Trying Out Bokksu A Japanese Snack Service - ArticleCraig Snow , posted on 07 September 2019 / 1,663 Views
One of the highlights of my birthday each year comes from a friend who gives me a gift box full of random snacks and sweets that he’s purchased from independent sweet and snack shops near to where he lives; stores which sell an eclectic mix of old fashioned sweets and imported products from all over the world that aren’t available from your typical high street chain store.
It didn’t occur to me, until I was contacted by Bokksu to review its service, that this model could form the basis of a quirky gift/subscription service. But that’s basically what Bokksu is – each month the company sells a box full of assorted Japanese goodies, including snacks, confectionary, cakes, teas, and more from some of the country’s artisanal companies. While not strictly gaming related I thought it would be interesting to try out, espially since Japanese culture in general is popular on this site.
A one-off Taster box costs $25 (or $23.50 if you subscribe for a full year), while the complete Classic box costs $39 (or $36 if you subscribe for a full year). The former always includes 10-14 edible or drinkable items, a guide booklet, packaging, and all postage costs (shipping is free worldwide and includes tracking for most countries), while the latter features all of that plus an additional 10 or 11 items. The exact items vary from month to month, depending on what products prove popular or interesting in Japan, and are oftentimes based around a cultural/seasonal theme. So for example August’s Bokksu was based around the country’s Firework Festivals, while April’s focussed on products suited to Japan’s Hanami Festival.
The Bokksu I received celebrated the Moon Festival, which the handy guide booklet reliably informs me is celebrated by “attending temples, eating mocha and noodles, and lighting incense… celebrating the sold Japanese tradition of honouring the autumn moon”. The booklet features titbits of information on the monthly theme like that, as well as a recipe for one of the items featured in the box, a map showing where the items originate from, and best of all detailed information for each food and beverage item included in the box.
The Moon Festival box featured a nice balance of sweet and savoury, including:
- Three sesame crackers (2x ‘Black Sesame Genmai’ and 1x ‘Black Sesame Taiko’). The Genmais were savoury with a strong soy and brown rice flavour. The Taiko, which was one of the highlights of the box, looks quite similar to the Genmai but is in actual fact very sweet and moreish, like sweet and salted popcorn (but made from pressed almonds and sesame). In the booklet it’s described as scrumptious and that isn’t an exaggeration.
- Two teas (1x ‘Organic Drip Tea’ and 1x ‘Kuromame Tea’), which, especially if you’re used to standard western tea, both involve quite novel methods of brewing. The former utilises handles that you place on your mug and you then pour slightly cooled boiling water over and allow it to drip through the leaves. The latter uses beans that double up as a snack that you can eat once you’ve finished your drink.
- Three savoury crisp/chip (for the Americans out there) type snacks (1x ‘Nure-Agesen’, 1x ‘Scone: Barbeque Flavour’ and 1x ‘Usuyaki Shokunin Chibisuke’). The Nure-Agesen was probably the most unusual of all the items in the box, combining tuna flavouring with dried plum to produce a soft, slightly moist snack that is quintessentially Japanese in its uniqueness. The tuna fish flavour is unheard of in savoury snacks in my home country and can be quite overpowering, until it’s balanced out by the plum aftertaste. The ‘Scone’ is very similar to a brand of crisps in the UK called Nik Naks – crunchy, knobbly corn-based snacks that contain a nice rich flavour. Nothing like what we call scones though! Finally, the Usuyaki Shokunin Chibisuke probably packs the biggest punch out of everything in the box, with its heavy black pepper flavouring. If you like cracked black pepper crisp/chips then you’ll love these.
- One bag of nuts (‘Ofu: Fukairi Shichimi’). These are quite similar to lightly spice flavoured nuts you can buy in the west, but mixed in with these nuts are little puff balls. Curiously the front of the pack features what appears to be a glass of beer, which bears no relation whatsoever to the spice flavouring!
- Three cake treats (1x ‘Okashinai Cheese Manju’, 1x ‘Hakata Mitsuki: Delicious Cheese Financier’ and 1x ‘Rich Baked Chocolat’). The first two are quite similar – slightly moist cakes with mild hints of cheese (and in the case of the Hakata Mitsuki, almonds) that are surprisingly complimentary. The chocolate cake stands out for its rich cocoa flavour – indeed that seems to be a common theme with all of the chocolate products in the box.
- Four chocolate-based sweets (1x ‘Chocolate Azuki Beans: Black Sesame Kinako’ and 3x ‘Usagi Chocolate Ball’). The Usagi come in cute rabbit packaging and taste like much richer, more cocoa-y chocolate M&Ms. The Azuki beans are similar but have a softer flavour and texture.
- Five dessert snacks (2x ‘Mitarashi Mochi’, 2x ‘Gudetama Golden Pack: Tamago Kake Gohan Flavour’, 1x ‘Funwari Meijin Mochi Puffs: Kuromitsu Kinako’). The Mochi Puffs are melt-in-your-mouth treats that taste of brown sugar. The Mochi have a most unusual, stretchy texture and contain a gooey sweet soy sauce in the middle. Finally, my favourite of the dessert treats, the Gudetama Golden Pack is based on a popular Japanese breakfast food, but comes in a maze-like crisp/chip form. Anyone who’s ever eaten a Wotsit/Cheeto will recognise the texture (it even looks a bit like a giant Wotsit/Cheeto), but the flavouring is a very pleasant mix of sweet and savoury that is most unusual when combined with that texture in the west.
Once you’ve tried everything you’ll likely have a few favourites, and if you want to purchase more of them you can often do so from Bokksu’s market (although the more popular items seem to sell out fast), as well as items from previous Bokksus. My favourites from this one were the Gudetama Golden Pack, Hakata Mitsuki, Usayaki Shokunin Chibisuke, and the Black Sesame Taiko, so I’ll be keeping an eye out for them on the store.
If you like to immerse yourself in Japanese culture – as many gamers do, especially on VGChartz where the JRPG rules the community roost – then this sort of thing should be right up your street. It quite literally gives you a real taste of Japanese culture that, short of visiting the country for yourself, is unlikely to be bested. It’s quirky and fun to try out too, and I can certainly see myself purchasing one in the future.
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