What is Umaibo? What Does It Taste Like?

by Krystina Quintana

You may see children leaving Japanese markets and convenience stores with colorful snacks featuring the character Umaemon and wonder what they’re eating. Likely, they’re enjoying umaibo, puffed corn classic Japanese snacks.

Umaibo translates to “delicious stick” and is a popular snack due to its affordability and yummy flavor. While you might catch adults eating umaibo for nostalgia purposes, it’s common among children. With the  cheap snack having a price of 10 yen (about $0.08), bright packaging, and fun characters printed on the package’s exterior, it’s understandable why so many love this crunchy snack.

History of Umaibo

The umaibo snack has only been around since 1979, though you’d never guess by its popularity. It was created by the Yaokin brand the same year that a popular anime show – “Doraemon" made its debut. The packages give the nod to this anime by using the name Umaemon.

There were similar snacks as the umaibo Japanese snack sticks sold in small convenience stores, though they were sold unwrapped. Since the beginning, the umaibo sticks have been sold with their brightly-colored wrappers, making it easy for kids to grab an umaibo snack on the way home from school.

What Does Umaibo Taste Like?

Umaibo has a different taste depending on the flavor you choose. Umaibo flavors range from savory to sweet and everything in between. However, each umaibo flavor features a delicious, subtle, and unique flavor of sweet corn.

Is Umaibo Vegetarian? Is Umaibo Vegan?

Sorry to our vegan friends, this snack contains milk and is not vegan-friendly. There are some vegetarian-friendly options like chocolate and cheese flavor umaibo. Avoid meat-flavored options if you're vegetarian when choosing an umaibo flavor.

How Is Umaibo Eaten In Japan?

While it’s more common to see umaibo being eaten in snack form, there are additional ways that umaibo is used in Japanese cuisine. Umaibo’s crunchy consistency has led to many new online recipes that adults make and consume. Here are a few ways Japanese people consume this yummy treat.

As A Rice Topping

Delicious umaibo flavors can help season up a rice bowl, like takoyaki. Crumble the umaibo and sprinkle it over your rice for a flavorful snack. Try using Riska Umaiwa: Takoyaki Corn Puff, a ring-shaped umaibo, as a rice topping.

On Salads

If you’re tired of using croutons on your salads, you can swap them out for pieces of an umaibo corn snack. Try using the cheese flavor and chopping or breaking it into pieces. 

As A Soup

Umaibo is known for its accurate tasting flavors, like the corn potage flavor (a Japanese soup). Some people take this option and make soup. It usually consists of two ingredients (umaibo and milk) that you heat on the stovetop.

To Garnish Soup

Umaibo is also an excellent topping for Japanese soups like udon, miso, and more. You can add a yummy pop of flavor and texture to your soup by crumbling umaibo on top.

How Many Flavors Of Umaibo Are There?

There are currently an impressive 17 umaibo flavors that you can find. The Yoakin umaibo flavors are categorized by original options (cheese, chocolate, caramel, etc.), regional options (like umaibo mentai and okonomiyaki), and seasonal flavors. While the regional and original umaibo flavors typically remain the same, the seasonal flavors often change.

Other popular umaibo flavors include the vegetable salad flavor, tonkatsu sauce flavor, and teriyaki (based on a soy sauce flavor).

How Can You Try Umaibo?

This puffed corn snack is sold at most convenience stores and markets in Japan. It's rare to find a store that doesn't sell this popular snack in Japan. You can find umaibo in Japanese markets if you're in the US.

What Is Umaibo Made Of?

Umaibo is made from puffed corn, so its consistency is similar to Cheetos. Other umaibo ingredients include skim milk, whey powder, breadcrumbs, corn powder, sugar, and seasonings.

How Is Umaibo Made?

This tasty stick is traditionally made using a particular machine that Yaokin uses, which incorporates heat and pressure on umaibo ingredients. The heat and pressure cause umaibo to puff up to their delicious crunchy state.

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Author Bio

Krystina Quintana is a 29-year-old copywriter living outside of Chicago, IL. Her passion for Asian culture began at a young age as she learned to create Asian-inspired recipes like homemade sushi with her family. This interest in Asian culture continues today with time spent in the kitchen and copywriting pursuits. Krystina has worked with customers ranging from small businesses to food Youtubers with 70,000+ subscribers. With a passion for food and travel, she seeks to help businesses bring traffic to their page by writing blog posts that are engaging, informative, and fun to read.