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HomeFast FoodSNACKIVANTING: Tokyo Banana (Japan) - The Impulsive Purchase

SNACKIVANTING: Tokyo Banana (Japan) – The Impulsive Purchase


(EDITOR’S NOTE: Snackivanting highlights well-liked snack manufacturers in different nations.)

I’m scripting this whereas sitting on a airplane hurtling towards america from Tokyo. Beneath me, within the cargo maintain, is a big suitcase with a neon pink identify tag. Inside is a stack of packing containers containing rows of small yellow desserts, individually wrapped in cellophane. No, not Twinkies. They’re Tokyo Bananas, the long-lasting meals memento of Tokyo.

Japan has a convention of gift-giving referred to as omiyage, journey souvenirs given to mates, household, or co-workers again at residence. The most well-liked are meals items. If you happen to’ve ever introduced a field of salt water taffy from the seaside to the parents on the workplace, you might have given omiyage.

Omiyage is so frequent (and required) in Japanese tradition that each airport and huge practice station has at the least one retailer promoting a vary of meals items – something from regional-food-flavored Package Kats to packing containers of sweet or desserts meticulously wrapped in thick paper adorned with colourful flowers and patterns. I’m hypnotized by their magnificence and frozen with indecision on the countless choices. Omiyage are sometimes distinctive to town or prefecture they’re offered in, so you could not see them on the subsequent cease in your journey.

One meals reward stands out from the remaining, for my part (I’m not the one one, judging by their recognition) – Tokyo Bananas. On my first journey to Tokyo in 2014, I saved seeing kiosks promoting them, every with a line of shoppers that made me stroll proper previous. Lastly, I gave in to curiosity and acquired a single cake. I used to be all aboard the obsession practice.

WHAT ARE TOKYO BANANAS?

Tokyo Banana’s sponge cake is fluffy, delicate, and moist (cease the hate for this phrase – it’s cake-appropriate), and the banana custard cream filling is silky and clearly made with actual bananas. That’s all there’s to it, however the remaining product is bigger than the sum of its elements. Tokyo Bananas are alt-reality Twinkies – refined, genuine, and with an imminent expiration date (extra on that later).

Tokyo Bananas had been launched in 1991 and are the official omiyage of Tokyo. (It’s unclear who sanctions this title, however I’ll settle for it at face worth.) They had been reportedly the primary omiyage to characteristic their metropolis within the identify. They’ve grown in recognition, and seasonal and restricted version flavors have been added to the lineup, together with lemon, caramel, yogurt, maple, sakura, espresso milk, and chocolate. Every sports activities a distinct sample baked into the desserts, like zebra stripes, giraffe and leopard spots, otters, bears, and flowers. A brand new gluten-free model made with rice flour is a brand new addition.

Tokyo Banana has additionally collaborated to create Mickey Mouse-themed Tokyo Bananas (which had been obtainable at Tokyo Disneyland), together with Doraemon, Minions, and Pokemon characters. They’ve additionally spun-off into totally different meals mediums. There are Tokyo Banana cookies, pastries, cheesecakes, Package Kats, and final yr McDonald’s Japan launched Tokyo-Banana-flavored soft-serve waffle cones.

The COVID pandemic of 2020 and ensuing journey restrictions put a significant dent in Banana-business, so for the primary time, they had been rolled out in outlets throughout the nation.

TOKYO BANANA WORLD

In December 2022, Tokyo Banana World opened – a flagship retailer in Tokyo Station, a significant practice hub with a big procuring space. One month later, I used to be there, stocking up on packing containers of my beloved desserts, ogling the associated cookies and pastries, and dodging thick crowds of individuals doing the identical on their solution to catch subways and bullet trains (shinkansen). The location of the checkouts and line of shoppers made it troublesome to maneuver throughout the shop, however I used to be devoted.

I’d heard the shop additionally had two treats that might solely be bought at that location (approx. $2.50 USD every). Each are scorching, freshly-made doughnuts. (STOP IT.)

The primary was a savory product briefly launched in 2002 – Legendary Curry Bread, which is principally a savory doughnut full of beef, pork, onions, heavy cream, and banana puree. Curry bread is a favourite Japanese meals, however bananas aren’t normally on the ingredient record. Sorry, I didn’t do that one, principally as a result of we’d simply eaten lunch and I used to be firmly in dessert mode.

The second store-exclusive – the Cream and Crimson Bean Paste Doughnut – was based mostly on Japanese an-doughnuts with the addition of – you guessed it – banana. The one I ate, heated as much as molten magma temperatures, was essentially the most beautiful ache I’ve ever skilled. The outer shell was crunchy because of a fiantine coating, which I imagine is a Japanese translation of feuilletine, crumbled dry crepes. The dough underneath the fiantine was smooth however maintained its construction (I can’t abide baked items that flip again to dough the second you contact them).

Inside, the crimson bean paste hit me first…and scorched off a layer of palate pores and skin. Now, crimson bean paste – I’m break up on this staple of Asian desserts. Over time, I’ve grown to like the sweeter preparations of it, however I’m not all the time a fan of the extra earthy variations. This doughnut had presumably the most effective crimson bean paste I’ve ever tasted. It was reasonably candy and had nice taste, however as soon as the beautiful milky banana cream registered, the crimson bean settled into an equal partnership. I barely croaked out, “It’s…so…scorching…” earlier than getting into for an additional chunk. They’re happening my record of finest doughnuts on the earth, proper beneath Britt’s beachside doughnuts in North Carolina.

After gorging down the contemporary doughnut, I stuffed a procuring basket with eight (sure) Tokyo Banana packing containers and headed residence to New York.

HOW TO BUY TOKYO BANANA IN THE US?

I found prior to now yr that there at the moment are (unofficial) methods of getting Tokyo Banana within the US. Yamibuy, a big on-line purveyor of Asian meals and different merchandise, hosts third-party sellers who will ship Tokyo Banana packing containers to my (and presumably your) keen palms, with a few caveats.

First, they price much more. A field of eight original-flavor Tokyo Banana price me ¥1,166 Japanese yen in Tokyo (approx $8.96 USD at present charges). The identical field by Third celebration sellers on Yamibuy is $21.00 USD plus delivery. The opposite caveat is shelf life. Expiration dates printed on the field run about 1-2 weeks from the date of buy. Third-party purchases are doubtless going to be almost at or previous the expiration dates, which isn’t really useful. However I’ve eaten many TBs properly previous the expiration dates (typically greater than a month), they usually had been nonetheless tasty. Not fairly like those I simply hauled residence from the supply, however not unhealthy! (Determined junk foodies resort to determined measures.)

Some distributors promote by way of Amazon, however in my expertise, these have been much more costly and extra of an expiration date gamble. Verify native outlets that promote Asian snacks and sweets, as properly. Generally they pop up there. And, after all, strong-arm anybody who’s going to Japan into bringing you again some from their travels.

And I reside in hope that sometime, I’ll be capable of jump over to Grand Central and purchase a field of Tokyo’s signature deal with.

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