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Japanese Candy Review: Nama Kokuto Ame

Categories: Candy,Candy Reviews,Foreign (non-US) Candy,Hard Candy

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Nama Kokuto Ame

What’s the best part of traveling to a new place? Seeing the sights? Nope. The food? Getting closer. Trying new candy? Now you’re talking! So on my recent trip to Honolulu, I was on the hunt for candy. Not Hawaiian candy, mind you, but Asian candy. I love Asian candy – if it’s got a name in characters I can’t read and weird Engrish ingredients like “starch syrup” and “acidity,” I’m all over it. And with its large population of Japanese people, I figured Hawaii was the place to find it.

From the racks of candy at the local mall’s Shirokiya department store, your one-stop shop for all things Japanese, I selected a bag of Nama Kokuto Ame brown sugar-flavored hard candies. The bag was certainly striking, with a bold red brush-stroked character on a background of black fading to gold. The bag’s picture of crumbled lumps of brown rock sugar looked promising, as did the short ingredient list: sugar, muscovado, liquid cane sugar, and flavors. Nothing too unusual there, though I couldn’t quite recall what muscovado was.

I popped the first one in my mouth and was rewarded with a smooth, mild caramel/brown sugar flavor. A nice, pleasant flavor, not too bold or intrusive, suitable for keeping your mouth busy while doing other things without being too distracting. But as I sucked on it, the flavor, slowly but surely, began to change.

From hard and smooth, a weird bitterness began to creep into the flavor. Something burnt and almost salty, like molasses with faint undertones of what almost reminded me of… swimming pool water? And the more I sucked on it, the worse it got, until I was left with only a crumbly center of burnt molasses-flavored sugar, so strong I almost wanted to spit it out. Clearly, I’d stumbled upon the Jekyll and Hyde of candy. And then I remembered what muscovado is. It’s a very dark, unrefined sugar that basically tastes like molasses. In this case, burnt, salty, slightly chlorine-y molasses.

After traveling all the way to Hawaii to get these, I had wanted so badly for them to be good, but they just weren’t. I was crushed. Crushed like a sat-on Pocky. Like people, you can’t always judge your candies from the outside alone, I guess.

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6 Responses to “Japanese Candy Review: Nama Kokuto Ame”

  1. 1
    cybele says:

    I love black sugar candy (but I haven’t had this particular variety). But I also eat muscovado sugar by the spoonful. You should get a hold of the Chelsea black sugar, that was dreamy.

  2. 2
    Tracy says:

    Aaaaah! This is the same candy my beloved boyfriend brought me back from Japan! He doesn’t read a lick of Japanese, so he was picking candy based on the sweet packaging, but it wasn’t quite the taste sensation we were hoping for. We savored the candy shell, and then the center emerged–dun dun DUN!!! Ugh, I’m a very adventurous eater, but I just couldn’t get on board with this candy. It was a bit like chewing on sweetish dirt–blergh! Next time I’ll just ask for Pocky.

  3. 3
    Laurie says:

    Cybele – Usually I love brown/black sugar candy too so I was extra-sad that these were such a letdown.

    Tracy – Wow, I can’t believe someone else has tried these! I couldn’t find anything about them on the Internet at all (not in English anyway) so I figured they were pretty obscure. Yeah, sweetish dirt is about right, unfortunately.

  4. 4
    Sea Hag says:

    It’s fun to be adventurous with candy, but it’s even better when your candy adventure pays off with non-crappy candy. I’ve discovered that red bean candy tastes like butt.

  5. 5
    Tracy says:

    No way, Sea Hag! I like red bean flavor! Admittedly, my Japanese roots have probably primed my taste buds for certain unconventional flavors, but the red bean White Rabbit is tasty (but regular White Rabbit is still my all-time favorite).

    As for the adventure part, I’ve had kuro sato (black sugar) flavored candy before; it’s kind of a weird Japanese/Okinawan thing, but this one was just blech on many levels.

  6. 6
    Candy Addict » Candy Review: Pastiglie Leone says:

    [...] my recent review of Nama Kokuto Ame black sugar candies, I said that the best part of traveling to a new place was getting to try new [...]

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