Review: Okashi Connection August 2014

Back in July I subscribed to Okashi Connection, a Japanese candy and snacks subscription service (like the one I’m already in for teas), and hurrah hurrah in September I’ve received the first box!

Okashi (おかし), for those not in the know, means ‘snack’ in Japanese. Also used for confections, pastries or sweets and can also be written as ‘kashi’. 

For $22 and no more (no money for shipping, that’s already factored in) you’ll get a box delivered almost anywhere in the world (basically to any country that Japan ships to) that contains seasonal product to give you a true taste of Japan. They carefully order in bulk and choose product that are light so they can spend more on snacks and it isn’t wasted on postage.

You get a size 60 box with around a pound (between 400-600 grams) of items. They ‘strive to include things that are difficult or impossible to get outside of Japan’ and they include information and instructions on how to make / eat the items.

But hey, on to the photos and information!

AugustOkashi

The above is apparently smaller than usual – fewer items, but greater quality. As it’s summer in Japan currently, this means festivals, which means seasonal treats! That accounts for the takoyaki, chocolate banana, and cotton candy/fairy floss flavours.

It’s also the 40th year of Hello Kitty, so there’s a special items around Japan at the moment. Okashi Connection managed to get biscuits included – a bonus for Hello Kitty fans (of which I am one, sure, why not) and still excellent for anyone who likes biscuits!

As a note, this box shipped on the 6th August, and I received it on the 3rd September. Others received theirs much, much quicker – I think it’s Australia Post dropping the ball here. I’ve been speaking with my neighbours and we’ve realised that we hardly get any post all week except for Mondays and Wednesdays. Next box I’ll note when it was sent and when I receive it, I’m sure it’ll be quicker :)

Despite how it took almost a month, nothing was melted when I got it! And I’m in Australia, and it’s summer in Japan. Big thumbs up for us both :D

Anyhow, onto the review!

AugTakoCrackers1 AugTakoCrackers2

Ottotto Crackers – Takoyaki Flavor

I know it’s a crime, but I’m not a fan of takoyaki. I avoid all seafood because I’m allergic to certain kinds in medium quantities (so I can usually manage having fish sauce on things, or flavourings, but can’t exactly eat a full piece of fish or a bowl of calamari.) I wish I loved seafood as that would make visiting Japan amazing and really, where I’m from is known for the barramundi (fish) and chilli mud crab, and where my mum’s side of the family is from, we have dozens of dams full of marron, which are a type of crayfish that sell for a stupidly large amount of money over in France (which boggles my mind, since they’re just from muddy old dams up the back of our farms, amongst sheep and kangaroos!)

But anyway. I roped in friends to help test these out. I firmly believe if you’re doing a product review and you can’t review each part – rope in others to help. Just saying ‘ew I’m not going to try this’ is pretty disappointing and defeats the point of doing a product review, really.

Overall, some were put off by the smell, some were put off by the idea – but everyone tried them (as I’m excellent at badgering people) and everyone either loved them, or were surprised by how much they liked them! I tried a few (being careful, in case I had an allergy to them) and liked how they are so hollow that they have a puff of texture which is pleasing to eat. They weren’t as strong in flavour as I expected they would be! Everyone at work loved the shapes they come in and thought they were quite interesting. I loved how nice the box was, with all the information!

PainoMi1 PaiNoMi2

Pai no Mi – Cotton Candy Flavor

Cotton candy (or fairy floss as it’s known here) is one of my favourite things about visiting the royal show when it passes through my city, or when I visit Brighton and go on the pier. Yes it’s far too much sugar and dye, but for some reason I always have to get some – I think I just love the melting texture it has as it hits your tongue.

Incidentally, I went camping in the bush in remote Australia with friends once and brought along some fairy floss. Lunch as we were setting up were turkey and salad sandwiches, and one of the guys put chunks of fairy floss inside his damn sandwich. I’ve never forgotten that.

But anyway. These little pastry puffs with one glazed side have a sweet filling – in this case, fairy floss. They can be heated in the microwave (only 30 seconds needed for mine) which makes them even better than their cold form, which is still pretty damn good! Even mum enjoyed these (she usually prefers simple sweets), and we agreed they were pretty moorish. I’d certainly hunt these down again!

AugKittyCookies

Hello Kitty 40th Anniversary Strawberry and Vanilla Country Ma’am Soft Cookies

Yup, I’m a fan of Hello Kitty. It started when I was in primary school and a friend’s mum (a Japanese teacher) would come back from working holidays when she escorted classes there, and would bring back stacks of stationery for us. We had a pen that would eerily croak out ‘Hello, Kitty. HELLO!’ which cracked us up every time. It sounded a bit like a parrot talking. From then on, I’ve loved the Hello Kitty brand.

These are delightful and were one of my favourite things in the box! Quite moist inside rather than a dry hard biscuit, loads of chocolate and flavour and you can certainly taste the strawberry in the pink biscuits. Not overly sweet so it’s overpowering, but has a sweet kick to it as a biscuit should.

AugnoMachi

Koala no Machi (Koala’s March) Chocolate Banana.

I’m always wary of anything that’s banana flavour that’s not an actual plain ol’ boring banana. Experiences in the past have always been very disappointing, overwhelming, and sickening, really. Often tasting of medicine.

I’d love to say that these were amazing and much better than I was expecting, but sadly I didn’t like the banana taste at all. I love normal bananas, but as I said above, the synthetic taste is often a bit icky. I couldn’t really taste the chocolate aspect which probably would have blended it all together quite well, but others could so I’d still say these are worth trying, they just weren’t for me personally! I likes how there’s several different designs on all the biscuits!

AugCaplico

Caplico Giant Panda ‘Ice Cream Cone’

The ‘ice cream’ on top is a type of meringue cream. The cone is just a chocolate flavoured wafer, and the inside is a nicely balanced chocolate cream. I have to say I was expecting to like this one a lot more than I actually did! There wasn’t anything exactly wrong with it (other than the meringue being incredibly sweet), but I was just expecting something that was a little closer to making you feel ‘wow, this is amazing’! Perhaps I shouldn’t have tried these the same day I tried the Pai no Mi – I was still too blown away by those!

This faired pretty well in the post also, not melting or anything like that. It also survived being in the box when it was scrunched up in the fridge out of the way by an uncaring member of this household on a hunt for bacon. So they get a thumbs up for that – the meringue was just too sweet for me tonight, it seems.

AugBSRflavours

Baby Star Ramen – 4 Pack

(Clockwise from top right) – Starting with salt flavour, then it’s spicy soy, then sauce and mayo, then chicken flavour back in the top left. (These are also in the same formation in the first picture in this blog review post, (the one showing the contents of the box) with the blue and white packet being the salt flavour, if you wanted to see what the packets looked like. I forgot to keep a photo of each packet so I could have a second photo split into four panels. Oops!)

‘Baby star’ has twin mascots named ‘Bei-chan’ and ‘Bi-chan’. Put their names together and it’s ‘baby’.

Mamee-Monster-Noodle-Snacks-BBQNow this is what I’m talkin’ ’bout! Growing up, one of my favourite things was the Mamee Monster Noodle Snack, which is pretty much the same thing it seems. Salty, addictive dehydrated noodles of carby goodness. Probably with MSG back in my primary school days. That’s one issue of not yet being able to read Japanese fluently, I’m not entirely sure whether Baby Star Ramen has MSG in it, but I suppose I’ll be able to tell in a few days! (Okashi Connection has the warning if you have any food allergies, to not subscribe. Mine are so minimal and it seems I’m working my way out of them that I still subscribed anyway. MSG is in half the lunches I get out at work anyhow, that it seems pretty impossible to avoid at times.

But anyhow, back to the review.

The salty flavour in this was quite good – not overpowering where you feel you need a drink straight afterwards or during, but still enough so you know there’s actually flavour there, and it doesn’t drift away leaving you wishing there was more punch as you reach the end of the packet and it’s just gone a bit bland.

The spicy soy didn’t really taste of spice, though it did taste of soy. These were quite subtle and probably my fourth favourite out of the four – not that they were bad in any way, just that I preferred the other flavours. I would have liked a little more punch – if I pick up something that says it’s spicy, I expect spice!

The sauce and mayo had thicker noodles, and a fairly strong taste of okonomiyaki (seeing as it’s the sauce you use in the dish!) which is similar to Worcestershire sauce but thicker and sweeter. These were quite good thanks to the strong flavour but only made me wish for okonomiyaki instead – who could turn down a hot dish! Oh Japan I really need to get back sometime soon.

The chicken flavour didn’t overly taste of chicken – say, like chicken twisties do. Like above they had enough flavour (of some kind, whether it was overly chickeny or not is another thing) that you didn’t feel the need to drink something afterwards. These really tasted of the Monster Noodle Snacks as discussed above. These were probably my second favourite out of the four.

This was delightful and light throughout, not too filling but there was still enough there. I’d say these are good to munch on at your work desk or between classes as they won’t ruin your appetite but will tide you over in the same way a handful or two of peanuts would.

~

AugustOkashiExtras

Some months you can also choose to buy extras. I went a little crazy with the above, which came to a total of $35.50USD. The bags contain 13 individually wrapped minis and were $8 each, and the small packet of BAKE chocolate biscuits in the middle was $3.50. They don’t do this each month, for instance, September box hasn’t had this as an option (thankfully!)

They only had a limited number of each and you get a link to a google form to put up your hand for whatever you want, if you get in on time.

AuKitKatBake AuKitKatBakeGroup

KitKat Bake

(Also known as “Bake ‘N Tasty Mini Kit Kats Custard Pudding Flavor” (Kit Kat Mini Yaite Oishi Purin Aji) according to RocketNews 24 who did a great write up on them!)

The baking kitkats involve you putting an individual piece on a bit of foil and putting that in one of those little baking ovens they have over in Japan, or in some workplaces I’ve been in (also called pie warmers). It makes the top all bubbly like a Crème brûlée. I put mine in the griller, though Monstrositea puts hers in the oven cold (with a cold oven) and let them both warm up together to excellent results!

I tried the lowest setting on the grill at first, but that took too long. Eventually I turned it up to four (as you can see in the image above), so not even halfway, and it cooked two kitkats within a few minutes.

allens_milko_stickUntil I came here to write the review, I assumed it was simply a white chocolate kitkat, but it turns out they’re custard flavour! That makes a whole lot of sense, as I couldn’t quite place what they tasted like – throwing up between a milko bar or the white part of a kinder surprise.

Overall these are quite fun. They weren’t my favourite flavour out of the extras I got, but they were clearly the most interesting. I showed them off at work and everyone wanted to try them, even those who aren’t usually interested in kitkats. Asako-chan was really excited to see a bit of home here in Australia!

AuAero1 AuAero2

Mint Chocolate Aero

These you keep in the freezer until you’re about to eat them. They were amazing, but then I quite like mint chocolate. I love how small they were, and the frozen aspect added quite a snap to the texture. I know some people snicker at the idea of Aero – basically selling ‘air’ to the customer, but hey, it’s all about texture. These taste different to general mint chocolates, so there, it has a point!

As far as mint tastes go, this was quite light. The chocolate seems there mostly to wrap it in as it’s quite thin and doesn’t have an overwhelming taste. These are probably my favourite out of the extras I got! I like how small they are, just for when you want a refreshing taste of sugar to bounce off the walls again for a moment.

RaspKitKat1 RaspKitKat2

Raspberry KitKats

These were very sweet, with sudden tangs and bursts of flavour that really got the raspberry flavour through. TinaWaferThe scent also really reminded me of Arnott’s ‘Tine Wafers’ (the strawberry kind). I’m not sure what countries these are/were available in, but which kid in Australia hasn’t had these in their school lunch box at one point or another?

I think these were too sweet for me, but then the tangy bits make me coming back again for another bite, or another piece entirely! A co-worker visited my desk at work to see if I’d go downstairs with her to get something sweet (right after we did exercise that lunch break, too!) and instead I handed her one of these. I think she was initially disappointed with how it was just a mini kitkat, but afterwards I said we could try one of the Bake Kitkats and she said nope, she’d had enough sweet things! So it’s a good size, and a good balance of sugar and tang.

I’m a little confused by the back of the packaging though – what’s the grid for? It looks like where you’d write something. Are you supposed to write a note to a friend before sharing these out?

AuICKitkat1 AuICKitkat2

Vanilla Ice-cream KitKats

Like the Aero snack size, and because this is vanilla ice-cream flavour, these have a serving suggestion of being placed in the freezer first.

I handed one of these and one of the raspberry kitkats to my father for dessert, and this was his preference. This was probably my second favourite – yes, just in front of the Bake KitKats! It has a strong scent of artificial potent vanilla, which probably helps prepare your taste-buds for what’s coming! I didn’t overly get a vanilla ice-cream taste from it initially, but it certainly has that aftertaste of creamy vanilla. This one tends to work exceptionally well because of the kitkat’s wafer insides – just a bit like an ice cream in a wafer cone!

I quite like these, though they’re pretty sweet also. Still, they’re mini-sized so that’s totally fine with me! Not sure I could do a regular-sized bar, but then again I’ve avoided sweets for so long when recovering from surgery/various illnesses, so I’m back to the basics!

BAKEChocolate

BAKE – Chocolate flavour

These had a brownie-like texture and taste. As you can see, there are ten in the packet, but one was all I needed with a cup of tea, so they’ll last quite well (then again, I just like a bite of something sweet these days, it’s savoury things I scoff down!)

These have a crunchy exterior with a softer, rich inside – hence, like a brownie! The chocolate is is rich and I would assume to be dark chocolate. I’ve seen that some people have tried to heat them up a little before eating, but it hasn’t vastly improved it so I think they’re fine to eat as they are. They’re quite moorish and I can see why this is one of the more popular treats from Japan.

~~~

They’re on facebook, twitter, youtube and instagram, and they’re really speedy with getting back to you. Their website is still the best place to start if you’re interested in learning more though.

They also have a referral program in effect! If you’d like $1 off your first box (hey, it’s already pretty cheap so that dollar counts!), enter the following into the ‘Referral Code’ box at the checkout:

adlaxre

And hey, if you do this and we can confirm that, then I may throw a little something extra your way – probably in the form of a book!

I highly recommend this subscription service, I looked at all the Japanese ones on offer (Skosh Box also looks good but they don’t ship to Australia!). I can’t wait to see what’s in the next box! I really loved this one and highly recommend it to anyone who loves Japanese things, or who just likes snacks! My co-workers have really enjoyed seeing what new thing I have to share each day :)

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4 thoughts on “Review: Okashi Connection August 2014

    • I’d say so – considering postage is included. It has a good balance of items that even people who’ve been to Japan would struggle to find and often has limited edition stuff. I just received my third box and I’m not bored of, or regretting it yet!

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