January 16, 13 | Takako Chiba
Introducing caramel flavored with Genghis Khan (a Japanese grilled mutton dish), soup curry, or kelp??!!
Milk, butter, beet sugar. There is an abundance of ingredients from across Hokkaido used to make sweets and candies. Putting a twist on that sweet selection is this group of uniquely flavored caramels.
Let's start off with something somewhat common, caramel made with fruit. We have "Hokkaido Honeysuckle Caramel" and "Hokkaido Yubari Melon Caramel."
The Honeysuckle is found growing naturally in the Yufutsu wilderness, a dark purple seed on the "Suikazura" or honeysuckle plant. This seed is often used in jams and drinks, but when used to make caramel it has a sweetly sour taste and smell. The taste reminds me of Hokkaido summers.
We've talked about Yubari Melon on Hokkaido Likers once before, so be sure to check that out if you've not read it.
[ Food ] "Yubari melon" is one of the most famous fruits in Hokkaido and Japan.
After just one bite of the caramel the strong taste of Yubari Melon will give you a shock. As a Yubari native, even I was shocked at the great flavor.
▲ It's even melon colored!
Fruit isn't the only ingredient used to make the caramel we're featuring today, though. "Gagome Kelp" is used to make another kind of caramel, and we've featured this deliciously sticky food on Hokkaido Likers before. Check the article below for more information.
[ Food ] "Gagome Kelp from Neba Neba!" Sticky and delicious!
▲ Hakodate Gagome Kelp Caramel
Because it's kelp flavored, you would think that the flavor would be close to dashi (Japanese fish soup stock) or more seaweed-like. But after taking a bite there is definitely a sweet, yet uniquely kelp, flavor. It's quite delicious.
A slightly salty flavor is also present, remeniscent of the sea. This is due to real kelp powder being used for flavor.
According to Southern Hokkaido Foods the Gagome Kelp Caramel, which hit shelves in March of 2007, went through several rounds of trial and error. Currently the treat has benefitted from the popularity of the kelp from which it is made and has become quite the hit.
▲ Honeysuckle, Melon, Gagome Kelp. Each has a color matching its flavor.
Now, if you could all turn your imaginations up to their maximum level.
Allow me to introduce "Magic Spice Soup Curry Caramel"
Soup curry is a popular dish in Hokkaido and this caramel has the name of one of Sapporo's popular soup curry shops attached to it. As strange a flavor as this is I was intrigued, so I took a bite before I could change my mind!
The first thing I noticed was the strong smell of curry. As I chewed my first bite I recognized the taste of caramel, but it was accompanied with a spicy side that took me off guard. As it melted away in my mouth it left a spicy aftertaste which was definitely caramel, but at the same time definitely curry. Quite a strange experience.
Finally let's talk about "Genghis Khan Caramel."
The taste of this treat took me off guard to say the least...
The owner of Sapporo Gourmet Foods developed this treat himself. I asked him about the process.
"We began selling the caramel in 2002. Originally we tried using it as a sauce, but it just wasn't working at all. After a lot of trial and error we were able to get the correct flavoring and released it as a Genghis Khan flavored treat."
About eight or nine years ago this treat was featured on a popular daytime television show. Even though the host's reaction wasn't ideal (he said something like "What is this? This is horrible!") the exposure gave the product the break it needed.
I asked if it was ok to think that this tasted horrible. "It's the perfect conversation starter, so of course it's ok! Because of that this has become one of our longest running hit products!"
To be sure, I suggest that everyone tries this Genghis Khan flavored treat at least once. It's best if you get a group of friends together and all have a piece at the same time!
These Hokkaido souvenirs line the shelves of most gift shops. They work well when purchased as an accompanying gift for some of the many other Hokkaido-made products you may buy.
So if you visit Hokkaido be sure to try at least one flavor before you head home!
For information about "Hokkaido Honeysuckle Caramel," "Hokkaido Yubari Melon Caramel," and "Genghis Khan Caramel"
● ㈱札幌グルメフーズ (Sapporo Gourmet Foods)
TEL : 011-865-0141
For information about "Hakodate Gagome Kelp Caramel"
● 道南食品㈱ (Donan Foods)
For information about "Magic Spice Soup Curry Caramel"
● ㈱アンヌプリ (Annupuri)
(Hokkaido Likers Writer - Takako Chiba)