Japanese Snack Review: Takoyaki-ya San, or Gobs of Goo
When faced with cute Japanese candy, my brain tends to switch to "automatic Japanese candy response mode" by taking whatever candy is in front of me and placing it into my shopping basket. I have no choice but to buy what goes into my basket. No choice. Even if it's something as ridiculous as Takoyaki-ya San, a gummy candy meant to resemble octopus-filled dough balls. I saw it while shopping at Mitsuwa in Edgewater, New Jersey, where I only had to look at the package for two seconds before deciding, "This probably isn't worth my money, but I'm going to buy it anyway."
I wasn't enticed by the takoyaki resemblance though—the best part was that you had to make the candy yourself out of various powders and gummy bits that required stirring and shaping into their final forms. Would the final product look anything like takoyaki? Would it even be edible? The questionable results, after the jump.
The directions on the back were easy enough to figure out, even without knowing how to read Japanese. Inside the package was a plastic tray—a mixing section and a ball-forming section—a mixing spoon, and packets of gelatin powder, octopus-shaped fruit flavored gummy bits, caramel sauce, and sugary green topping bits.
The directions didn't say how much water to mix with the powder base, so I just filled it almost to the top of the mixing tub. After vigorous mixing, I ended up with a gloopy light orange/yellow mass with a mucoidal texture. The trajectory of this experiment was not looking good. On retrospect, I probably used too much water but I think you're better off using too much than too little; it'll solidify too quickly without enough water.
Using the comically tiny spoon, I plopped little bits of the yellow goo into each of the six takoyaki compartments. The gel was more viscous than I was expecting, but that's probably because my photo taking caused it to sit longer than it was supposed to.
Next, I shoved the octopus gummy bits into each compartment. Some bits were shaped like chopped octopus (realistic!) while others looked like whole, tiny octopi (less realistic!). Do you see the fear in those octopi's eyes? Do you?
DO YOU? It looks like it's staring at its neighborly nubbin while shouting, "OH MY GOD, FRED, CAN YOU HEAR ME? I'LL SAVE YOU!" (No, he won't.)
I extinguished its cries by plopping on more shiny, orange goo. I stared at my gloppy, uneaven balls with sadness.
I flipped the balls with the tiny spoon in hopes of seeing an improvement. The uglier part was now on the bottom. Yay! Unfortunately, it still looked unappetizing and reminiscent of phlegm.
Topped with the thin "caramel" sauce (to mimic takoyaki sauce) and sugary light green bits (to mimic seaweed), the balls looked worse than before, a feat I didn't even know was possible.
While I had been tending to the unappetizing yellow bloblets, the mother blob had firmed up to look like a giant chunk of fat. Don't let your mixture sit for too long or you'll end up with this monstrosity.
The final product was, surprisingly, kind of ball shaped. Letting it sit in the mold forced it to become spherical, akin to breeding weirdly shaped watermelons. While the packaging suggested that I could spear it with the tiny spoon—like eating real takoyaki with skewers—there was no way I could poke through the semi-solid gummy center with the spoon, and the rest of the ball was too soft to stay on the spoon. I hesitantly picked up a slippery piece and shoved it in my mouth.
Flavor: lacking. Texture: slippery, soft, then chewy. Deliciousness: nonexistent. The best part was the gummy center; the yellow goo had very little flavor, apparently just acting as a suspension medium. The sauce and green bits were more for decoration than anything else.
Should I be surprised that the final product barely resembled the drawing (because if it were a real photo, no one would buy it) on the package, and that deliciousness was a low priority for Meiji, the candy makers? Nope. It was all about the process. A process that I will never voluntarily participate in again.
...But I will probably buy a different candy because my "automatic Japanese candy response mode" is uncontrollable.