It just goes to show you how far a little research can get you when getting the scoop on foreign snacks. What I initially dismissed as exuberant Engrish on the part of the maker (mochi mochi mochi cream choco-banana?) was actually the full name of a high-end mochi emporium in Hong Kong and Japan. Granted, it still read like Engrish, but now it was gourmet Engrish. This particular snack was found in a subway convenience store in Tokyo, looking for all the world like a random, strange snack food.
After doing my homework, I found out that this store packages and sells their mochi as well as vending it freshly made from their boutiques in flavors like apple pie, honey cranberry, and darjeeling tea. This pre-made snack was in one of their most popular flavors, chocolate banana, and boasted an array of fresh ingredients stuffed into the tiny mochi balls. The chocolate banana flavor had a very appealing package with a photo of a plate brimming with slices of fresh fruit and chocolate drizzling all over. The back of the package broke down the composition of the mochi dumplings in a diagram form, helpfully stating that snackers would expect bittersweet cocoa powder coating a layer of soft mochi, chewy marshmallow, and a banana and chocolate chip center.
Inside, the mochi are wrapped individually and are very neat. The product is a victim of the potato chip cushioning phenomenon- despite looking as though the bag could hold twice the amount, it is filled with nine of the little dumplings. The mochi are much less messy to touch than I expected, with a conservative amount of cocoa powder coating each piece. They are cool and springy to the touch, with a pliable bite and depth of texture. Though some could argue that the packaging was a little excessive, I found that it protected the mochi and didn’t let them scuff up against each other so that each one was in perfect condition.
Each piece is fairly weighty and is roughly the size of a small walnut, and is very soft. Not a trace of cocoa powder fell off the sticky mochi. They immediately start to sink around the shape of your fingers as you hold them, a good sign of freshness. What I was impressed with was how precisely sweet these were with all the layers of sugary elements- marshmallow, chocolate chips, banana, and chocolate usually make for a fairly toothachingly saccharine bite. But whenever a sweet element showed up in the bite, another, more neutral part (like the mochi skin) masked its sweetness in a deft way so that no one bite was overwhelming. The flavor was delicious. The chocolate’s two bittersweet and sweetened forms were one of the highlights, but the fresh banana puree inside really won me over. It was soft and chunky, evident of having real bananas inside, and had a sweet, creamy texture. The only off flavor in it was an artificial banana note, which I couldn’t quite comprehend. I’m not sure if it was used to boost the natural fruitiness, but it didn’t help and came across as a little cloying. Still bomb-diggity with the chocolate chips, which made it taste like chocolate chip banana bread!
I was impressed with the craftsmanship of these- they were some of the tastiest mochi I’ve had and lacked that rough, overly glutenous texture of their larger counterparts. They were delicate and all too easy to graze on.