I grabbed this box without looking too closely when I saw it at my local Japanese market. As you might gather from my last Crunky review, I was hoping to use it as part of my continuing quest to convince English-speakers to love Crunky instead of just making fun of its name.
However, I wasn’t sure this plan would work, because I assumed that what I had was white chocolate. Now, I love almost everything Japanese and I love white chocolate. But with the exception of Crunky, I usually find Japanese chocolate to be not of the highest quality. And white chocolate, with such a mild flavor, has nothing to hide behind – if it’s not of the best quality, it’s horrid.
But when I got home and looked more closely, the plot began to thicken. I wondered why the box had an illustration of a bowl of ice cream on it. The text next to the picture was something that I could only interpret as “Kanji Kanji Kanji Vanilla” (kanji being the Japanese version of Chinese characters, of which I can only read a couple dozen, none of which were included here).
On the back, the pasted-on English label only deepened the mystery at first: “Okinawa Shiovanil.” And this time the problem was not one of language, exactly. I know that “shio” means “salt.” But salt-vanilla? Salt-vanilla ice cream?
Well, some persistent Googling – don’t ever say that I don’t go all out for you, Candy Addict readers – eventually revealed that sea salt ice cream is some kind of local specialty of Okinawa. If you don’t want to go all the way to Okinawa, reportedly you may be able to get it at Tokyo Disneyland, or at an Okinawan ice cream chain that has opened a store in Shibuya. Also, apparently you should be thankful if this is the flavor that your Okinawan friends press you to try, because another alternative is bitter melon.
After this absurd amount of background research I was finally prepared to actually eat the stuff, and well, if I hadn’t done all that research, I’m not sure I would have thought this was anything other than very mild white chocolate. That is what it basically is, after all – since white chocolate commonly has vanilla flavoring in it, the difference between a white chocolate Crunky and a vanilla sea salt white chocolate Crunky can only be a subtle one.
But I think there is a difference: this does not have a strong cocoa butter taste, but, unlike most white chocolate that doesn’t have a strong cocoa butter taste, it is NOT nasty. It tastes like a good creamy vanilla thing, not a bad cheap white chocolate.
I do think I detect a subtle aftertaste of salt as well, but really, basically this is quite good and not particularly exotic. The crunch is less strongly flavored than in the regular milk chocolate Crunky, no doubt to avoid overpowering the more subtle vanilla flavor. The result is a candy that is not going to slap you upside the head with vivid flavors, but if you can appreciate a creamy vanilla sweet – something you get less often in candy than in cake or pastry – you should try it.
The packaging is also great if you want help minimizing your candy consumption – the box contains ten very tiny individually wrapped pieces. I know this isn’t very planet-friendly, but I love it that the Japanese do this. I appreciate that this packaging allows me to leave some for later without it getting stale – and also keeps me from eating the whole thing at once, which would have been a little too easy with this one.
Once again the verdict is the same: English speakers: Don’t laugh at Crunky – eat it!
Editor’s Note: You can buy Crunky at Jlist during cooler months – no chocolate is shipped during the summer. Sorry!