*not to be confused with topokki, the yummy Korean rice cake dish.
Recently I was thinking about Japanese chocolate-based snacks in crunchy stick format, and what dictates their popularity. Is it the power of marketing, the visual appearance, or is it simply taste? I don’t think there can be any disagreement that Pocky, a Glico product, is globally the most popular chocolate stick treat. While living in Toronto, I remember Pocky being well-known amongst my design school friends. Not that we ate it very often, but we knew it was a cute snack from Japan and maybe indulged our broke asses from time to time. It wasn’t available everywhere, but it was easy to get if you knew where to go: Little Tokyo in Kensington Market (now out of business) or any Asian shopping mall. It was always packaged for the export market and only ever came in chocolate or strawberry. It wasn’t until I moved to Japan that I saw the vast variety of Pocky flavours, or discovered the similar in concept, though fundamentally different, Toppo, made by Lotte. While Pocky is a thin cookie stick dipped in chocolate, Toppo is a hollow pretzel tube that is filled with chocolate. I’ve seen online that people call it “reverse Pocky.” I believe that Toppo is hands down way more delicious than Pocky. You get the satisfying crunch of the pretzel, and the thing is filled end to end with chocolate, where Pocky only has a weak 80% chocolate coverage. More crunchy goodness, more delicious chocolate. I love Toppo!
So, why hasn’t Toppo found it’s way into the semi-mainstream of cute snacks outside of Japan. It may just be that Lotte has never tried to export it. I feel that the name “Toppo” is not quite as cute as “Pocky” to the English ear, but they could always rename it. Another thought that came to mind is that Toppo isn’t as physically attractive as Pocky. While Pocky can be covered in different colours and textures of chocolate and can be striped and double dipped, Toppo basically always looks like a pretzel tube, and there really is no way to remedy that without doing an augmentation so drastic that it is no longer recognizable as Toppo. And that is exactly what all this thinking has inspired me to do. If cute Pocky and delicious Toppo were to be Frankensteined, it would naturally be delicious AND cute. I introduce Toppocky, a chocolate filled pretzel tube dipped in chocolate.
So, Toppo is great, and if you can get your hands on some, I highly recommend trying it. I saw it for sale on amazon at a 100% mark-up, plus shipping, so good luck to you (they are good, but really not worth ten bucks). The recipe for Toppocky is down below. I have already been inspired to do another Toppo hack; the long and slender version of that North American favourite, Combos. Once I figure out how to get all the chocolate out of the pretzel, or better yet find a source for empty long, slender pretzel tubes, I will be filling those up with orange coloured, cheese flavoured food product. Skinny spaghetti is spaghettini, so I think I’ll call it Combotini. Look out for it!
How to make Toppocky
You will need:
- a box of Toppo (standard variety recommended as the novelty flavours are too thick)
- 200g plain chocolate (chips or chopped up bars, dark, milk, or white)
- topping (cookie crumbs, crushed nuts, etc) (optional)
- vegetable oil (for brushing the rack)
- double boiler (or a small pot and large metal bowl)
- a durable slender vessel such as a coffee mug
- a spatula
- a wire rack
- Bring water (about an inch deep) to a boil and reduce to simmer.
- Place the bowl over the pot making sure that the bottom of the bowl is not touching the water. (I have never seen a double boiler, but if you have one, I’m sure you know how to work it)
- Put the chocolate in the bowl and stir it with a whisk as it melts. When it is almost completely melted, turn the fire off and keep stirring. Toppings may be added at this point, or they can be sprinkled over the Toppocky later (there is less mess if you add it now).
- Pour the melted chocolate into the mug, scrape the bowl with a spatula
- Dip the Toppo sticks into the melted chocolate one at a time, allowing any excess to drip off before placing them on the oiled rack.
- If you are adding topping after dipping, be sure to get sprinkling once you have 3 or 4 freshly dipped sticks as the chocolate will harden and your topping wont stick.
- Wait for the chocolate to harden completely before serving. Can be refrigerated to speed up the process.
Note: Be very careful not to melt the chocolate too quickly as it will burn. Keep steam away from the chocolate as even a bit of water will cause the melted chocolate to seize.
BONUS: Big points go to Glico for their interracial lesbo-erotic campaign for Valentine’s Day. It is up on their homepage now, in all its flash animated glory, so go check it out before they gear up for White Day. At pocky.jp, a cross-dressing lady in a tux (complete with necktie and top hat) dances with a fluffy pink princess while MC Hammer’s Can’t Touch This plays. Together they show off their giant bedazzled phallic Pocky stick. This amuses me beyond words. Who comes up with this?