Gifts That Foodies Will Love

by Emi Noguchi

A truly adventurous foodie can find something interesting to eat just down the block, but even the most passionate gourmand will be challenged by a slow-travel year. For a friend who likes to stray from the beaten path, there are few better Japanese gifts than a package of rare, exciting snacks. At Market by Bokksu, you can browse one-time purchases and small batches to curate your own unique gift boxes of eclectic, intriguing, and hard-to-find treats.

Bokksu’s Japanese maker-partners have brought together local hometown ingredients and inspiration from their own international travels. To whet your appetite, here’s a sample of some of our more adventurous offerings.

Sudachi seaweed tempura

Seaweed Tempura: Setouchi Sudachi Citrus Flavor

The sudachi is a small, green citrus fruit with a particularly tart kick and a strong, aromatic flavor that one looks for in a great ingredient...or local mascot. Tokushima Prefecture’s Sudachi-kun is the superhero of local specialties and beloved among domestic foodies. Due to his low international profile, sudachi-flavored anything is a rare find outside Japan, making this flavor of the addictively crunchy Seaweed Tempura the perfect gift for someone hungry for something new.

 black syrup kinako mochi puffs

Funwari Meijin Mochi Puffs: Black Syrup Kinako

One of the most exciting aspects of Japanese cuisine is its special attention to textures. These mochi puffs, often described as “cloudlike,” are coated in two essential ingredients of traditional Japanese sweets: a thin, sticky layer of black syrup, topped with a dusting of ultra-fine, nutty kinako (roasted soybean flour). These centuries-old flavors and contemporary technology pair and ship well, and they’re best served with tea.

experience Japan right from home

Honey and gorgonzola cheese cookie

Honey and Gorgonzola Cheese Cookie

If gorgonzola is considered an acquired taste even among cheese-loving populations, it falls squarely within the category of “medium-to-high controversy” foods among many Japanese diners. How, then, could such a cookie gain popularity? One answer: the Umami Information Center has weighed in, and blue cheeses do indeed contain umami, or the “savory” fifth taste. Most likely, these cookies work because Tokyo Milk Cheese Factory balanced them with extreme care and artfulness. For any fan of unlikely pairings, this is a must-try. Cheese and honey are natural friends, but between two crispy wafers slides a smooth third ingredient and the vehicle for the bold gorgonzola: chocolate. Attentive snackers may even be able to pick out notes of the honey’s single pollen source (for those counting, this snack’s fourth major player): the flowers of rosemary in Spain.

Hojicha Otona no amasa Kit Kat

Japanese Kit Kat: Hojicha Tea Otona No Amasa

One of the more delightful and unique gifts of the world of Japanese snacks is the category of Otona no Amasa, or “Sweets for Adults.” Far from a marketing gimmick, adult chocolates are darker, and their special flavors trend less sugary. Matcha-flavored Kit Kats are evergreen souvenirs, but any Bokksu fan knows that the deep cuts in Kit Kat’s vast library make the most exciting Japanese gifts. Enter hojicha, the milder, roasted cousin of everyday green tea. Delicately sweetened and draped over the classic Kit Kat crunch, the modest flavor of hojicha makes an understated candy bar. One might linger for a moment on its remarkable existence, how it took several decades and intercontinental travel to bring together an after-dinner beverage from Kyoto and a chocolate-covered wafer from York.

Ajimai senbei

Ajimai Senbei

Technological innovations and thrilling flavor profiles aside, no list of foodie favorites would be complete without a truly traditional snack: something as simple as a rice cracker over one thousand years old, whose taste and visual beauty are the natural results of simple, local, delicious ingredients. Ajimai Senbei, flavored with burdock root and deep fried, comes in a gorgeous palette of soft corals and pale green. Its flavors originate from sea and soy: shrimp, speckled nori, soy sauce, and for a zip of spice, white sesame and red chili. These ingredients are the taste of a place. After centuries of taste-testing, they represent the taste of its people, too.

Market by Bokksu offers far more than the chance to create your own unique gift boxes: it allows you to experience the foodie’s time-honored thrill of the chase as you pick the perfect final piece in your collection of Japanese gifts. You may feel a nagging sense that even though you’ve already found the fascinating, most “I-want-a-report-on-this-right-away” snack, around the bend waits one still better. If you find that you’ve converted into a foodie, one remedy is to buy a second set. Wherever you are, trying new snacks with friends is a great way to share a meal and an adventure.

Author Bio

Emi Noguchi is a fiction writer, blogger, and freelance writing instructor, and co-founder of MFA App Review. After studying standard Japanese at Columbia University, she picked up Kansai-ben while living in Osaka and some Awa-ben in her paternal hometown in Tokushima. Emi is a 2020 recipient of the John Weston Award and holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Arizona. You can read her work in Essay Daily, The Spectacle, and Fairy Tale Review. Emi is currently writing a novel about diasporic illnesses, art-making, and traditional Japanese puppetry.