Happy March, dear friends! Spotting the returns of gorgeous blooming pink flowers and lemon-colored butterflies fluttering around gives a spring in my step. Whilst admiring the beauty of spring, I was dreaming of fabulous edible spring goodies. Some of my beloved spring eats and drinks are inspired by Japan’s appreciation for the season. Scenes in springtime videos of strolling on paths with cherry blossom trees lining along rivers in Tokyo and the serene Japanese countryside pop into my mind when I think of Japan’s spring and pink-hued snacks: it’s the epitome of spring bliss.
In the spirit of spring, we’re kicking off the season of blooms and sunshine with a fun treat from Japan. Since pink is one of the official-ish representatives of the season in the sweets realm, we’re tasting a pink-colored treat. Although this candy is available throughout the year, it fits the spring edition of the snack stash to a T.
Spring and Snacks in Japan
Hanami, or ‘flower viewing’, is a traditional spring activity in Japan. This season usually begins in late March and concludes in early May, while cherry blossoms (sakura) abound. During the hanami season, parks are filled with smiles and joyous vibes. Visitors gather with their pals and loved ones for picnics, with bloomed sakura flowers amidst them in magnificent seas of blush pink. In honor of these gorgeous flowers, picnic picks tend to include pink-colored bites and drinks, which are in abundance at shops and restaurants. It’s one of the most incredible times of the year to visit Japan – especially to experience the seasonal foodie picks!
Hanami season brings lovely outdoor food market stalls too, featuring the best bits of Japan’s ‘festival food’. Ringo ame, or candy apples (ringo = apple; ame = candy) is one of the quintessential treats that feels right at home at Japanese festivals. While it is known to be commonly available in the summertime, ringo ame is enjoyed in spring too. Ringo ame is created by poking a wooden stick through an apple, which is then dipped into a sugar glaze or toffee concoction, resulting in a sweet apple experience. To mark March’s arrival, we’re having our very own mini hanami celebration here on the blog by tasting a ringo ame-style candy that might just fit into a pink-themed hanami picnic basket!
Candy Kits Galore!
Although I do possess a sweet tooth, I am not the biggest ‘candy’ (‘sweets’/’lollies’) eater. Japanese candy kits, however, constantly fascinate me. It turns out that I am not the only adult who is intrigued with this concept. Many travelers who visit Japan are just as keen in experiencing the magic of interacting with these candy kits… regardless of whether they are into candy or not!
Transforming simple joys of munching on candy into memorable moments is an art of its own. The levels of creativity and thought that are poured into conjuring these kits are amazing. Hence, when I spotted a pink-colored candy kit at the shops, I couldn’t resist its charm!
Living up to the expectation of extraordinarily-designed Japanese packaging, the wrapper’s bold illustrations, fonts and colors are eye-catching. The package looks like it belongs on a page of a manga series (manga = Japanese comics), because it sparked flashbacks of flipping through comic books as a child. To be precise, I recalled a Doraemon manga in my old collection of books, which I’ve completely forgotten about!
A gentle apple scent greeted my nose as soon as I unveiled the candy kit. The kit itself is arranged neatly on a plastic tray, which is where the magic of bringing these mini ringo ame to life begins. This tray comes with three sections: two smaller sections for toppings and a large section for the star of the candy show. A wooden toothpick, which steps into the position of a mini skewer, is included too.
Seven pieces of apple candy, which look like round versions of square-shaped Sugus candies (chewy fruit-flavored candies), sit inside the package. They remind me of little cotton ball-like bunny tails, sans the ‘cotton’ part. My sub-conscious thought of bunnies must have stemmed from admiring the rabbit illustrations on the wrapper!
A glossy red glaze, which looks like strawberry jelly that goes with peanut butter, fills one-half of the supporting roles in this sweet experience. This glaze/’syrup’ represents sugar syrup on candy apples. Parallel to its original inspiration, this take on syrup is pretty sticky. Unlike regular sugar syrup, however, its sweet notes echo the taste of apples, with a lightly-tart edge.
After taking a dip into the apple-flavored ‘syrup’, the final part before chewing is encrusting the entire sweet in sprinkles. Splashes of blue, yellow and white fit nicely with the cotton candy-pink backdrop, as pink brings out the three distinctive shades. These sprinkles remind me of rock candies, as matte-shaded fine shards instead of resembling sparkly crystals.
It’s time to deliver the final verdict. As they say in Japan before eating, Itadakimasu! (‘I humbly receive!’/’let’s eat!’)
To my taste buds, the round apple candies stand out the most. On the chewiness scale, it is somewhere between the textures of gummy candy and Mentos. With a rich flavor profile which matches that of apple juice in cartons (to my taste buds at least), it would appeal to sweet tooths who are into fruity candies. My apple-laden experience doesn’t end there. Although the candies are pink on the outside, they match the color of freshly-sliced apples on the inside!
The syrup packs a punch individually, but it isn’t as intense when it is matched with the candies and the sprinkles. This apple syrup binds the sprinkles with the gummy candies. Adding sugar sprinkles is a stroke of genius because it adds a crunchy note to the experience, hence emulating the experience of munching on an actual crunchy candy apple!
All in all, rolling out the red carpet for spring by taking a flavorful trip into the world of Japanese candy kits was great fun. Most importantly, this oishi (delicious) treat has satisfied my picky candy palate!