The Chestnut Chronicles: Volume 3. Yes, the third installment of my chestnut adventure is here after a year-long hiatus.
You might be wondering, “It isn’t the season to feast on chestnuts, so why choose a chestnut treat?” Well, I had a sudden urge to live on the snacking edge by having a mini ‘rebellious’ foodie moment of defying the warmer season, which resulted in an impromptu purchase that led to this adventure. Furthermore, it is autumn somewhere in the world at this very moment (hello, Southern Hemisphere)!
Chestnuts and I have an interesting history. I always describe my ‘frenemy’ philosophy with chestnuts as “Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither is my love of chestnuts”. Right now, Rome is still under construction as far as my taste buds are concerned. But, there is some progress… I don’t dart away from chestnuts anymore (or at least not as quickly as before!) Instead, I’m intrigued with new chestnut treats that my radar detects – like this Japanese chestnut mont blanc-inspired caramel corn snack which I spotted while shopping here in the Lion City.
Being a huge fan of Japanese caramel corn, experiencing chestnut’s taste in a familiar territory hits the sweet spot for me. Without further ado, let’s visit the world of caramel corn!
Japanese Caramel Corn
Caramel corn is a sweet corn-based snack in Japan by a brand named Tohato. Not to be confused with caramel popcorn, this caramel corn refers to a cashew-shaped corn puff snack with a sweet coat of caramel. Being incredibly moreish, it’s easy to finish an entire bag in one go. While the snack’s general name is ‘caramel corn’, it has ventured into other flavor options beyond the original caramel. Matcha (green tea) and chocolate caramel corn flavors are also available year-round. Seasonal flavors make appearances too, like this mont blanc version.
Mont Blanc is a French-Italian dessert that is widely said to be inspired by the snowy alps in a region shared between France and Italy. In fact, the actual mountain named Mont Blanc is situated on the French-Italian border.
This dessert is highly-adored in Japan’s dessert scene, and autumn is the ultimate mont blanc-feasting season. Not only are they on the menus in many dessert shops in Japan, mont blanc-inspired recreations of treats appear with chestnuts as the star. Kit Kats and dorayaki (Japanese pancakes with a filing) are some of them.
From what I’ve gathered, a basic mont blanc comprises of 3 primary elements: chestnut puree, whipped cream, and a pastry base. Some bakers have their own spins, and many include meringue as a 4th element. Nevertheless, one similarity always remains: the aesthetics. The chestnut puree is the final touch to the mont blanc, and it’s piped onto a cream/meringue/cream-meringue dome with a piping nozzle which creates ‘strands’ that resemble vermicelli noodles or angel hair pasta. It’s like seeing a decadent chestnut mountain! Just thinking about the dessert made me excited and intrigued about the snack I was going to taste.
Hello, Mont Blanc Caramel Corn!
I love the little design details on the wrapper – from the autumn leaves to the mont blanc illustrations. In true caramel corn fashion, the wrapper has an expression that appears to be as prepared as foodies to begin snacking on its contents. Well, it’s going to have to share its sweet treats with me!
The corn puffs have a light golden-brown hue, and they possess the regular caramel corn shape. Admiring them through my camera, I realized they funnily remind me of both Cheetos and ebi (Japanese fried shrimp/prawn breaded in panko breadcrumbs) in a cute way. I couldn’t wait any longer to taste them!
Chestnut’s recognizable signature flavor greeted my taste buds instantly. Along with chestnut, I detected caramel undertones. Albeit being a little mild in comparison to treats with a punch of chestnuts, the chestnut’s taste doesn’t hide at all – rather, it actually shines. It is exemplary of the foodie view of the saying “less is more”. I even found myself reaching for another piece excitedly!
Reflecting on my sleuthing, I realized this part replicates the experience of tasting mont blanc’s swirly chestnut puree. According to the ingredients list, the chestnut flavor is credited to chestnut flavor paste and chestnut powder. And it verifies that caramel is also present through caramel sauce.
The chestnut pairs perfectly with the lightness of munching on a corn snack. The star flavor’s tone matches its food canvas (i.e. the corn puffs). Plus, it has a nice level of sweetness that makes snacking pleasant, as it isn’t as sweet as an actual confection. It’s straightforward yet executed perfectly – especially for someone like me.
From a caramel corn perspective, it’s exactly what I’d want and expect from these ultra-snackable light puffs. The usual textural contrasts in the munching process is present: each piece begins with a crunchy consistency in the first bite, closely followed by a melt-in-your-mouth consistency thereafter. Thinking about its texture, I reckon it does have a slight similarity to mont blanc, as it kind of reminds me of meringue’s texture.
I realized that storing them in an airtight container is essential in retaining the crunchiness if you aren’t planning to snack on the entire pack straight away. Mine retained their crunchiness, thanks to my container.
All in all, I enjoyed this chestnut experience!