Foreigner in Japan calls ordinary cookies the most delicious things he’s ever eaten, but we transform them with a delicious marshmallow substitute.

Japanese marketing manager Daisuke Inoue has noticed something unusual about his non-Japanese colleagues and clients. “When I bring [edible] souvenirs to offices in America, even when I bring high-class Japanese sweets, nobody eats them,” he tweeted. But when I bring Western-style sweets made by Japanese companies, they’re huge hits.” He’s even observed this phenomenon with foreigners who’ve moved to Japan, as he recalled in this tweet.

“An English creative director who just arrived in Japan came into our studio, and when he saw me he said, “Hey, Daisuke, eat one of these,” Inoue recalls, handing him an Alfort, an inexpensive brand of Japanese cookie available in any supermarket or convenience store.

▼ Alfort

“Oh, Alfort? Yeah, these are good,” Inoue said, and his English acquaintance reacted with shock. “Just good? That’s all you have to say? These are the most delicious things I’ve eaten in my entire life!” he declared.

Oddly enough, despite being a professional eat-Japanese-desserts guy, I’d never eaten an Alfort before reading Inoue’s tweet. Honestly, they just seemed too ordinary to fit into my schedule/stomach, but with that glowing endorsement from Inoue’s colleague, I figured it was finally time to give them a try.

So I walked the two blocks to my local grocery store and picked up a box for 95 yen (US$0.88). Back home, I tore open the tab, revealing a spiffy gold wrapping cordially commanding me to “Enjoy the superb taste of chocolate & biscuit made with the finest ingredients.”

▼ The finest ingredients you can buy for less than a buck, anyway.

The cookies themselves have a classy picture of a sailing ship engraved on their chocolate faces, with plain biscuits as their bases.

I popped one into my mouth, and it was kind of like eating a chocolate chip cookie, but with the ratio of chocolate and biscuit reversed. It was sweet and crisp. It was…good, but honestly “just good,” exactly like Inoue had described it.

But maybe living in Japan for so many years, consuming green tea and red bean desserts at every opportunity, has affected my palate so that my tastes are closer to Inoue’s than his foreign colleagues? This required further investigation, and luckily my American niece, Marie-Linh, happened to visiting Japan during her winter break from college in San Diego.

▼ Marie-Linh, pictured with her weird uncle who ran off to Japan and gets paid to eat cookies.

“Hey, Maire-Linh!” I said. “Try these. Some English dude says they’re the best thing in the world.”

“Yeah, they’re good,” she agreed, but she couldn’t see why anyone would think they’re the best thing in the world either. “They kind of remind me of s’mores” she said, since the biscuit part of the Alfort isn’t particularly sweet, and tastes a lot like a graham cracker.

Now it was time to examine the second part of Inoue’s observations, that his overseas colleagues don’t like Japanese sweets. To test this, I went back to the store and got a sakura mochi dumpling filled with sweet bean paste.

“Hey, Marie-Linh!” I called out again, trying to make up for years of missed attendance at school events and birthday parties while she was growing up by bribing her with desserts. “Try this sakura mochi. I say it’s one of the best things in the world.”

Once again, our evaluations lined up, though in the interest of full disclosure, my niece did spend parts of her childhood living in Japan and Thailand. “Yeah, the Alfort was good, but I like the mochi a lot better” she declared, and we happily chewed the marshmallowy soft Japanese dessert…

Hold on. Marshmallowy soft…marshmallow…s’mores…Japanese dessert…


Sure, we didn’t have marshmallows or a campfire, but we did have soft, sticky mochi and a microwave. Step 1 is to put an Alfort, face up, on a plate,

Next, take a piece of a mochi cake (we used about a one-fourth cut) and put it on top of the Alfort.

Place another Alfort on top of the mochi, with the chocolate facing downward, and give it a firm but gentle press, so that the mochi sticks to both pieces of chocolate.

Finally, pop those suckers in the microwave.

“Hey, Marie-Linh! Try this. It might be the best thing in the world, or it might the quickest way to ruin two perfectly fine desserts.”

In retrospect, I should have microwaved them for 10 seconds instead of 15, but once we managed to finally pick them up for the messy moment of truth

…we were happy to discover that these home-made Japanese s’mores taste incredible!

They’re a hot, messy mix of Western and Japanese flavors, all melting together and taking your taste buds on a trip around the world with rich chocolate and butter seamlessly blending with the salty sweetness and grain note of the rice cake and red beans. They are definitely messy to eat, though, so I’d recommend maybe using a spoon…

…or, barring that, eating them with younger relatives who don’t have the familial authority to criticize your messy table manners.

Related: Twitter/@pianonoki via Hachima Kiko
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