Welcome guest author Eric (aka Galloping Gourmand) with a review of traditional snacks from the Japan Pavilion in Disney World’s Epcot! And let’s give him a round of applause for going beyond our favorite Pocky sticks and trying the more unique eats too!
Tucked way in the back of the Japanese pavilion at Epcot, through the heavy doors, over the bridge, and beyond the display of toys… in the left hand wing of the back of Mitsukoshi Department Store lies a little food shop.
Most Epcot pavilions have these areas. They are often dedicated to regional foods and candies.
Most of the Japanese store is like this. You can find tea and many different candies; but tucked in the very back of the store is some of the more unusual fare.
The shelves are usually surrounded by gawkers walking by and saying “I don’t think I would eat that,” or, as one person said while I was browsing… “ewwwwwwwww.”
They said that after picking up these little guys:
But more about them later. My goal was to buy and sample some of the interesting foods and candies. A young woman who had spent some time in Japan and was browsing the food became my helpful guide. She suggested I try these:
The package calls them Iso Maki, although I couldn’t tell you if that was the actual Japanese name.
Maki is a type of sushi roll that includes seaweed nori rolled around rice. Here, it’s a rice cracker rolled with a small piece of seaweed.
The ingredient list is very short and healthy: rice, soy sauce, seaweed, sugar, and tapioca starch. With such a simple list it has to live and die by how well its flavors work together and the quality of the cracker.
You can taste each and every ingredient. The cracker is hearty and quite substantial for a rice cracker. The seaweed wrap gives it a nice light fishy flavor. When you take a bite, the fishy flavor is what you get first, then a light hint of soy sauce, followed by the slightly sweet cracker. Note: This picture was difficult to take because my cat kept trying to lick the cracker!
They were very good, but you have to like the fishy seaweed flavor, which lingers a little on your palate. And I do. In fact I liked them so much they almost derailed my taste test because I couldn’t stop snacking!
Next up was this Rice Candy. Again, a very simple ingredient list: glucose syrup, sugar, sweet rice, lemon flavor, orange flavor, and red no. 40. I’m surprised how few artificial ingredients there are in these foods compared to American ones.
It’s very mushy and sticky; to eat it you unwrap the outer wrapper and eat the inner wrapper.
At first the cellophane-y feel of the internal wrapper was strange, and I wondered if I had eaten it wrong; but as it dissolved it was very pleasing and melted into the sticky candy.
The flavor was a light orange. This was very tasty, not sweet, and something that I would have a hard time not selecting as an impulse buy in the checkout line.
It also comes with a picture of… um… a golfing… I’m not sure what that is really.
Two for two so far.
It’s time for my next treat, these Koala’s March crackers! I feel a little annoyed that they were made in Thailand, but they are apparently very popular in Japan and were everywhere you turned in the store.
Inside the big package was a smaller package that was half full with these little crackers. The strawberry flavor was slightly artificial and quite strong to start but vanished quickly.
Compared to the simplicity and great natural flavor of the other food, I found these to be a disappointment. Not bad, just a letdown. (This picture was easy to take as my cat sniffed the air and walked away!)
Ok, now back to those little crabs. These are listed as Tamagogani on the package. They are exactly what they look like – little dried crabs.
They are coated in sugar, starch, soy sauce, and mirin. Mirin is an essential Japanese condiment made with a lot of sugar, often used to ease the fishy flavors in foods. While usually a touch of mirin is used with foods, these guys needed more. A lot more.
Immediately when I opened the package a strong smell — not unlike an old fish tank or low tide in a salt marsh — filled the room. I’m sorry, I know we try to be positive here on the DFB, but these things… well they taste like they smell. You eat the whole crab, shell and all. The shell is crunchy, and of the two I had one of them broke into little shards in my mouth. Not sharp enough to damage but definitely not a good texture.
The crabs tasted dirty. Have you ever smelled an old fish tank? It tasted sort of like that smell.
While simplicity paid dividends in the rice candy and crackers, the lesson I learned is that sometimes a dried crab is just a dried crab.
Next time I’m at the Japan pavilion I’m definitely trying the dried squid though. I’m strange like that.
Have you tried any of these snacks from Japan in Epcot? Let us know your favorites from the Japan pavilion in the comments below!