We Try: Ocean-Themed Snacks

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By Cooking Panda

This past Sunday, May 15, the Brooklyn-based performance venue House of Yes converted itself into a plush, oceanic sanctuary in celebration of the 6th Annual Mermaid Lagoon Benefit.

After costuming ourselves in our most lavish nautical attire, we headed over to the benefit in order to help support two deserving charities (all proceeds from the night went to the New York-based Billion Oyster Project and the Orca Network, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping save a 20-foot-long orca named Lolita) and indulge in the lavish array of shellfish for sale.

As we slurped down our oysters, our hosts let us in on some facts about the sea-snack:

  1. Oysters are sustainable food products
  2. They can be cultivated as a renewable resource
  3. They taste really good when spritzed with a little bit of lemon
  4. They are aphrodisiacs

Perhaps we were influenced by that last point, because we left the benefit completely enamored with the sea — and determined to embark upon an ocean-themed taste test.

We adhered to two rules and two rules only: the snacks had to either physically resemble creatures/items from the sea, or actually be creatures/items from the sea. Additionally, while many of these snacks boast a wide variety of flavor options, we veered clear of temptation and kept it simple.

Swedish Fish

There is only one thing we know about these firm, chewy gummies and that is that they are delicious; everything else about them is elusive and confusing.

For starters, they were actually developed specifically for US and Canadian markets — not, as the name might suggest, Swedish ones. Secondly, the closest we can get to describing their flavor profile is “red.” They’re not quite strawberry; not quite cherry; neither raspberry or fruit punch quite hits the mark, either.

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If you, like us, thought you could just perform a quick google search and solve the mystery, think again: The manufacturers have never confirmed or denied any flavor claims, stating simply that the snack “tastes like fruit, not like fish.” 

Taiyaki

When I told my friend that I was on the hunt for fish-shaped snacks, she immediately swept me away to the East Village to try Taiyaki, a warm and chewy Japanese street-pastry made from pancake batter.

Traditionally, Taiyaki (which literally translates to “baked/grilled sea bream”) is filled with azuki sweet red bean paste, which is what I ordered, but the shop we went to also offered it stuffed with custard or a nutella-banana concoction.

These are dense, filling and satisfying (I am what I am: somebody who apparently gains mass fulfillment from biting into the face of a batter-baked fishy), but despite the generous dollop of red bean filling, my mouth was extremely dry after a few bites.

Goldfish

Apparently, the original goldfish is actually the “Non-Cheesy and Sad Bland Cracker” flavor, so we opted to go for the classic Cheddar version instead, because we like ourselves.

And the verdict is in: we also like goldfish. They’re crunchy and portable, they’re not trying too hard (though we’re not sure we can say the same about some of the other flavors we spotted on the shelves — “Xplosive Pizza”? “Chocolate Mint + Pretzel Mix”?), and their adorable nutritional profile literally reads: “MADE WITH SMILES AND…” (insert long list of unpronounceable ingredients here).

Guylian chocolate

These shell-shaped chocolates are a marbled mixture of white and milk chocolate. For whatever reason, we were all expecting them to have a candy-like (and firm) outer coat. However, the entire chocolate is creamy and soft, giving way to a praline center.

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Several of us detected a subtle nuttiness — hazelnut? — but the overall effect is of a velvety, creamy, and ultra-sweet Belgian chocolate.

Bonus: The folks behind Guylian are also sponsors of Project Seahorse, which is a marine conservation organization that aims to protect seahorses.

Wild King Salmon Jerky

The first unexpected feature of this jerky was that we could see with relative certainty where the scales used to be on the salmon chunks before it got jerky-fied; the second was how relentlessly oily it was.

Sound appetizing? Didn’t think so.

Our final verdict boils down to this: we all like salmon. Historically, we have all enjoyed a strip or two of jerky. Personally, I have an affinity for fish and seafood in most of its edible forms. But we were all in agreement that this particular effort was a failure for Trader Joe’s.

Nori Maki Arare

The crunch!

One thing you cannot do is sneak this snack into a theater without earning the disdain from everybody around you; if you thought nuts or chips were loud, these Japanese, soy sauce-flavored puffed rice snacks wrapped in seaweed are on another level.

They’re low calorie, low cholesterol, and deliver a strong but sort of addicting punch of umami. I imagine these would pair especially well with a beer or some sake.  

Dried Squid

This one ended up being a pleasant surprise. The squid has the texture and feel of a stringy jerky, and while it smells super pungent, one of our taste-testers described the flavor as, “Just like the ocean, but nobody’s secretly peeing in the bag of squid right next to you.”

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By that I think (I hope) she means it tasted savory and, upon chewing, also subtly sweet.

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Sources:  Billion Oyster ProjectOrca Network, Mermaid Lagoon Ocean Benefit/Facebook, Swedish Fish, Guylian / Photo credit: Asian Food Grocer, swedishfish/Instagram, kingtaiyakivietnam/Instagram, goldfishsmiles/Instagram, guylianchocolate/Instagram, tastysnacking/Instagram, Amazon, Ali Boin

Tags: fish, ocean, oysters, party theme
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