(not my photo; source is linked via image)
If you follow me on Twitter, you know two things: 1.) That I love good food; 2.) That I have been mentioning @TrytheWorld a lot lately. Try the World is a subscription service that delivers a box to your door every 2 months featuring food from around the world. Each box is specific to one country with the exception of their holiday box. While I know many bloggers, vloggers, and so on receive a free box to review it, this box has not been sponsored or sent to me for review. Additionally, although some opt to make a video, I’ve chosen to write a post because I think it allows better insight into just what can be done with the box, nutritional facts, and so much more. Without further ado, let’s get started!
Pictured above are Kasugai peach gummy candies and Morinago milk caramels. Both of these require no preparation and, although I originally didn’t think this Japan box would appeal to me, they were so yummy. To begin with the gummies, there’s a very fragrant scent of peach when you open the bag. The texture is far better than American gummies which often require quite a bit of chew time. These gummies actually are gummy and taste like a fresh peach, except without the mess of peach juice. Although I don’t see the peach flavour being sold on Try the World, I included the link to other Kasugai gummy flavors. Important to keep in mind: though the gummies are $5, the pack is about twice as much as the one pictured above.
I don’t consider myself much of a caramel person, but admittedly, I’m almost through with eating the morinaga milk caramels. They’re not difficult to chew, they’re smooth in texture, and though the flavour is slightly reminiscent of butterscotch, it’s not quite as overpowering as butterscotch often can be. What I love most about them is how understated they are, which is quite surprising as I’m always up for a sweet dessert. The morinaga milk caramels can be bought separately here.
Quantity: 12 caramels
NEXT UP: Beverages
I’m a big lover of tea, matcha being one of them. Numerous articles have been published discussing the health benefits of matcha. In addition to matcha having many health benefits, there are various ways to prepare it both as a beverage as well as in food. The matcha included in the Japan box is blueberry matcha powder, a variation I’ve never before tried. One downside to this version is that cane sugar is added. Additionally, both recipes included– one for matcha shortbread cookies and another for a drink– call to use either 1 or 2 tablespoons of the powder, depending upon which recipe you’re using it for. However, I personally found the bag too narrow to easily use a tablespoon.
For the powder having cane sugar, I was surprised to find that it didn’t taste entirely too sweet. I ended up having to add a couple of Sweet ‘n’ Low because it wasn’t a taste I found too pleasant. Once I was able to more easily pick up on the flavour, I enjoyed it far more. The blueberry is more subtle, but its taste isn’t quite to the point where the tea ends up tasting like juice.
Blueberry matcha powder prepared with 8 oz. cold ice water.
NEXT UP: Meals
There are three essentials for making new, exciting meals in the Try the World Japan box: Soba noodles, ponzu sauce, and an okonomiyaki set. The ponzu sauce goes with the soba noodles and included in the Try the World box is a recipe for matcha shortbread cookies. I was really disappointed to discover that the ponzu sauce has high fructose corn syrup. Not only am I allergic to HFCS, but it definitely isn’t the healthiest ingredient. I found a ponzu sauce from Kikkoman and was happy to find that it even had 250 mg. less sodium for the same serving size. Moving on!
Simple Soba Noodle Dish
Tips: When filling a pot full of water for my soba noodles, I used about as much as I normally do for penne or your traditional pasta (about 2/3 to 3/4 full). However, boiling soba noodles turned out to be far different. It rapidly foams and almost boiled over. Be mindful when deciding how much water to add to the pot. I would recommend no more than necessary to cover the noodles.
“Soba” quite literally means “buckwheat” in Japanese. Despite its name, buckwheat is gluten-free, meaning soba noodles are traditionally gluten-free. However, for those that are gluten-free, the soba noodles included in the box are not gluten-free. Wheat has been added to them.
One change I made to the recipe for myself was that I only used 1/4 cup edamame beans; the recipe calls for 1 cup. I personally found it to be enough. After you have all of the needed ingredients for the dish gathered and prepared, the process for preparing it is rather simple: add all fresh ingredients to the cold, rinsed soba noodles along with the vinaigrette.
To me, I found the carrots and edamame beans to be more of a textural component to the recipe rather than adding much flavour. I wasn’t a fan of either texture and most likely wouldn’t add it to the dish in the future.
Thoughts on the dish: I was surprised to find that I enjoyed the dish more than I had originally expected. It had a bit of nuttiness to its flavour, but the vinaigrette was very, very refreshing. It isn’t a dish that makes you feel weighed down. However, the downside was that it doesn’t taste as flavourful the next day and the vinaigrette really becomes hard to taste once stored in the fridge.
Included in the Try the World Japan box is a kit for making Okonomiyaki; ingredients included are the okonomiyaki flour, nori flakes, tempura bits, and yam powder. Additional ingredients necessary for preparing the dish are 2 tbsp olive oil, 6 slices of bacon, 4 cups chopped cabbage, 2 scallions, and 2 eggs. In addition to necessary ingredients, ingredients on the list serve as toppings for the okonomiyaki: okonomyaki sauce, kewpie mayonnaise, nori flakes, and bonito flakes.
After your ingredients are ready to be mixed with the flour, your cutting board should look something like this.
If someone in your house is gluten-free, I recommend mixing the flour and fresh ingredients (pictured above) in a space that’s not used for making GF food. It was a bit messy at first due to the flour. After everything is mixed, it should look something like this:
The recipe calls for cooking them on medium heat, about 8 minutes on each side. I found that they didn’t take 8 minutes on each side. The best indication, depending on what heat you put them over, is to watch for how they brown. You’ll begin to see your bacon turn just the right texture, the batter begin a medium brown, looking slightly crisp but not hard. When your bacon is face down in the pan cooking, I suggest pressing the spatula against each okonomiyaki cake; it helps ensure the bacon stays to the cake when you flip it around. In this photo, you can see the other side beginning to brown just around the edges:
I was unable to find an okonomiyaki sauce that I can have locally because it had HFCS. On Try the World’s site, one reviewer named Stephanie commented to say she mixed Sriracha with mayo. So, before making this I picked up some Sriracha mayo and opted for American mayo vs. kewpie mayo.
This doesn’t look anything like most people’s okonomoyaki, I admit that. On the other hand… HOLY MOLY, was it good. I actually ended up doing a gluten-free spin on it for my mom and she loved it. The spice of the Sriracha is slightly cooled with the regular mayo, but is still very heated and goes so, so well with the bacon. Nom, nom, nom.
Matcha Shortbread Cookies
I’ve had my matcha drink, I’ve had my savory meals, and lastly… matcha shortbread cookies. There are numerous suggestions I have for this recipe. I followed the recipe to a T and found the dough to be incredibly crumbly, pictured below.
Matcha shortbread cookie dough
After your dough is prepared, it calls for rolling it to 1/4″ thick and then chilling it. There were a couple of problems with that: 1.) The dough was FAR too crumbly to roll; 2.) Exactly how are you supposed to store it in the fridge after rolling it? Do you transfer it to a pan, all rolled out? I decided to roll the dough up as best as I could, seal it with plastic wrap, and let it chill until firm (30 minutes) in the fridge, despite that the recipe doesn’t call for that until after it’s rolled out.
Once it was more firm, I rolled the dough out and… despite that you’re supposed to use circular cookie cutters, I went for Christmas cookie cutters.
I was very, very excited about this because I LOVE Christmas and it was my first time actually being successful in using cookie cutters. Whether it was spraying them with canola oil or dusting the dough with flour, I’m not sure, but I’m very happy.
I baked them for 15 minutes, as the recipe said, and they did come out perfectly. Surprisingly, the recipe did make 24 cookies just as it said it does. Normally that never happens!
At first I wasn’t sure whether they’re sweet enough, but I have to say it didn’t take too long for them to grow on me. Their flavour isn’t too strong of matcha, but they’re very comforting and I’m really eager to dip them into a nice cup of English breakfast tea. In some ways, their flavour reminds me of La Mere Poulard‘s cookies but with a crisper texture.
Would I Have It Again?
Kasugai peach gummies: Yes! I bought their apple gummies in a bigger bag, but I prefer the peach flavour and would most likely buy the smaller bag; the bigger bag is, well, too big for my taste!
Morinaga milk caramels: Yes, yes, yes. I actually went to a local Japanese store and ended up buying another little pack.
Matcha blueberry powder: No. Although the flavour was interesting to try once, the cane sugar is one turn off and I found myself satisfied after a few sips.
Simple Soba Noodle Dish: Maybe. One reason I’m unsure is because I didn’t find it enjoyable the next day. However, if I was making it for more than one person, there’s a good chance I would have it again.
Okonomiyaki: YES. YES. I got three meals out of the kit and my gosh, it was delicious. I’m still craving it.
Matcha shortbread cookies: If these weren’t so difficult to make with their texture, I would most likely make them again and even decorate them with icing. However, the texture created a mess. I do suggest trying the recipe at least once because it’s been very enjoyable for both myself and my sister.
Would I recommend this to someone’s who’s…?
Gluten-free? No. There were only two gluten-free items.
Vegetarian? Yes. The bacon could be substituted for something else.
All in all, I was very happy with this box. It got me to try things I normally never would have attempted to make, especially the okonomiyaki. That will honestly be something I have all throughout the year now. Trying Japanese candies was interesting to compare to American, British, and Belgian sweets; I thoroughly enjoyed them. Safe to say, my foodie heart was very happy.
It’s been fun, Japan!