10 Japanese Sweets

They had us from Pocky. Those delicate little crunchy sticks are the gateway drug for Japanese candy addicts. From there you get everything from chewy to gummy to hard candies and flavors that live well outside the peppermint-cherry-chocolate axis of boring old American sweets. Here are our favorites, well worth seeking out at Japanese markets or online.

1. Pocky. More a snack than a candy, but a classic. There are other flavored coatings (the strawberry is good), but the simple combination of chocolate and sweet biscuit makes the original the best.

2. Milky. There are many knockoffs of this chewy candy, but none compares to the original, with its delicate malted flavor.

3. Hello Panda. These have all the cuteness of Teddy Grahams and all the unease of biting into little smiling panda heads. But the crisp biscuits with milk chocolate cream inside help you forget the implications, if there are any. Other flavors include strawberry and vanilla.

4. Kiwifruit Gummy Candy. All the flavors of Kasugai gummy candies are great (particularly the muskmelon, lychee, and grape), but the kiwi is exceptional—possibly the perfect blend of sweet and tart.

5. Hi-Chew Grape. This fruit-flavored taffy candy has the best chewiness factor: neither too hard nor too soft. Though there are numerous flavors, the grape is perfectly grapelike without being over the top in that Bubble Yum way.

6. Flower’s Kiss. These hard candies are supposed to make your breath as fresh as a flower to prepare you for kissing, a claim that has yet to be road-tested by us.

7. Botan Rice Candy. With an edible rice-paper wrapper around chewy candy, this sweet is a multifaceted experience. The soft chew has a delicate citrus flavor, and the supercute box comes with a supercute sticker.

8. Ramune Candy. I was hooked on Ramune soda when I was younger partly because of its lemon-lime flavor and partly due to the awesome bottle it comes in. Now the company makes this tongue-tingling candy with the same great flavor.

9. Coffeebeat. The name seems more fitting for a coffee-related zine, and the packaging looks like it hasn’t been updated in 30 years, but that’s part of the charm of these bean-shaped, coffee-flavored candies dipped in chocolate.

10. Ume Fruity & Sweet. We may be crossing the line from candy to chewing gum here, but this product is a delicious treat with a sweet-sour plum flavor that lasts a good long time: Watch out, Juicy Fruit.

CHOW’s The Ten column appears every Tuesday.

Aida Mollenkamp is a food editor at CHOW.

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