Saturday, March 2, 2013

Lotte Toppo Whip Milk Custard

I recently made an order from NapaJapan with a bunch of new Japanese snacks, and somehow I managed to theme my entire order around cheese and custard...minus one exciting citrus soda pop. They'll all be reviewed in due course, and you can see for yourself my apparent obsession with 'the three C's' of Japanese snacks.

Today I've sampled the Toppo Whip Milk Custard, by the sweet luminaries down at Lotte. Did you know Lotte is actually a massive company, with interests all over the world in chemicals, hotels, baseball, and insurance? In addition, of course, to snacks and confectionery. I was quite surprised, I had expected to find just a list of different kinds of gum and pretzel sticks when I read their Wikipedia article...Nah, they're huge! So Toppo is in the same ballpark as Pocky, Mikado, Lucky Stick--a biscuit tube either dipped or filled with chocolate. Nice playing field, if you ask me.
This particular flavor is 'Whip Milk Custard', so I was half expecting the filling to be a bit more whippy than the usually dense, fondant textured chocolate that is in/on these type of snacks. I love the illustration on the box, I took a closeup shot of the whipped cream on the spoon.
I think it looks so sweet, the whipped cream plus the spangly bits and snowflake sprinkles. If someone served that to me as a dessert, I'd be perfectly happy. Really gives the package a wintery, festive look. Another look at the box, and the actual illustration of the sticks is very accurate.
Score one for truth in on-box advertising! They're even about the same length as shown on the package. As you can see this is different than its biscuit stick brothers in that it is made of pretzel rather than plain biscuit. Instead of animal crackers, this tastes like pretzels--a whole wheat, sort of hearty taste compared to Pocky. If you've ever had unsalted pretzels, the base tastes almost exactly like those. They are also a lot heavier and more substantial. Eating an entire box of these would certainly feel like a full snack, whereas a box of Pocky similar in size is nice but will probably leave you wishing you had another box. This box was eaten pretty quickly, split between two people, but I think there was about 16-20 sticks in a box, about 10 in each foil pack.
No idea why my hand looks so...ombre in this picture, but here is sort of a bird's eye view of the inside of these sticks. As you can see the filling is much like what you see in a Koala March or Pucca cookie, thick and sticky. This type of filling coats your mouth a bit, but not as badly as some other oily confections like almond bark or candy coating/mockolate like you'd use for cake pops. The flavor of the filling is very buttery with a caramelized sugar taste. I can definitely taste the dairy, it doesn't taste like just vanilla or white chocolate, although there are notes of both. I can see where custard comes from, and while it wouldn't be my first guess as to what this flavor is, I do see vanilla sugar with butter and milk.

Interestingly, the cream has a cool feeling while you eat it, which combined with the taste combination would've had me guessing vanilla ice cream was the intended flavor.

I think these were most similar to Pucca, except for that Pucca doesn't seem to have a vanilla least anymore. There was a Salty Vanilla flavor at one point that I think would've been a good match and perhaps easier to find in the UK since Pucca is stocked in Longdan and other Asian grocery stores. Unfortunately imports from Japan to businesses took a huge nosedive after the nuclear disaster, and haven't really recovered since. Most of the Japanese snacks in Cybercandy and the Japan Centre are now imported from Thailand and other areas where they are also manufactured. So you can still get the big players like Koala March, Pocky, and Pucca...but the stuff that is Japan-only has become much harder to come by. I hope that this changes soon, and that restrictions (self-imposed and otherwise) in the EU are lifted soon.

Until then, if you're looking for a Japanese snack fix I can only say positive things about NapaJapan. Shipping was quite quick even with SAL (about a week and a half from door to door), the customer service has always been brilliant for me, and they update regularly. Also, the prices are quite reasonable, especially for those of us in the UK--home of the consistently decent exchange rate!

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