Taste Test: 5 Milk Candies from Japan for the Dairy-ObsessedJune 30, 2017
Take a look at any Japanese grocery and you’ll see they’ve got a clear love not only for dairy products, but also milk-themed confections: milk-flavored frozen treats, milk-flavored compound white chocolate–stuffed or coated biscuits, and of course, milk candy. While it was in only in he late 19th century, during the Meiji era, that milk formally made its way to the Land of the Rising Sun (promoted by the government for its strength-supplying nutritional value in the face of the movement for “civilization and enlightenment”—known as bunmeikaika—at the time), it would successfully make its way into many a Japanese person’s daily diet. As with many things assimilated into the country from abroad, the Japanese would come to adapt and perfect their dairy—and today you’ll find some of the world’s most exceptional dairy in Japan (especially in the Hokkaido region), which would also spawn the countless spinoffs they have today. And while treats that highlight milk aren’t exclusive to Japan—in the case of candies for example, you’ll find others around South America, Italy, and on our own shores—the Japanese way stands out for the way it treats milk as a flavor in its own right, sans the addition of vanilla or other flavorings or spices that could take away from the pure flavor of dairy.
In honor of the love for anything and everything creamy and sweet, we dropped by our favorite Japanese supermarkets in the city and picked up these treats.
Note: Availability of candies may vary. Call the places listed in advance for confirmation.
Available at Landmark Supermarket and Yamazaki, Little Tokyo, Makati
Coming in a decidedly vintage red packaging with its mascot, Peko-chan, this Japanese favorite has been around since the 1950’s and has even spawned an entire café with sweets and pastries based on the original—but for today we go back to basics with their signature milk candy. Within each wrapper (each adorned with a most adorable flower print detail) comes a boxy ball of opaque milk candy that’s starts firm, but eventually reveals its soft, chewy essence as it begins to melt. Though not the creamiest on the list and on the sweet side, you get a fair amount of milkiness that is fairly clean but leans toward the cooked-milk sort (e.g. milk that has undergone maillard reactions)—we’d compare it to a chewy-fied ball of condensed milk.
Available at Choto Stop, Little Tokyo, Makati
Cafca is unique in two ways: it’s the sole candy of the bunch that’s mostly rectangular (albeit slightly curved) in form, for one. Its consistency, too, is unique—somewhere between the creamy chewiness of Milky-type chews, the bounciness of gummy candy, and the dry airiness of commercialized marshmallows. It delivers on the condensed milk-like flavor but ends with a peculiar fatty finish we’d compare to nondairy coffee creamer, which makes it feel slightly artificial as compared to the others on the list.
Kasugai Milk no Kuni
Available at Yamazaki, Little Tokyo, Makati
Milk no Kuni means “land of milk”—and in reference (perhaps) to that, they offer the biggest candies of the bunch with each piece coming at around the diameter of a 1-peso coin. Smooth and glossy, these candies make a clean crack when chomped on. The milky flavor is there, but it’s also sweetest of the lot, delivering more on the saccharine than on the milk that can feel rather cloying and finishing with what we can only describe as a weird plastic-y aftertaste.
UHA Tokuno Milk 8.2
Available at Choto Stop, Little Tokyo, Makati
In contrast to Milk no Kuni’s massive sugar mavens, the “High Conc[entration] Milk Candy” (as it’s labelled on the package) presents smaller, more compact balls with a more beige-leaning hue. Don’t let the small size fool you though; this stuff is rich, giving you a powerful dose of milkiness—one far more intense than Milky, with an even stronger hit of that buttery cooked-milk flavor reminiscent of the layer of fat you sometimes get in a can of evaporated milk. Pop a ball in your mouth and it slowly but steadily unfolds an unwavering creaminess that you would not believe is even possible in such a tiny treat.
Fujiya Milky Super Creamy
Available at Konbini Store, Greenhills, San Juan
This special version of Milky comes at around the same size as the original but takes on the hard-candy format for melting in the mouth. Not only does it present milkiness in a cleaner, purer sense more akin to fresh milk (as opposed to the cooked-milk note you get on the others, most especially Tokuno Milk); true to its name, these take the creaminess to the most potent of levels. If you thought Tokuno Milk was rich, these candies are even richer, with a lower amount of sweetness that allows the pure taste of dairy to shine. This is a candy that is meant to be savored; just one piece is enough to provide a most transcendental, full-on milk experience.
Japan is a land of many tasty goods, and these milk candies are no exception. Whether you like it hard or chewy, we couldn’t be more thankful there are sweets like these that allow you to indulge in the goodness of dairy, whenever and wherever you must have it.