The Journal of Ephemeral Inspiration

The Journal of Ephemeral Inspiration promises a neverending spew of pointless minutae, brilliant yet useless ideas, troublingly cruel commentary and emphatic musings on whatever shiny object happens to catch our collective eye. Always remember, hate the game, not the playa.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Food Of The Gods: Pocky, Pretz & Pretenders

The Food Of The Gods column would not, could not be complete without significant mention of the favorite snack food here at the J.E.I. compound. We speak, of course, of the all-mighty Pocky.

"Pocky?" you say. "Isn't that some kind of Japanese video game?" Not even close, Timmy.

Simply put, Pocky is a chocolate-coated breadstick (just as simply put, The Beatles were a band). Where the magic happens is the almost limitless variations on a theme the clever folks at Glico have managed to create, flooding the snack aisles of your local Asian grocery store with multi-color boxes containing a promise of endless flavor and sati-snack-tion.

Don't believe us? Visit our Flickr gallery, "Pocky, Pretz & Pretenders" for 200 variations of Pocky and Pocky-wannabes. Tip of the effing iceberg...

Rather than go to the time and effort to write an original history blurb on Pocky, let's turn to the Wikipedia for some quick learnin':

Pocky (Japanese: ポッキー, pokkii) is a snack food produced by the Ezaki Glico Company of Japan. 'Pocky' is usually pronounced to rhyme with 'hockey' in English, but is pronounced more like 'poke-key' in Japanese. The classic form of Pocky was first sold in 1965, under the name "Chocoteck", and consists of a biscuit stick coated with chocolate. Pocky was an instant hit among Japanese teenagers, and brought in sales of 30 billion Yen its first two years. The name was changed to "Pocky", after the Japanese onomatopoeia for the sound Pocky makes when bit, "pokkin" (ポッキン). The original was followed by "Almond Pocky" in 1971, with an almond coating, and "Strawberry Pocky" in 1977. Today, the product line includes such variations as milk, mousse, green tea and coconut flavored coatings, and themed products as "Decorer Pocky", with colorful decorative stripes in the coating, and "Men's Pocky", a bittersweet and "mature" version.

Pocky [and the coating-less Pretz] is as popular in Japan as M&M's candy is in the United States, and also has a significant presence in other East Asian countries such as Korea. In Europe, Pocky is renamed Mikado after the game Mikado. In the United States, Pocky can be found in Asian groceries and the international section of most large supermarkets.

Several other brands, such as "Lucky", "Chocky", "Fran", and the Korean "Pepero", are sold by competing companies.

See, you learn something every day, try as you might to the contrary. But enough exposition, let's jump right in to the J.E.I. Pocky Taste Test...

Chocolate Pocky
(Chocolate covered biscuit sticks) Your basic Pocky-- if you can only find one version in your area, this will be the one-- and for good reason. Completely satisfying in every way; crisp, chocolatey and not overly sweet, it's the Pocky to reach for when you've got a crowd to please.
Giant Strawberry Pocky
(Strawberry cream and dried strawberry bits on a giant biscuit stick) Bigger ain't always better. Though the appeal of Tsubu Ichigo "giant" Pocky seems like a sure-fire winner (and Strawberry Pocky is quite popular), it disappoints in execution. The flavor itself is fairly good (if a tiny bit waxy), but the ratio of stick to coating on these 10 inch kindergarten pencils is just all out of whack (it's a lot of stick). And it's much more expensive per stick. Like grain alcohol, you gotta try it once to decide you are fine with just plain old beer.
Coconut Chocolate Pocky
(Chocolate and coconut bits covered biscuit stick) A solid performer taste-wise, but the coconut bits flummox the otherwise streamlined stick, and far fewer fit in the package. Plus, they're shorter, by almost an inch (though the box is the same height as regular Pocky). A nice treat if you're a coco-nut, but you get more bang for your buck with plain chocolate.
"Choco" Banana Chocolate Pocky
(Banana and chocolate coated biscuit sticks) It's difficult to describe the beauty of the precision-machined chocolate stripes cutting through the sickly-sweet yellow banana coating. Swear to god, it's a marvel of confectionery engineering. But even though we are fans of artificial banana flavoring, we've gotta be honest, these are just too sweet (and have a synthetic aftertaste) to be in our regular Pocky rotation.
Men's Chocolate Pocky
(Dark chocolate coated wheat sticks) Hands off, ladies. Though it didn't topple regular Chocolate Pocky for the top slot, Men's Chocolate Pocky is pretty good, and noticeably less sweet than its red-boxed cousin. It's a perfectly good alternative if you just have to feel like a man.
Green Tea Cream Mousse Pocky
(Green Tea/Vanilla coated biscuit sticks) Not as weird tasting as it sounds to your western ears, middle America. In fact, the dominant flavor is vanilla cream. "Mousse" Pocky (including chocolate, strawberry, etc.) have a thicker, aerated coatings, but again, the proportions are off. (but this time it's too much coating). Thicker coating also means fewer to a pack, though in this case, that's OK with us.
Chocolate Pocky G
(Dark chocolate coated crisp wheat sticks) Now we're getting somewhere. While there was not enough difference between the regular Chocolate Pocky and the Men's Chocolate Pocky to distinguish a clear winner, its crisp stick sets Pocky G sets apart. The flavor isn't much different from Men's Pocky, but it's a much more tactile experience, if that matters to you. "G" probably stands for Glico, but even if it didn't it would still sound cool.
Full Bodied Chocolate Reverse Pocky
Down goes Frasier! Ladies and gentlemen, we have a winner. "Reverse" Pocky puts the coating inside the stick, and for all the points it earns being clever, what puts it over the top is flavor-- the rich chocolate fudge combined with the crisp chocolate cracker is fantastic. Regular Chocolate Pocky will continue to be our every day Pocky, but Full Bodied Chocolate Reverse Pocky is our new secret weapon.

We've got a few more flavors to take out on the test lap; we'll be back with more reviews as we have them. Until then, scoot to your local Asian grocer and pick up a few boxes of the Pocky flavor that calls to you. If you don't have a local Asian grocer, well, what do you think the goddamn internet is for?

Also in this series...