The only question is whether it’s even cheese any more.

Japan often gets a bad rap for not embracing the wide world of cheese. There’s certainly a lot of cheese-heavy meals to be found and even classic Japanese dishes have benefitted from the addition of cheese. But walk into most regular supermarkets and you’ll usually find the selection limited to processed slices, processed balls, processed bricks, and maybe a camembert.

This is something that Japanese Kraft licensee Morinaga is perhaps attempting to rectify by crafting something completely original called Mochimochi Kinako. Notice “cheese” isn’t even in the name, but the six-piece disk package – another commonly used shape for processed cheese in Japan – is labeled as a “new texture cheese dessert.”

Kinako is powdered roasted soybean that is often used in Japanese snacks because it tastes a lot sweeter than its description would have you believe. In fact, you can plunk some into a glass of milk, stir it up, and have a treat not unlike a glass of chocolate milk but much healthier.

Morinaga is betting that this same magic can work with cheese so they blended the two together, along with some other mainstays of Japanese confections like the chewy glutinous rice mochi, and kuromitsu syrup, which has a dark texture and taste similar to molasses.

You wouldn’t know it by looking at the opened package though. It looks like the regular six wedges of cheese that’s been sold here for ages.

However, once the foil was peeled back, things took a turn for the weird. It looked like cheese, but an unmistakable whiff of kinako emerged from it. It was really hard to tell what was about to be consumed at this point.

Sticking a fork in it didn’t clear up matters either. Unlike regular cheese which has a dense, creamy texture, Mochimochi Kinako was more plump and a little chewy. This was most likely caused by the addition of powdered mochi.

Although the experience so far had been strange to say the least, Mochimochi Kinako delivered in the taste department. The sweetness of the kuromitsu and kinako blended elegantly and the cheese provided just a hint of sharpness for a complex but satisfying taste.

In conclusion, this creation exists somewhere between a cheese and a confection, but probably leans more towards the latter. Morinaga was wise to name this after the kinako rather than the cheese because that’s what you’ll have the sense of just having eaten afterward.

But at only 50 calories per piece and a price of around 320 yen (US$3), Mochimochi Kinako is a leaner alternative to snacking on regular processed cheese wedges. If that’s not a good enough reason to pick up a pack, just do it to support much needed diversity in the cheese sections of Japanese supermarkets.

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