Here’s the thing: Going to Japan would be awesome. From the architecture to the culture to the beautiful natural settings to the art to the FOOD (oh my goodness, the food), there are innumerable amazing things about Japan that I (and probably you if you are reading this) would love to go explore for a few weeks (…months…years…forever?). But unfortunately, we have to reckon with the reality of being twentysomethings who are just trying to save up enough money to get some fresh new underwear with functioning elastic and also make rent. That is to say, if you are anything like me, a trip to Japan may not be on the table for you at the moment and that’s okay. But you know what can be on your table? These six items you can buy at the grocery store if you can’t afford a trip to Japan. (And someday we will actually get there, I believe in us!!)
- Butter Chocolate Pocky
You have probably seen Chocolate Pocky. Maybe you’ve even seen Matcha or Strawberry Pocky. But we’re dealing with a sweets brands based in Japan, and that means there are about a bajillion and three different flavors of Pocky to choose from, including this delicious Butter Chocolate flavor, which Danny Palumbo (and the entire Sporked team) called, “the Pocky to end all Pocky.” This is a flavor you might have to find on Amazon or at an Asian grocery or convenience store near you, but, hoooo boy, is it worth the extra trip for these Pocky, which are dunked in chocolate that “does in fact taste lusciously buttery, and when paired with the sugary biscuit, it almost tastes like a homemade pie crust.” Go try these, and you will feel almost as fancy as if you had a couple thou’ to drop on a flight to Japan. Almost.
- Grapefruit Hi-Chew
Hi-Chew may just be the best chewy fruity candy out there. They are juicy as all get-out, the flavors are fantastic and accurate, they are intensely chewy without being sticky, and they are aesthetically pleasing, too (I mean come on, y’all, two-toned cuboids?!? It doesn’t get sexier than that). Japan does candy RIGHT and Hi-Chew is no exception. As for the best Hi-Chew flavor? I mean, you truly can’t go wrong, but Rhett & Link liked grapefruit best due to its “refreshing,” juicy, citrus-y ness.
- Togarashi and Furikake
Upgrade your plain rice, y’all. Obviously, you could always take rice to the next level and whip up some sushi rice seasoning with a bit of rice vinegar, sugar, and salt, but you can also take it to the NEXT next level by sprinkling your bowl of piping hot rice with either furikake (a mix of crumbled-up nori seaweed, sesame seeds, sugar, and salt, among other things), or togarashi (crushed-up chili flakes, seaweed, sesame seeds, orange peel, and more). Or, honestly, do both! We aren’t afraid of flavor over here at Sporked.
- Mikawaya Vanilla Mochi Ice Cream
Mochi is a big deal in Japan, and it is also a big deal to us here at Sporked. We love it. And since it is so intensely hot this summer, we figured we’d give you a mochi option that will cool you right off: Mochi Ice cream. That’s right—balls of ice cream wrapped in a thin layer of sticky, chewy, delicious mochi. And this particular brand and flavor of mochi balls made us feel like we were suddenly teleported to Japan (a technology I hope comes around someday and makes flights less expensive). Managing editor Gwynedd Stuart loved the way the “almost marshmallow-y flavor of the mochi dough compliments a creamy, flavorful vanilla ice cream.”
- Trader Joe’s Pork Gyoza Potstickers
I know, I know. How could I possibly suggest anything from Trader Joe’s is a substitute for an actual product of Japan?!?! Good news, I’m not suggesting that at all. But I am suggesting that if you can’t get to Japan (or even a Japanese restaurant), these gyoza potstickers will do in a pinch and they are, in fact, absolutely delicious. Senior writer Jordan Myrick called these “so juicy, flavorful, and meaty,” and I would agree. As a person who loves good dumplings of all kinds, I can honestly say these really are quite excellent.
- Kewpie Mayonnaise
Kewpie mayonnaise is better than American mayonnaise. There. I said it. It is richer, creamier, more umami and complex, and just an all-around great time. You could use this to make yourself an egg salad sando on fluffy, springy, pillowy milk bread (another thing you should buy if you can’t make it to Japan this decade), you could use it to mix with sriracha and get some spicy mayo going, you could make tuna salad, you could use it to fry up some grilled cheese, slather it on a BLT—you name a mayo use case and Kewpie mayo will fit the bill and taste even better than typical American mayo brands. Plus you can’t deny that the bottle is adorable.
It’s soda with a marble stuck in the neck of the bottle. How cool is that?! The original flavor is supposedly Lemon-Lime, but I’ve always thought it had a bit of a refreshing bubble-gum-ish, tutti-frutti aspect to it, too. There are tons of flavors to choose from and you should definitely give it a try if you haven’t yet!