Welcome to Okashii Okashi. This column will periodically look at Japanese snacks (okashi), typically sweet, that are strange and amusing (okashii).
For the inaugural Okashii Okashi column, I turn to Meiji, the Japanese confection company which says "We make the world a little sweeter." Walking through Viet Wah, I spotted little containers of Yan Yan ($.99 each) on a shelf in the snack aisle. Some featured strawberry cream (you might also find vanilla and yogurt dip options, as well as flavored biscuits), but I knew I wanted the original "choco cream snack."
Lifting the lid, there are two compartments inside: one large one with 16 crispy biscuit sticks, and a smaller one that contains the chocolate for dipping. The biscuits were unadorned at one time, but now they each contain an animal face (except for two that say kettle and balloon), matching name, and a message that supposedly relates to the animal. Examples include Squid with "Black ink," Mole with "In a hole," and Mouse with "Do not be timid." My package included Chicken with "Kokekokko" (the way the Japanese people pronounce the noise chickens make), Snail with "Snail mail?" (very philosophical), and Beetle with "Lucky colour: brown" (news to me).My favorites, though, were the ones that gave me expectations or made me feel like I should take some action. Fox biscuits beckoned me to "Beware of lies" while I got two Duck ones that said "Go for a swim." The best was Goat, which advised "You are lucky today." Maybe Yan Yans are Japanese fortune biscuits?
The Nutritional Facts panel says that there are two servings per container. Share this with someone, and you might find yourself debating about how much dip to put on each stick to make sure that the chocolate lasts to the final biscuit. The chocolate isn't so special, though, so you may lose interest in a short time. I'm told that "Yan Yan" is a Japanese way of saying "Yum Yum." I'd say "Yes Yes" to that--if a child. After all, Yan Yan is a fun, interactive treat (like Pocky, but with do-it-yourself dipping) for kids--or zoophilic adults who grew up on Barnum's Animal Crackers.