The surprisingly complex tale of Mr. Sato’s desire to eat a bunch of pudding.

Costco Japan is a melting pot of American and Japanese food and shopping cultures. You’ll find the chain’s U.S. staples like rotisserie chickens and blueberry muffins just a few steps from an entire row of sake and freezers full of frozen takoyaki octopus dumplings.

So when our Japanese-language reporter Mr. Sato heard that Costco Japan sells a jumbo-sized purin, the Japanese custard pudding that’s near and dear to his heart, he wanted it in his stomach. His desire grew even stronger when he also learned that they usually only sell it for a very limited time, just one or two months out of the year.

There was just one problem: he doesn’t have a Costco membership.

Luckily, a solution presented itself. A store called Stockmart recently opened up in Tokyo’s Shimokitazawa neighborhood, and it’s stocked with all sorts of Costco products. You don’t need a membership to shop there, either. So when Mr. Sato stopped by Stockmart, he was thrilled to see they had this for sale.

At 1,864 yen (US$18), this wasn’t the cheapest purin Mr. Sato had ever seen, but it was the biggest. It might be lower-priced at Costco than at Stockmart, but still, this was a luxury he had to splurge on.

The purin was so big that he had trouble carrying it on the crowded trains and through the busy stations on his way to SoraNews24 headquarters, but eventually he managed to make it to the taste-testing sanctuary.

A quick measurement showed the purin to be roughly 23 centimeters in diameter. In alternate units, that converts to 9.1 inches or approximately one Sato face.

▼ “Gonna eat youuuuu!”

When in the presence of such gastronomic decadence, the human mind reacts in one of two ways. Either your psyche will compel you to voraciously dig into the whole thing, or the jumbo food’s majesty will instill a sense of reverence that demands you eat it in the most civilized manner possible. It was the latter on this occasion for Mr. Sato, so he carefully cut himself a 1/12 slice.

Lifting the spoon to his mouth, Mr. Sato almost shed a tear at the sheer volume of purin he possessed. It was a veritable continent of purin! So he was pretty startled when…

it didn’t really taste very much like purin. “Sure, the caramel sauce reminds me of eating purin,” he says, “but the pudding itself doesn’t have the sweetness you expect from purin, and there’s actually a lot of cream cheese flavor.”

Sure enough, a quick Internet search revealed that a lot of other people who’ve bought the dessert at Costco Japan think the strong cream cheese flavor is the biggest impression it leaves. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it’s also not something usually associated with purin. “I’m not sure if I should actually call this purin or not,” mused Mr. Sato, and it turns out there’s actually a pretty good case for “not.”

Let’s go back to how the dessert looked in the store.

Neither the shelf placard nor the package label says プリン/purin. Instead, they both say フラン, or “flan.”

Flan is a baked custard dessert popular in Europe and Latin America, and while it has a lot of similarities to Japanese-style purin, they’re not necessarily one and the same. Primarily, Japanese purin tends to be sweeter and creamier, with the most prized varieties having strong eggy notes to their flavor. Flan, on the other hand, tends to be less overtly sweet and often uses cream cheese, an ingredient rarely found in Japanese purin.

So in the end, it seems like our purin-powered reporter was tripped up by chatter among sweets enthusiasts in Japan who looked at Costco’s flan and said “Yep, that’s purin!” without entirely appreciating the difference. Still, any time you end up with a dessert as big as your head you can’t really complain, and Mr. Sato is liking the Costco flan’s mix of sweet and tart flavors for their own merits, meaning he’s now both a purin proponent and a flan fan.

Photos © SoraNews24
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