|Turn away now if you are one of those deranged people that can't accept the theory of evolution, and thinks the Grand Canyon was knocked up geologically speaking a blink of an eye ago after a brief downpour. Right are we free to continue? Good because this week we we will be looking at what happens when you take a trusty stalwart of British tea time, the McVities Digestive and introduce it into a completely new biscuit eco-system, Japan. Given the unprecedented amount biscuits we've crammed into to our little accompanying graphic (big one here) you can see its a evolutionary explosion of shape, size, taste and even colour.
If this biscuit review gives rise to a new branch of science then frankly we'll be both amazed and quite proud. If it doesn't I wouldn't mind betting that somebody out there will at least come up with something similar by way of a research proposal. "The introduction of foreign biscuits into exotic markets, their adaptation and evolution" or maybe they've already done it.
Yes, ace Japanese biscuit correspondent Hiromi Miura, having worked us up into a biscuit curiosity frenzy after she told us about purple digestives took pity on NCOTAASD and sent a big box Japanese Digestives our way. Made in Japan under licence from United Biscuits by Meiji Seika Kaisha Ltd who picked up the ball and ran and ran and ran with it. Unless you can read Japanese you won't glean much from their website but if you have your speakers turned on then you can enjoy a bunch of people chanting an excellently tuneless jingle "Yum Ya! Yum (something or other) McVities" over and over (warning this may present a choking hazard to adults as well as small children).
So what exactly has happened to the poor little fellas since their arrival in Japan? Well for the get go the Japanese have made them a lot smaller, and in general this seems to the norm for most Japanese biscuits which are about 40% smaller than we would find normal. At a petite 52mm in diameter but a healthy 9mm in depth the reference standard unadulterated Japanese McVities Digestive doesn't appear overly strange. It tastes sufficiently similar that one would have a very tough time saying that this was anything other than a Digestive even if it isn't an exact 100% dead ringer for the UK one. Like most of the biscuits here it is packed into little mini sachets containing four biscuits each, and then four of these are popped into a cardboard box.
Moving to the Vanilla cream sandwich version we still seem to be in Kansas, or should that be Harlesden in Middlesex. The biscuits have dropped to 46mm by 5mm but the vanilla cream tastes just like it was borrowed from a Crawfords Custard Cream. When we get to the Milk Chocolate Digestive the illusion begins to crumble or maybe that should be melt, as its the chocolate that gives the game away. Its not bad, its not even wrong, its just not the same, in much the same way lots of other Chocolate Digestives made outside Europe's biggest biscuit factory aren't the same. The biscuit finally gives in and succumbs to some tinkering in the Cocoa Digestive whose cocoa flavoured biscuit waves bye bye to the shores of blighty. In the UK McVities have been mucking about with Digestives feverously for last few years since lifting their own self imposed non-proliferation treaty, but apart from the Lemon and Ginger digestive, their first unsuccessful foray they have left the biscuit well alone.
And now it all starts to get a bit squiffy as wandering in a dream where the familiar has collided with something random that entered your brain when you were watching on TV late at night an hour and and half after you really should have called it a day. The first one that happens along into view is the Kurogo digestive, so named because it has lots of Kurogo in it, which has turned it a sort bonfire ash colour. Kurogo is a mixture of 5 types of small black grain, black rice, black sesame, black bean, black quince and black pine nut ideal food for goths you might think, or in this case Japanese health food lovers. I've tasted Black Sesame in other Japanese biscuits and so could pick out that flavour, a distinctive hard baked crusty bread sort of taste, tucked into discrete pockets.
Then to the bizarre Purple Sweet Potato digestives that landed us here. We have strolled right up to the wizard of Oz and tapped him on the shoulder here. For in our hands we are holding a purple biscuit, made with powered sweet potato, more black sesame seeds and stamped with the word McVities. No it doesn't taste remotely like a Digestive biscuit.
Black Cheesecake Digestive Crackers don't even bother looking like a Digestives any longer and seem to be some experiment to cross an Oreo with Lu Prince biscuit and all in the name of McVities. Still the recipe does have cheese powder in it which is novel.
And finally the little bags of mini sandwich digestives confirm that it must have been the wizard of Oz we were watching as the ruby slipper red strawberry ones fight with the emerald cream filled green tea ones to see which can weird us out the most. The banana creme ones look on blinking, a little unsure on why they were brought into existance other than to remind us of those banana sweets that used to hang out with pink shrimps.
None of the biscuits here were beyond the pale, as we have found so often from other neighbours of Japan, but it is astounding to see what the Japanese can do given a simple Digestive as their building block. Imagine what they would get up to with a Jammie Dodger!
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