelf life and to help certain ingredients blend well together, such as oil & water. It is said that these contain fatty acids, which have had a lot of bad press lately because of their tendency to promote obesity and raise bad cholesterol.

Ingredient list: ice cream mix (cream, milk, sugar, corn syrup solids, nonfat dry milk, locust bean gum, guar gum, mono & diglycerides, carrageenan), water, maltose, sugar, rice flour, green tea and pasteurized egg whites.

Price/Availability

I bought this at a local asian grocery store in South Florida for around $8.00.

Though the packaging contains the words “ice cream” in Japanese script (アイス  クリーム), the product is actually made within the USA by a company called “Sweet Novelty Inc” based in California.

Ratings:   Flavor:  8.5  Nutrition/Ingredients: 7.0   Price: 7.0    Overall: 7.5

Summary

Though a little pricey, each of these frozen mochi balls is packed with a strikingly sweet green tea flavor inside a gummy mochi shell. I highly recommend it for green tea lovers, or anyone looking for a new way to experience ice cream.

References

http://www.livestrong.com/article/445850-what-is-bad-about-mono-diglycerides/

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Wakakusa Daifuku (若草大福) – Japanese sweet candy (product review)

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Introduction

As a I did research for each of my sweets reports, I discovered that there are a huge amount of other blogs reviewing many of the same products. That it itself isn’t a major surprise, but it got me thinking that if I really want to distinguish myself from other blogs, I need to work hard on not only top-quality, detailed reviews, but also on targeting new products or those that are not as popular yet in the mainstream.

My product selection this time, a Japanese confection from Adachi Sangyo, is an attempt to introduce a niche product to a wider audience. I’m hoping that those unfamiliar with ‘daifuku’ will be happy to learn about one more way to indulge in your craving for sweets.

Food products from other countries are always interesting. Not only do you get a unique flavor not found in everyday American foods, but you also get a unique set of ingredients that has potentially to be different, if not healthier, than typical ingredients used in domestic foods.

Nutrients / Ingredients

So what is a ‘daifuku’ anyway? It’s a traditional Japanese sweet existing for over two centuries which consists of a sweetened red bean paste (anko) wrapped by a layer of glutinous rice cake (mochi). They are in flattened sphere form, and these daifuku are small enough to fit in the circle made by my thumb and forefinger.

One bag contains 7 daifuku and each one is 16 grams (1 serving). Each serving is only 50 calories, but that hides the fact that over 80% of this product (13 grams) is sugar. The first two ingredients are sugar and starch syrup, the latter being made in a process similar to corn syrup where starch is converted to syrup. If that didn’t make you run screaming then the rest of the story isn’t quite as bad.

This product is pretty nutritionally barren, in both a positive and negative sense: no sodium, no fat, no protein, and no fiber.

The great thing is that the 3rd, 4th, and 5th ingredients are all made natural plants or grains – rice, red beans, and mugwort. The latter is a flowering herb whose extracts have been shown to inhibit a certain type of cancer cells in vitro. The name ‘Wakakusa’ means something like ‘young plant’ and refers to this Japanese mugwort (yomogi).

The package I bought contained an English translation of the ingredients and nutritional information along with the original text in Japanese. I was surprised to find that the original contained two ingredients not found in the English translation: coloring (Safflower and common gardenia ) and “flavoring”. I’m glad they decided to use natural coloring agents, but very nonplussed about the mysterious “flavoring”. Translation of this word (香料 “kouryou”)says it can refer to both natural and artificial flavoring.

Oddly, I couldn’t find the calorie count listed in the original Japanese text. Because of the omission with some ingredients in the translation I’m suspicious about this number.

Here is the full list of ingredients:

Sugar, starch syrup, rice cake powder, red bean paste, (japanese) mugwort, starch, trehalose, skim milk powder, antioxidant (vitamin e), coloring (from flowers), flavoring.

One interesting ingredient used here is ‘trehalose’, a sweetener that is roughly 45 percent as sweet as sucrose and a low insulin response. It has the nickname ‘mushroom sugar’ because it can be found in some mushrooms. I believe it is used here primary as a preservative since it is present in only a small amount.

Vitamin E is also used as a preservative to prevent oxidation and keep the food fresher. But for a product that is sold in a refrigerated section this seems unnecessary. Vitamin or not, I’d prefer less preservatives in my food.

Overall, the use of natural ingredients such a rice, beans, and mugwort are a great idea, but the extreme amount of sugar renders them practically useless from a nutritional point of view.

Flavor

Besides the light green color mixed with darker green colored spots, you’ll notice a fine powder covering the outside of each daifuku. This is most likely rice cake powder (or another type of flour) and is used to keep the confection from sticking to the little plastic wrapper containing it.

As you pick up one of the little daifuku, you’ll notice it has a gummy texture, and when you bite into it you are taken captive by the sticky, chewy sensation. That is the glutinous rice. Besides a moderate sweetness I don’t detect any other strong flavor in it.

When you reach its core there is a burst of extreme sweetness, as well as coldness, as your tongue savors the dark red azuki paste with its smooth texture. The contrast between the filling and the outer core is quite well balanced and keeps your senses busy.

I’m very familiar with azuki beans to the extent that I have made my own paste, so I quickly picked up on the subtle, but distinctive bean flavor of the filling. However, those less accustomed to this might just only perceive it as an ‘earthy’ taste. It doesn’t really taste like other beans (black, pinto, etc.), though the mashed texture is not too different.

Ironically, the mugwort (which the product was named after) didn’t have a strong taste.  I had the sensation of eating flowers/plants but with my a priori knowledge of the ingredients its hard to give an unbiased description of the flavor. For my future reports I’m considering eating the product before reading though the ingredients so I can have a more neutral impression.

As a side note, the packaging is very artistic and feels like more effort was put into designing it that many American sweets.

Price and Availability

I found these at a asian grocery store in south florida, and odds are you can find it at a similar place in your neighborhood.

Since these are somewhat of a specialty imported item, they are not cheap. For a bag of 7 the price is around $3-$4. I apologize for not keeping track of the exact price, I’ll check it next time I return to the store and update this entry.

You could probably buy it online but as an imported good the shipping would probably make it prohibitively expensive.

Ratings

Flavor: 7.0

Nutrients/Ingredients: 5.0

Price: 6.0

Overall: 6.0

Summary

Great entry point into the world of exotic Japanese sweets, although the natural ingredients employed are offset by a load of sugar.

References

http://www.adachisangyo.co.jp/syohin/daifuku/index10.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Artemisia_princeps

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daifuku

http://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E3%83%99%E3%83%8B%E3%83%90%E3%83%8A

http://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E3%82%AF%E3%83%81%E3%83%8A%E3%82%B7

http://www.caloriecontrol.org/sweeteners-and-lite/sugar-substitutes/other-sweeteners/trehalose

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