The highly-anticipated time in my foodie calendar had arrived: it was time to scout for new snack members to replenish my beloved snack stash! This time, my snack search began in the biscuit section in a local shop. Taking a walk along the shelves and browsing all the potential goodies that might be chosen to join the snack stash team, there was one that stood out from the others that enthusiastically yelled “pick me!” (well, figuratively). Plus, its bight yellow box is unmissable.
The Hello Panda biscuits that are available here are normally made in this region (I usually come across the ones that are made locally in the Lion City), which is why seeing boxes from the island’s southern neighbor, Indonesia, isn’t a complete surprise. However, I was intrigued with the cheese version as I had never heard of it before.
Hello Panda’s fillings tend to be sweet (at least the ones I know about), therefore, I had a feeling that the cheese version might be sweet as well. Then again, perhaps this might be their debut in the savory world. Would they take a savory route, or would they stick to team ‘sweet’? With all of these thoughts running through my foodie mind, it was impossible to leave the shop without bringing a box home to investigate.
Hello, Hello Panda!
Originally from Japan, Hello Panda is a beloved biscuit in the world of Asian snacks – it is a permanent sight in biscuits aisles in supermarkets and in some shops here on the island. Beyond Asia, the biscuit tends to be available in Asian grocery stores.
The bite-sized biscuits are filled with a sweet cream, and there is a handful of flavor selections to choose from – my favorites are the chocolate, strawberry and matcha (green tea) versions. While the biscuits are simple treats with straightforward flavors, they bring foodie nostalgia to many biscuit-loving individuals, including me.
Some of my flashback foodie moments include snacking on these biscuits both at school and at home when I was a child. Fast forward to today, they continue to bring me joy when I occasionally munch on them when I feel a bit peckish. Some things will never change in my picks! It’s one of those foods that always brings me the same fuzzy feelings that come from re-watching classic movies and jamming to old songs.
The Cheese Mystery
Seeing the word ‘cheese’ in the names of desserts and sweet bakes in this corner of the world can be rather ambiguous, as the cheese may not necessarily refer to cream cheese – it could be either sweet or savory cheese selections, or it might be in-between the two categories. For valiant foodies, it’s exciting to step into the cheesy unknown to experience creative takes on cheese desserts.
Some of these seemingly strange creations are incredibly delicious with the sweet and salty combo – I remember a fabulous pandan and cheese swiss roll cake I tasted years ago from a local bakery, with finely-shredded cheese in the cream. I reckon this concept somewhat similar or comparable to the ideas of adding honey to camembert or matching jams and fruit preserves with cheeses on a cheese board. With cheese-filled thoughts, I eagerly unboxed my cheese munchies.
The Biscuit Reveal + Taste Test
A bold whiff of cheese made its entrance as soon as I opened the bag of biscuits. The biscuits are identical to the other Hello Panda flavors aesthetically. They come in two shapes, namely a cute panda head and a squircle (yes, it is a word that some people use to describe a cross between a square and a circle!)
Before munching on the biscuits, I was admiring the prints on them. An assortment of illustrations are printed on Hello Panda biscuits, and they depict the panda participating in a variety of activities enthusiastically: in this box, the panda seems to be fencing, dancing, enjoying tunes from a piano, and going on a hike (at least from what my eyes could make out!)
It was time to take a bite! The cheese cream is indeed a nod to savory cheese, but it doesn’t taste completely savory like creams in cheese sandwich crackers/biscuits… this cheese cream also possesses some sweetness. The cheese component kind of reminds me of cheddar, with the addition of sugar. It’s actually pretty good. I like the contrast between sweet and savory as the unique flavor notes harmonize pleasantly. To me, the cream-to-biscuit ratio is just right, as the flavor-packed cheese cream’s presence is balanced nicely to my taste buds.
The biscuit, which encases the cream, tastes like the regular Hello Panda biscuit that is used for the other regular cream flavors. It is neither too sweet nor very savory, it has a neutral-ish flavor tone which allows the cream to shine.
I definitely enjoyed tasting this unique biscuit. It was certainly fun to experience a new take on a childhood favorite!