When I have a beer or a leisurely drink, I like to have a snack along with it. Usually I drink beer so my snack choices are wide and varied but since I am in Japan I have to consider the prices of snacks as well because most of the things I like are more expensive than a can of beer. I’ve tried many kinds of low cost Japanese treats over the years and have found myself returning to a limited few. Today, I will share about one of these items with you.
The snack food in question today is known as calpas/dry-calpas/or calpas sausage. Calpas originally comes from the region of and near Russia. I am not sure if Japanese calpas tastes the same as the original stuff from Russia. Usually Japanese versions are modified for Japanese taste buds, but I’ll just guess its close enough to the original. Calpas is made from a mixture of meats; primarily chicken, pork, and sometimes horse meat. I always avoid the ones with horse mixed into them though, it’s just not my thing where I come from and I like to keep it that way.
If I were to describe calpas in the most basic of ways I would have to say it’s a spiced up hotdog but with a more chewy center and strong spice or peppered flavor. Calpas comes in various shades of meat color but it usually comes in only one shape, stubby and fat kind of like a comedic cigar. The taste of calpas depends heavily on the brand but not necessarily the price of the snack.
The picture I took of calpas for today’s entry is 7&Holdings, also known as 7-Eleven to the rest of the world, version of calpas. It is competitively priced with other national discount store brands like Aeon’s Max-Valu and various convenience stores that have jumped on the affordable self branded snack bandwagon lately. From what I could tell, it looked like pretty much any other discount calpas I’ve seen before but I was in store for quite a shock.
7&i’s self branded calpas was made for immediate consumption like many other value priced varieties. By this I mean it is not sheathed in an inedible layer of transparent plastic like more expensive kinds of calpas. When I first came to Japan I kind of made the mistake of biting into one of those without checking the wrapper carefully but recently those are harder to find which is good for less fluent readers of the language.
Depending on who makes the calpas, it can be either incredibly greasy with an irregular sheen, or dull like the one above. Generally, the non greasy ones tend to taste better in my opinion. The 7&i sausage so far seemed to be promising. Biting into the 7&i calpas was a bit awkward at first. Usually it comes with a light crunch as your teeth pierce through the sausage skin outer layer but this one didn’t. It was like biting into play dough (who didn’t try this at least once when they were a kid?) but a bit firmer. The texture was less like a regular calpas/sausage and more like a hotdog…a soggy hotdog. In other words it was terrible. The flavor was equally unsatisfying and a bit gross. Something about the flavoring in this particular brand just felt off to me. So I must say to any of you out there who are looking to try this particular brand to steer clear of it, it’s nasty.
I found the 7&i calpas to be very disappointing over all. It was so unlike most good value calpas I’ve had and more like 100 yen store no-name brands that are equally gross. More often than not, I like calpas in general. Although it tastes a bit synthetic, I often buy the spicy calpas at Max-Valu or Lawson’s convenience store brand calpas. I used to buy real sausage style dry calpas at regular grocery stores where are much closer to an Italian dry sausage in presentation and they also came with a much higher price tag calling 200-300 yen a stick. Most dry calpas sticks are 95-105 yen a piece.
So yeah, calpas is an odd snack. I think it goes well with beer and at times it seems to be an OK filler topping for salads with a little Italian dressing and cheese. If you haven’t tried one before just make sure that yours isn’t encased in a plastic “skin” and it’s not from 7&i owned stores and convenience stores. That one is just bad!