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Recently we took a trip up to Hokkaido, where we enjoyed three of our favorite things: eating delicious seafood, relaxing in a hot spring, and not spending much money on our hotel. Still, we do have one regret, which is that we didn’t get to try the stick-shaped cream puffs called croquant chou, which have taken Japan’s northern island by storm.

Hokkaido is a long way to go just for a dessert, no matter how tempting it may be, though. Thankfully, we don’t have to head all the way back, because a new croquant chou shop just opened up a few blocks away from our office in Tokyo’s Shinjuku.

Ordinary cream puffs are pretty easy to find in Japan, either at chains like Beard Papa or in the convenience stores that dot the urban and suburban landscapes. Cream sticks, though, are pretty rare. As a matter of fact, until now the only place we knew of that sold them was Hokkaido confectionary shop Kinotaya.

On September 4, Kinotaya expanded to Tokyo by opening Zaku Zaku, a croquant chou specialty shop in the basement of Shinjuku’s Lumine department store.

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Our sweet tooth compelled us to go on opening day, and we arrived to find there was already a line of customers who shared our cravings.

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But even with the long line was, we figured we were in for a short wait. After all, there’s only one thing on the menu, and all orders are to-go. How long could it be until we were at the front of the line?

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About 30 minutes, actually, since Zaku Zaku makes all of its treats by hand, on-site. As we moved toward the front of the line, though, we got to watch the chefs at work through the window, and between that at all the time we spent licking our lips in anticipation of our croquant chou, at least we weren’t bored.

▼ A lot of cream sticks…

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▼ …require a lot of cream.

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Each croquant chou costs 220 yen (US$2.15), and until September 8 the shop is offering six for 1,000 yen. We opted for a six-pack to take back to the office and share with our coworkers, while secretly hoping they’d all left for the day and there would be more desserts for us.

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Zaku Zaku means “crunchy” in Japanese, so it’s no shock that each croquant chou is encrusted with almonds. The stick was palpably heavy in our hand, a testament to just how much cream is packed inside.

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We took a bite, and the outer layer was as pleasingly crisp as we’d imagined. Inside, it was all soft, creamy custard, with the milky flavor you’d expect from Hokkaido’s famous dairies.

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Sweet but not cloyingly so, and without the stickiness you sometimes find in convenience store cream puffs, the croquant chou is so good we almost suspect Zaku Zaku has a cow hidden in the back of its Tokyo branch.

But while we’re thrilled to have the store in our neighborhood, we’re almost concerned it’s too close to our workplace. The round-trip walk between the RocketNews24 office and Lumine is only about 15 minutes, which we’re not sure is enough to burn off the calories from each stick, and we’re certainly coming out on the losing end, calorie-wise, as long as we’ve got that extra temptation to buy six at once.

Still, if a problem is this delicious, it’s one we’re happy to have.

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Shop information
Zaku Zaku / ザクザク
Address: Tokyo-to, Shinjuku-ku, Shinjuku 3-38-1, Lumine Est Shinjuku Branch, basement level 1
東京都新宿区新宿3丁目38番1号 ルミネエスト新宿店地下1階
Open weekdays 11 a.m.-10 p.m., Weekends and holidays 10:30 a.m.-10 p.m.

Photos © RocketNews24
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