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I Don’t Think I Want You to Break Me Off a Piece of That Kit Kat Bar

March 10, 2011

Happy kid, big Irish burger.

One of the questions I get asked most often about all the cool places I’ve traveled to is, “What’s the best food you’ve had?”

It’s a good question, because it stirs up memories of some fantastic food.  I’ll never forget the cannolli I had in Capri, Italy; the bratwurst on a pretzel roll in Nuremburg, Germany will always be near the top of my list; the fantastic Irish Stew we had at a little pub in the Ring or Kerry in Ireland was unreal; and the first real gyros I had, from a little stand in Mykonos, one of the Greek Islands in the middle of the Mediterranean, was one of my all time favorite meals.  Food is a big part of our travels, and it always will be.  I’m dying to try paella in Spain and while the Japan trip has me a little scared, gastronomically speaking, I can’t wait to see what they have to offer.

However, for every good meal or memorable culinary experience, there’s something strange to go along with it.

My first moment of culinary culture shock came way back when I was going to college in England.  I spent one December afternoon doing some Christmas shopping with my buddy Dan in downtown Birmingham (one of the bigger cities in England), and we both started getting hungry.  Like a good Englishman, he was intent of finding a pub or a chip shop (a place where they sell the English standard – fish and chips), but, as we were wandering through Birmingham’s shopping district, I spotted what I felt was a little neon message from heaven.

Across the street, in the window of a restaurant called Pizza World, there was a bright shining beacon of light calling to me, like a lost lamb finding the flock, I had found home – or at least a little (pizza) slice of home.  The neon sign in Pizza World’s big beautiful window read, “Chicago Style Pizza.”

Now, as a kid born and raised in Chicagoland, by some parents who took all things pizza related very very seriously, I was salivating immediately.  Consider the fact that pizza at my house was like a religious experience, and I hadn’t been back to the United States (let alone had any decent tasting pizza) since August.  There was no doubt where I was going for lunch.  Before Dan could even notice I’d gone, I was across the street and through the Pizza World doors asking for a table.

Dan caught up with me, and when I explained that Chicago style pizza was this thick crusted, deep dish monument to meat and cheese – when I described it as the taste bud’s version of the Garden of Eden – when I, with a level of enthusiasm and passion that’s usually reserved for those preachers on TV, people running for president, or insane homeless men trying to train an army of squirrels, described my belief that when I die, I’ll only know I’m in heaven if Saint Peter greets me with a warm smile and a slice of Lou Malnatti’s deep dish sausage pizza – then Dan began to get excited too.

There was no need for a menu.  The neon sign brightly shining on that cold December day was all the menu I needed.  The waitress stopped by our table, and before she could say a word, I had ordered a large Chicago style pizza, and before she could leave our table, I was already daydreaming about the gooey cheese, the tangy sauce, and the sausage…  Oh man, there are entire sections of my brain that are dedicated just to daydreaming about sausage pizza.

As any one from the Chicago area knows, a good deep dish, Chicago style pizza might take 30-45 minutes to cook, so I got myself prepared for a good long wait, and continued to describe to Dan what he was about to experience.  Ten minutes later, the waitress brought our food.  I took one look at it and figured there were only two possibilities of what had just occurred.  1. The waitress got our order wrong.  OR 2. There’s another Chicago somewhere in the world, and that Chicago likes their pizza to be awful.

Then I heard words I wanted so badly to hear, but not while looking at the mess of weirdness the woman had on the tray in front of her… “Here’s your Chicago Style Pizza guys!!!”

That was not Chicago Style Pizza.  First of all, the crust was so thin and wimpy that it could have made fun of saltine crackers for being too fat.  We definitely weren’t looking at a deep dish pizza.  Not only that, but the toppings were like a demented monkey had just randomly selected stuff from the grocery store to throw on top of a pizza.  When I think of Chicago pizza, I think sausage.  After the sausage, maybe pepperoni, and some veggies like onions, green peppers, mushrooms…  That’s real pizza.  Our pizza looked like the garbage can from Old Country Buffet had thrown up on it.

That's a prawn. It was on my pizza. It didn't belong there.

The first thing I noticed on the pizza was prawns.  If you don’t know what a prawn is, you’re lucky, because a prawn is like a shrimps uglier, fat cousin, and there were a bunch of them on my pizza.  The only nice thing I can say about the prawns on my pizza is that they made it so I didn’t notice the ricotta cheese right away.

What is ricotta cheese, you ask???  I don’t know.  It’s not like mozzarella, I can tell you that.  Ricotta cheese is this mushy goo that is about the same texture as the stuff you sometimes find between your toes, only it doesn’t smell as good as the foot cheese.  Then, as if the weird goo cheese and the sea creatures weren’t enough, it got really strange.  There was corn on my pizza.  Corn!  Sure, they got the wrong meat and the wrong cheese, but at least those things were meat and cheese.  Who in the world puts corn on pizza?  And, a more important question, what is wrong with them?

Of course, I was hungry, and I was 20 years old, so I ate it, and while it didn’t satisfy my craving for Chicago style deep dish, it wasn’t all that bad.  Don’t get me wrong – I’ll never order that again, but it was okay in the end.

Weird food has been a constant in all of my travels.  There was the day in Dresden, Germany that I stopped at McDonald’s with four hungry teenage boys and got one heck of a surprise.  Five Americans walked into an American restaurant in a German city and got… Indian food.

We didn’t want to go to McDonald’s.  We wanted to get some authentic German food for lunch that day, but there was no where to eat in Dresden.  So, rather than waste our time wandering around looking for food, we decided to grab some Mickey D’s and see more of the city.  Inside we were intrigued to find that German McDonald’s restaurants serve some of their burgers made from pork, because cows are sacred in India. They had this weird yellowish, spicy sauce on them and vegetables I couldn’t even attempt to identify.  Of course, because we were on an education adventure to explore different cultures, we all decided to try the German Indian McDonald’s – we called it Der McMumbaischnitzel.  It was gross.

In Greece I tried a dinner called Moussaka.  It was the most awful thing ever.  On the TV show Friends, Rachel once tried to make some sort of dessert for a party, but the pages of her cookbook stuck together, so she combined the first part of a pudding type dish with the second half of the recipe for some sort of beef casserole – Moussaka reminded me of that.  It was layered like a lasagna, only this wasn’t like regular lasagna, this was lasagna from a restaurant in Hades.  The bottom layer of this lasagna was eggplant, followed by a layer of minced meat.  Not many people know exactly what minced meat is, and I’m not sure myself, but I can tell you what I thought it might be – onions, peas, and cinnamon mixed together with some beef that had been previously chewed.  Then there were some potatoes, and finally, on the top, custard.  There might have been other stuff in there too, but honestly I couldn’t tell for sure.  To me it was just a pile of brown stuff with a variety of textures.  There was chewy dark brown stuff, slimy light brown stuff, squishy tan colored stuff, mushy brown stuff, and the top was a crispy blackish brown stuff.  I didn’t finish all of it, but I did give it a shot.

Ew.

There have been weird foods everywhere.  I remember some odd flavors of ice cream in Italy, some spicy hot dogs called curry-wurst in Germany, and even Prawn Cocktail flavored potato chips in Ireland.  Yeah, prawns again.

However, I think we may be saving the strangest for 2012 in Japan.  I’m really looking forward to the new level of weird we’re going to encounter there.  While doing a little research on Japanese snacks, I stumbled across some interesting stuff.

Apparently, the Kit Kat is the most popular candy bar in Japan.  Half of the Kit Kat’s success is luck, and the other half is pure genius.  Now, we’re not talking about regular genius, we’re talking about the weird, creepy, sort of demented kind of genius here.

The lucky part: The Kit Kat was invented in England and became very popular here in America.  However, when it was first introduced in Japan, sales went through the roof.  It turns out that the phrase Kit Kat sounds really, really close to the Japanese good luck phrase “kitto katsu.”  If you translate it literally, kitto katsu means, “you shall surely win.”  So, it’s become kind a tradition to give people Kit Kat bars as gifts wishing someone good luck.  In fact, almost every Japanese student receives Kit Kats from their family and friends right before final exam time in Japanese schools.

Ladies and gentlemen, the watermelon and salt flavored Kit Kat.

The weird creepy genius part: You’ve all heard of Pokemon, and you probably know the phrase “Gotta Catch ‘Em All.”  That’s kind of the mentality Japanese people have about a lot of things – gotta catch/try/collect/have ’em all.  So, the Kit Kat folks keep introducing new flavors of Kit Kats, and many Japanese people felt like they had to try all of them.  So, John Kit Kat, or whoever it is that’s in charge of the Kit Kat Empire, decided to keep introducing new and unusual Kit Kat flavors.  To make the “got to get ’em all” folks were clamoring to try every one.  The thing to do when you’ve got a product that so many people are climbing over one another to get at… make it hard to get.  So, the began introducing limited time Kit Kats, only available for a few months at a time, then gone forever.  The people went nuts trying to get their hands on these different varieties of Kit Kat.

Does the creepy bat eating the Kit Kat logo make you hungry?

Then, to make them even more rare, they began releasing candy bars in only small areas of the country – flavors that were likely to be popular in just that particular region – kind of like if we were to have Chicago style hot dogs here, biscuits and gravy down south, and soft shell crab in Baltimore.

Now it’s strange enough that they’ve created a ridiculous amount of demand for limited edition candy bars, but the real unusual part is the flavors they’ve made.  I asked around, talking to friends and family about Kit Kats the last few days, and I asked people to come up with a new flavor of Kit Kat.  My friends and family had some pretty good ideas: white chocolate Kit Kats, peanut butter, almond, and even mint.  I don’t know about you, but all of those sound pretty darn good to me.

Yup, that's a ginger ale Kit Kat.

Some of the Japanese flavors are along those same lines, and they might sell pretty well here in America.  They made caramel, espresso, creme brulee, strawberry, custard pudding, strawberry cheesecake, and chestnut flavored Kit Kats.  None of those seem terribly unusual, and might actually be pretty good.

On the other side of things, there are a few flavors that I’m not quite sure about.  Berry wine, watermelon, choco banana, golden peach, pineapple, apple, pumpkin, grape, cantaloupe, raspberry passionfruit, golden citrus, banana, blood orange, and even a fruit parfait Kit Kat all have potential, but don’t seem to fit in what us Americans think of when we’re picking out our candy bars.

What more could you want in your candy than baked potato with butter flavoring?

There’s a whole slew of Kit Kat flavors that I’m not even sure why you would make into a candy.  I’d make a joke here, but there’s no need – to think about a candy bar made in these flavors, and the fact that millions of Japanese people are driving halfway across the country to try them out… that’s funny enough.  Just imagine Kit Kats that taste like green tea, ginger ale, apple vinegar, soy sauce, sweet potato, baked potato with butter, Camembert cheese, veggie, and, one that takes me back to my days eating pizza in England… roasted corn.

I'm sorry. This is too weird. Corn Kat?

I also found a bunch of Kit Kats that I have no idea what they taste like, because the flavor is something I’ve never heard of.  Miso, yubari, yuzu and pepper, powdered soy bean paste, soy powder, intense roasted soy bean (they seem to have a real thing for soy over there), and one that hurts my brain to try and figure out – red beak soup flavored Kit Kat.

One might want to ask, “What the heck is a red beak?”  However,  I think the better question is – why would they put it in the soup, then shove the soup into the Kit Kat?

What the heck is Red Beak Soup and why would you want your Kit Kat to taste like it.

I never would have imagined we’d ever encounter like food like this.  Kit Kat candy bars in some unbelievably ridiculous flavors.  I know two things for certain… First, as strange as they sound, I can’t wait to go to Japan and try as many of these Kit Kats as I can find.  Second, if I walk into a Japanese 7-11 and find a Kit Kat flavored like prawns and corn, I’ll know there’s something wrong in the world – especially if they claim that that Kit Kat is Chicago Style.

Look at more Kit Kat pictures here. Which Japanese Kit Kat do you want to try???

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23 Comments leave one →
  1. nolan barajas permalink
    March 10, 2011 9:24 pm

    Those Kit Kats are… a little stomach churning if you ask me.

  2. Annie Harb permalink
    March 11, 2011 7:04 pm

    I will (gladly) eat any flavor of kitkat … jtlyk 🙂

    • March 11, 2011 7:13 pm

      Read the article before this one (about some weird Spanish Christmas traditions) and think twice before you say “any” flavor.

      • Collin DeCamp permalink
        March 27, 2011 5:09 am

        Why does the kitkat have a pic of corn and a few sticks of butter? I know kitkats are kind of bad for u but I think a few sticks of butter are worse!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      • Collin DeCamp permalink
        March 27, 2011 5:15 am

        Wait in my other comment I said there was mutter but it was the kit kat!!!!!! Why does every country but ours have light colored kit kate?!?!?!?!!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!!!?!!?!?!!?!?
        P.s. Sorry for the excess punctuation I am bored at 5 am :((

      • Collin DeCamp permalink
        March 27, 2011 5:17 am

        Again I must make another correction I meant to type butter instead of mutter!!!

      • Collin DeCamp permalink
        March 27, 2011 5:18 am

        In the first comment I meant kit Kats not kit kate

  3. megan graham permalink
    March 12, 2011 4:39 pm

    I just wonder how they come up with those flavors.

    • March 12, 2011 9:20 pm

      I think they just walk through a grocery store with a blindfold on and pick something to make into a Kit Kat.

      • Andra permalink
        March 16, 2011 10:04 pm

        More like walk through a grocery store/ resturant/ haloween shop/ soy sause emporium!!!

  4. March 15, 2011 1:57 pm

    those are really making me hungry……..

    • Bri Simons permalink
      January 26, 2012 3:48 pm

      Chris that’s just gross!!! i would not try those at all

  5. nate zurawski permalink
    March 24, 2011 4:21 pm

    This really interested me… I’m going to try a watermelon one when i go.

  6. Collin DeCamp permalink
    March 27, 2011 5:06 am

    This made me rofl on the inside a bit and I say inside because everyone in my house is sleeping and I cant make a noise. Though I didn’t know cultures change something and make it different though still the same.

  7. Collin DeCamp permalink
    March 31, 2011 9:57 pm

    I thought anchovies were the only fish pizza

    • Collin DeCamp permalink
      March 31, 2011 9:58 pm

      I guess I was wrong

      • Collin DeCamp permalink
        March 31, 2011 10:00 pm

        I didn’t spell any
        Thing wrong this
        Time no mutter (butter)
        Or kit Kate (kit kat)

        Hahahahahaha

  8. Joshua Bouie permalink
    April 25, 2011 6:44 pm

    Giant shrimp… cheese pizza… bad idea.

  9. Stephanie melelndez permalink
    December 21, 2012 1:19 pm

    Out of all of the Kit Kat flavors, I would have to try the Blood/Orange kit kat. Which flavor did you try?

    • January 1, 2013 10:43 am

      We had hamburger and pancake flavored ones. It was a lot harder to find Kit Kats than we thought it would be.

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