Every country has it’s trademark snack. The UK has Cadbury’s chocolate, the potato chip from the US. for Japan, it has to be Umaibo.
Forget mochi, bean paste and all those classic Japanese snacks, the flavoured corn snack-Umaibo- is ubiquitous as a kids favourite all over Japan (and spreading overseas).
Let’s take a look at the umaibo phenomenon.
The History Of Umaibo
Umaibo is a combination of the Japanese words: umai (delicious) and bo (stick/pole). Riska and Yaokin are the companies behind this corn snack.
They first launched umaibo in the 70s with currently 1,400,000 pcs currently sold per day.
The modern umaibo is 15% bigger than the original version and it comes in lots of different flavours.
At time of writing, there are fifteen flavours as well five others limited to specific areas. 16 others have been discontinued and more will no doubt be created.
The Umaibo Flavours
Umaibo flavours are seriously international. There are the classic Japanese offerings.
Mentaiko (marinated roe of pollock and cod), is originally Russian and used in pasta, rice balls and even bread. This has a fishy taste and a delicious spicy tang.
Natto (fermented soy beans)- this is a real love-it-or-hate-it food. Natto is really a sticky mess that looks a bit like alien eggs from some cheap movie.
But it’s very healthy and once the taste is acquired and the smell can be ignored actually really tasty. Remarkably the umaibo guys have managed to capture the unique natto taste perfectly.
Gotta be tried at least once.
Teriyaki sauce can be found all over the world these days and the japanese incarnation of McDonald’s fast food restaurants carries a teriyaki burger on its menu.
Umaibo jumped on this popular flavour and covered their tasty stick with the teriyaki experience.
Tonkatsu (pork cutlets) are deep fried pork steaklets in bread crumbs. They first came to Japan sometime during and post second world war. And really are a typical case of Japan absorbing foreign culture.
They’ve taken this western dish and taken it to new levels. One serving style is with a mountain of fresh cabbage and tonkatsu sauce (a combination of ketchup, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, sherry, sugar, garlic powder, and ginger).
The Tonkatsu sauce umaibo captures this taste perfectly- it’s strong!!!
Takoyaki (Octopus Balls)
Heralding from the Osaka region, Takoyaki are octopus pieces cooked in a cabbage and flour batter. They form into perfect little balls and are served with a variety of toppings.
This was a no-brainer to go in the ‘delicious stick’ line up. Which goes for the strong sauce flavour.
Gyutan (beef tongue) is a favourite especially in the northern Sendai area. Also It’s served on barbecues and has a mild taste and soft texture.
This is actually one of the subtler tastes in this range and very good.
The other flavours come from influences outside of Japan. They include Corn Potage, Cheese, Salami, Vegetable Salad, Chicken Curry, Shrimp and Mayonnaise, Chocolate, Pizza, and Sugar Rusk.
The pizza flavour is particularly authentic and corn potage is a long term favourite with the Japanese.
One amazing feature of Japan is the astonishing array of local tastes and dishes. Because of this umaibo includes special limited edition flavours.
These flavours include- Monja (Tokyo), Honey (Shizuoka), Mentaiko (Kyūshū), Okonomiyaki (Kansai), and Kiritanpo (Akita).
To get hold of these flavours you usually need to head to that area.
Why not tell us your favourite flavour in the comments below??