If you have never heard of Pocky then you are either elderly, non-Japanese or have lived under a rock for the last few decades. It may well also be that you’re just not really into sweets but I’m willing to bet that if you did come across a box of Pocky with its cheerful packaging, you’ll understand what the fuss is over these tasty chocolate-coated pretzel sticks.
You can get the basic low-down on Pocky from wikipedia but in a nutshell: Pocky was unleashed in 1966 by Glico Company. It’s a thin (say 4-5mm wide) bread stick around 15cm in length. It is coated with a thin layer of milk chocolate except for 3cm on one end. This helps you enjoy this snack without getting your fingers sticky and gross. Very Japanese.
It originally came out in milk chocolate flavour but Almond Pocky and Strawberry Pocky soon followed. Almond Pocky has just been re-released as a limited edition after a huge hiatus and I was happy to get a box of it sent out recently. Ahh nostalgia! I should mention that Almond Pocky is going to disappoint anyone who is thinking crunchy almonds or is a fan of marzipan. Rather, it’s kinda like an almond version of peanut butter but in a solid chocolate form.
Since its humble beginnings, the good people at Glico have gone on to produce Pocky in virtually every imaginable flavour, texture and size (Giant Pocky is like a 3x scale version but just oddly nowhere near as tasty, possibly as the choclate layer isn’t commensurate in thickness). The Japanese being fond of seasonal and regional varieties in food, Glico has been mindful (and darn clever from a marketing perspective) of creating limited edition Pocky accordingly. There are Pocky flavours that you can only get while visiting a particular region of Japan. I nearly cried when I found a box of blueberry Pocky which were only released in Nagano, north of Tokyo.
Sometimes I think the ‘special’ incarnations of Pocky have strayed a little far from the original concept though. Dessert Pocky for example has the same bread stick base but the chocolate is thicker and is finished with thin swirl of another flavour all around it. I tried Chocolat Orange and Tiramisu (current Dessert Pocky flavours) and while delicious, you just don’t get that satisfying ‘snap’ or poki (where the name Pocky comes from) with all that chocolate acting as a muffler. I do like the Crush version of Pocky however. Think your basic Pocky doubled-dipped in crushed nuts or biscuit pieces and chocolate.
Pocky’s als been quite the traveller with flavours such as Tahitian Vanilla and Brazilian Pudding. Sounds good even though I’d personally be hard pressed to detect the difference between Madagascan or Tahitian vanilla, and as for pudding (what we know as creme caramel here), it’s kinda just custard isn’t it? Not withstanding, one bite and I was away on a tropical vacation. Nice sell indeed!
Not known to disappoint, Pocky has also gone tradtional on many occasions with offerings of black sesame, kinako (sweet soy bean powder), green tea and azuki (red bean) flavours. Men are also catered for with their own special ‘Men’s Pocky’. A bittersweet, dark chocolate version that has a supposedly more mature taste that appeals to men. Men in Japan are not known to enjoy sweet things and those who admit otherwise are often teased for being child-like or swiftly attract women who are into babying their boyfriends. It’s therefore best to throw a pack of Men’s Pocky in the briefcase to allay any suspicion that you actually prefer Dessert Pocky.
My favourite? I actually like Men’s Pocky but the original milk chocolate version is always a winner. The other flavours are interesting but more or less gimicky and don’t have any long-lasting appeal. I certainly couldn’t eat a pack of yoghurt apple Pocky in one sitting. However, nature or nurture being at play, I do fall spectacularly for the trap whenever a new flavour of Pocky is released. I’d love to try yubari melon one day and I think a rich caramel Pocky would be awesome. I wonder if Glico reads blogs…
How to get hold of Pocky? Pocky’s fame is such these days that even my local Woolworths was selling them at once point. Otherwise, your local Japanese or Asian grocer will no doubt stock them and you should berate any that fail to. However, I should point out here that there are Pocky manufactured in Japan and those not. The difference in flavour is minimal but I do prefer the Japanese made stuff. Therefore if you visit an Asian grocer, check to see if the Pocky they stock is from Japan or elsewhere. Depending on how large your local grocer is, you may only get a limited range of Pocky flavours. If you’d like to go wild and try other flavours and types, try buying online. There are quite a few sellers on eBay who can send you a box full of Pocky goodness, or websites such as J-Box may stock Pocky every now and then (and until they do, there are other J-Candies listed for your enjoyment).
What if you don’t like sweets and remain untempted by Pocky? Try Pretz! It’s a savoury version of Pocky.
NOTE – If you are considering importing Pocky, please be mindful of climate conditions. I have against my better judgment ordered Pocky from Japan in the northern summer and received them in a sad state. The joy of Pocky is to be able to enjoy them stick by stick.