Japanese Snack Food Review: Nai Xiang Mei

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I’m guessing that these are Chinese in origin, although they may indeed be Japanese. I think by now it is well established that I don’t know from Asian languages, mostly, although I’m thinking I ought to learn. Anyway, I liked the way these looked and the little funny public service announcement on the back made me smile so into the shopping basket they went. By the way, if you are local and want to pick up a package of these, I found them at my Secondest Favoritest Asian Grocery store smack dab in the middle of town. They have live fish there too, so you can have fresh fresh eel with your Nai Xiang Mei.

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I’ve been trying to clear out my stockpile of JSF (and build up a buffer so I don’t wake up one weekend with zip in the queue) and these were sitting on the table, smiling up at me. Awww. Who could resist such a cute JSF? So I grabbed a Nai Xiang Mei out of the bag and unwrapped it. Then I unwrapped the inner tissue paper lining. THEN I unwrapped the cellophane layer. Holy redundant packaging Batman. Inside, finally, I found two lumpy, sticky looking things snugged together. Heh, that’s kind of cute, in a small unexpected dried plum looking thing sort of way.

There is nothing on the main packaging (the large outer bag; I guess with these I have to be more specific about which packaging I’m talking about) to give the potential muncher a clue about what Nai Xiang Mei might be, so I sort of let my imagination do the walking. Could they be Chocolate? Mmmmaybe. Caramel? Perhaps. Some weird Asian sweetie? Most indubitably. Fragrant dried fruit deelies? Why, no. That wasn’t even on the agenda. But here you have them, dried smelly fruity bits. Nai Xiang Mei probably means “these are little bitty dried plum things, you stupid gaijin”. Then again, if you can read Chinese/Japanese you’d probably already know that.

In retrospect, there are pictures of dried vaguely apricotish looking somethings on the first wrapper of the Nai Xiang Mei so maybe this is a lesson for me to look a little more carefully before plunging in. That may have saved me the hurty tooth I got from discovering the pit in my first Nai Xiang Mei. Yeah, watch out for that. Maybe Nai Xiang Mei translates into “these are little bitty dried plum things with pits, you stupid gaijin”.

As for taste, they aren’t bad for dried whatever they are. I’m guessing they are some sort of Asian pitted fruit similar in taste to a plum or fig or apricot. They are dark like prunes but florally fragrant. They reminded me of figs in texture, but less weirdly slightly crunchy. Maybe it was the consistency that reminded me of figs as I believe the crunchy bits in figs are seeds and Nai Xiang Mei are definitely stone fruit. As for apricot, ummm…all I can say is that there looks to be a picture of one on the first wrapper. So plum and fig are really the two main dried fruit contenders, at least for me. One of my Guinea pigs remarked that they tasted like something you might find in fruitcake (and that she wouldn’t have to ever have another as long as she lived).

One thing Nai Xiang Mei had going for them was fragrance. I thought I might just smell a hint of anise, reminiscent of the whiff of a Sen-sen package, but apparently I am the only one who noticed that. One of my other Guinea Pigs thought they were a tad on the perfumy side (and also decided that he didn’t have to ever have one again as long as he lived). I’m thinking that Nai Xiang Mei went through some secondary processing wherein a fruitcake/ sen sen/ perfumy smell was infused into the fruit because I can’t think of any fruit that would smell this strongly once dried. Of course, I haven’t met every fruit yet and certainly not every dried fruit so maybe I’m talking completely out of an orifice. All I know is that these fellas had a surprising purfumy whiff to them which I wouldn’t have ever expected from a dried anything. It could be that Nai Xiang Mei really means “these are exquisitely perfumed little bitty dried plum things with pits, you stupid gaijin”.

Nai Xiang Mei are edible but not endearing, so I think I will go with a

rating

of 2 Wasabi Peas out of a possible 5.

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