Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Pocky: From The Screen to My Stomach

The popularity of Asian culture in America is nothing new, but the sudden popularity and influx of their snack foods is.

As of right now you can find popular Asian snack foods at local chain grocery stores like Wegman’s, as well as entertainment stores like FYE.  Why have these treats become so popular and readily available? Is it simply because they taste good?  Or, is this an attempt to squeeze even more money out of anime and manga fans eager to try the same snacks their favorite characters enjoy?

I decided to investigate.  I grabbed several flavors of Pocky, one of the most common and popular treats seen in manga and anime, to see if it is as delicious as characters make it seem.

First, a quick explanation of Pocky for those few who have never heard of it until now.

Pocky, manufactured by Glico, has been around since the sixties.  The first flavor available was chocolate, which consisted of a long, thin biscuit stick coated in milk chocolate.  Since then, tons of new flavors and special promotional items have been made that follow that same formula (a biscuit stick with various coatings and toppings.)

Now that you know what it is, let’s see how it tastes!

The original, chocolate Pocky.

Chocolate was the first flavor ever created, and the only available flavor for a decade.  It is a biscuit stick dipped in chocolate, can it really be that delicious?  The answer is YES, it can!

While it not the best thing I have ever tasted, it is definitely delicious and addictive. The biscuit stick is very mild, almost cracker-like, and does not seem to have any sweetness to it. The chocolate coating is actual chocolate, a lot of American confections started using waxy chocolate-like creations, but Pocky seems to be using the real-deal.  it even smells like real cocoa powder. The chocolate has deeper cocoa notes than American milk chocolate, and it combines nicely with the biscuit.  These little sticks are addictive, I could easily eat the whole box by myself, but the packaging makes it easy to share with others or to save some for later.

Chocolate Pocky is very popular and has been seen in tons of anime and manga. Recently it was the favorite snack of Kyoko from the anime Puella Magi Madoka Magica. It is simple, easy to eat, and delicious. No wonder it’s so popular.

Kyoko, enjoying her favorite snack.

Next up, is a variation of the classic chocolate Pocky—Almond Crush.

Almond was the second flavor variation created by Glico. This is a modern take on it, so I am not sure that this is the exact same almond Pocky introduced in the seventies, but this is similar to the second flavor ever introduced.
Almond Crush Pocky.

I liken this flavor to a Hershey’s bar with almonds.  It is the same as traditional chocolate Pocky, but crushed almonds are added to the chocolate coating. This addition causes the chocolate coating to get thicker, so there is more confection on this biscuit than in other traditional flavors.  It smells like chocolate Pocky with a slight hint of roasted Almonds. I didn’t taste anything special in the chocolate coating, so this is really traditional Pocky with almonds added. I like almonds, but this minor addition isn’t enough to make me seek out this specific flavor again, and I would recommend the classic chocolate over the almond. I think you could pass on buying this one.

Lastly, we have heart-shaped Pocky!

Strawberry Heart-Shaped Pocky.

In Asian pop culture you can find something called a “Pocky kiss.” This is when someone eats a stick of Pocky, and the person they are dating starts eating from the opposite end. When their lips meet, they kiss.  (Just like the spaghetti scene in Lady and the Tramp.)  I can’t imagine a better Pocky for this scenario than this heart-shaped Pocky.

This specialty Pocky is strawberry flavored and has a heart shaped biscuit stick.  The package is adorable and would easily appeal to any girl, anime fan or not. When the package is opened the overwhelming sweet smell of strawberry yogurt fills the room.  The biscuit sticks are perfectly heart shaped, and taste the same as the biscuit from the other two variations of Pocky I have tried. The flavored coating is very different, it has gritty little red bits throughout the yogurt-y coating.  The strawberry flavor is a little tangy, and not overly sweet. I would buy these heart-shaped or not.  Out of the three, this one was my favorite.

It seems Pocky lives up to the hype. It is simple, portable, and delicious.  If I wasn’t an anime or manga fan would I have bought it? Maybe not. Seeing Pocky in Asian popular culture is what made me interested, but the taste and flavor variety made me a return customer. I would definitely purchase Pocky again and I think it is worthy of all the attention it has been getting.

Originally this article was published on the The Pop Culture Social Club, but that site has been transferred to Tumblr and article formats have been changed. To preserve my article as I am also posting it here.

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