The “International Aisles” at chain supermarkets have evolved greatly over the past couple of decades. Though they probably vary depending on what part of the country you’re in, most I’ve seen play up the “international” flavor of the designated aisle with national flags and foods categorized by country.
Amidst the taco and tortilla shells, rice, salsa, pasta and pasta sauce, there are some authentic international items, ones imported from the actual country they represent in the supermarket U.N.
For the first international aisle expedition, “Around the World in Eight Items or Less,” I’m starting out cushy — with sweet treats from across the globe.
Lion Bar from Nestle (made in U.K.) – Starting in the familiar candy bar land of England (home to Cadbury), the Lion Bar is blunt yet vague with its packaging — a comic book lion roaring and the word “Lion” written in bold comic book font. That’s really not much of a hint of the crispy rice/chewy caramel/milk chocolate blend, which is exactly the same as Nestle’s 100 Grand Bar (which is also a pretty weird name for a candy bar). It’s as good as a candy bar should be, proving
Casali Choco-Bananas (Austria) – When I think Austrian food, I think of … well, nothing really. But I certainly wouldn’t guess chocolate-covered banana cream treats were a cultural tradition. Casali’s Choco-Bananas boast proudly of its “extra fruity” use of “real Chiquita bananas” and come laid out on wax paper side by side, each one about the size of an average adult’s pointing finger. If you like bananas, these are delicious, a sweet and creamy ’nana confectionery dipped in sweet, dark chocolate.
Sultan Brand Turkish Delight (Turkey) – This one had the best packaging — a Chinese restaurant menu-worthy photo of the red, pink and white sweets displayed on a dish so fancy it has a metallic lid.
Bauli’s Custard Mini Croissants (Italy) – The packaging proudly boasts “Product of Italy” on the front, in the same sized font as “Natural Leavening,” which must be something really important. Also available in chocolate and apricot, I chose custard because I saw some cannoli shells and thought these might be close. Not so much. I hope stealing France’s croissant concept and putting a tiny dab of custard in the middle of one the size and shape of a small pig-in-a-blanket is not an Italian tradition. They are all-natural and contain no trans fats, so I’m guessing not.
Bahlsen’s Choco Leibniz (Germany) – Bahlsen has been around since 1889 and its bland packaging confirms it. A Choco Leibniz is a “butter biscuit” covered in milk chocolate; in ’Merican, that means it’s a chocolate cookie. I’d expect a butter biscuit to be light and moist, but these are harder, spared only by the rich chocolate coating.
Lotte Pepero Nude (Korea) – Korea’s offering to the “biscuit” zeitgeist is a cookie straw with chocolate in the center. The cookie part and the chocolate part are both incredibly bland (maybe that’s the “Nude” concept), though it might work as a coffee stirrer. It’s on par, flavor-wise, with an off-brand Chips Ahoy-type “biscuit” mixed with a fortune cookie. Bonus points for having the most languages on the box — English, Vietnamese, Russian, Arabic and possibly up to six more.
Glica’s Pocky Almond Crunch (Japan) – Though similar in shape to the Pepero cookie sticks, these have the chocolate (and some almond crunch) on the outside, covering 3/4 of the treat, presumably so you have something to hold while eating it (corndog style). The sticks are even blander than Pepero’s and the chocolate is low quality. I’d stir my dog’s coffee with these.
Gamesa’s Barras de Coco (Mexico) – These hard cookies come in a huge 11-inch-by-9-inch yellow box, featuring the Barras de Coco (or “coconut bars”) displayed on a plate with a couple of slices of coconut, next to a cup of coffee. Obviously, these were made for coffee-dippin’ (and have a slight coconut flavor), and for that, they’re not too bad. But for snacking? Put them in the ginger snaps family — only in a serious pinch.
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