Universal Yums – November 2016: Indonesian Snacks

BY: LEWIS MEDEIROS

Holy wow, is this what it’s like to reach that awkward middle ground of kinda-sorta-e-famous-but-not-really? Spam messages containing free Steam codes for mediocre indie games, dodgy e-mails about mobile app sponsorships, and subscription box commission deals? Only a few months ago we (by which I mean “I,” with the others supplying their own “why the heck nots”) took on a commission deal for Universal Yums, which is a fairly neat subscription box service delivering monthly snack packs from a different country every month. Our referral link is still the same as it was two videos ago, and for every box that our viewers buy through that link, we still make the same commission I specified in the video description for those first few videos, which at the pace things presently go amounts to an actual pizza fund, as opposed to the joke “pizza fund” our stream audience sometimes donates. I’m not about to complain about that. The free Universal Yums boxes are enjoyable enough for me; I love snacking and having an excuse to try Indonesian Cheetos free of charge is a rewarding thing in and of itself, rather like the LootGaming box I got last week.

But after we (both BrainScratch and Johnny’s review channel) got recruited into what appears to be a pretty aggressive LootCrate advertising campaign, I started to think “You know, subscription boxes are really cool, but seeing them promoted on YouTube is starting to feel like watching toothpaste commercials.”

So I’ve decided to change tracks. I’ve been thinking for a while that WordPress blog for BrainScratch would be a handy thing, since there’s just too much stuff going on in the gaming and entertainment world at any given time for us to get together to make videos on all of it. Today, I decided that a blog would be useful for any ongoing promotion-type things we’re doing as well. I’ll get to the LootGaming stuff in another post, but without further ado, let’s take a look at this November’s Yum Yum Box, which brings us, among other things, those Indonesian Cheetos that I mentioned. Sadly, October’s box, which was to be full of snacks from Taiwan, never arrived at my house — I assume it got lost in transit, since there was a shipping notice for it. Oh well, that’s life.

First up, let’s have a look at that box!

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I promised Indonesian Cheetos, and this box certainly delivers. I’m noticing a theme for these boxes: there’s always one really recognizable brand that American buyers will probably find appetizing, albeit in the appropriate “foreign” flavor. We’ll save the Cheetos for a bit further down the list, since I’m most interested in the other items on display here:

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Universal Yums boxes come packed in tight. What you’re looking at here is the $25 “Yum Yum Box,” the larger of the two sizes. This size comes packing in “12 or more” snacks per month, in this case fifteen snacks. That’s individual snacks, by the way, since some of the smaller ones come with either duplicates or two different flavors to sample. The Yum Yum Box comes at a good size, just enough content to keep a light snacker happy for a full month, although it’s totally possible to munch your way through the box in a day or two if you’re more ravenous than might be considered healthy. Frugal buyers may be more inclined toward the $14-dollar “Yum Box,” which is the “6 or more snacks” option.

Going to take these in the order they’re listed in the pamplet. Here goes my Indonesian food virginity:

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I’m slightly at a loss on this first one, as the pamphlet that came with this box states that they should be “Dua Kelinci Hotnuts” which, going by the teeny image in there, is a different snack under the same brand — and are orange rather than white. The text for the hotnuts describes them thus: “Fried peanuts coated in spicy seasoning that we guarantee will make you go nuts.” There’s also some interesting history for them, of course, but as to the snack I got, which is peanuts coated in something one and decidedly more neutral than the hotnuts seem to be… these are alright. Will happily munch on them, or I would, if it weren’t for the fact that I’m going out with someone who’s allergic to peanuts.

Next:

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The Beng Beng Chocolate Bar comes equipped with the following trivia: “Rice is the essential Indonesian food. It’s served at every meal, and even has three different names.” Fascinating. This is of course, a lead-in for the revelation that this is a sweet made by baking rice and covering it in melted caramel and chocolate. It’s not unlike a Rice Krispies Treat on the inside, although I will say I definitely prefer Rice Krispies to this specific bar. Preference for something else doesn’t mean it’s bad, though, I quite liked this. Not bad at all.

And after that we have some ginger cookies:

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Which very helpfully came in an English-language box, unlike most of the other stuff, because apparently there is a market for this in the USA. I would have guessed the U.K. what with the “biscuits” label (the U.S. and U.K. have some confusingly conflicting food names) but maybe some parts of America still use “biscuits” to refer to certain types of cookie. Apparently this is an Indonesian variant of a Dutch cookie, since Indonesia was a Dutch colony from 1820 to 1950. See, I knew doing this as a blog was a good idea; I’d have never remembered this stuff were this improv.

The ginger cookies are quite good, in fact I’d munch on them nonstop right here and now if I didn’t have a boxful of other snacks to sample and give my sagely opinions on. The box has quite a lot of them, nine separate packets of three cookies apiece. They have a pleasant if slightly strong gingery aftertaste, though, so I need have a drink before I continue.

*gulp*

There. Next!

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There are few things in life that are impossible to screw up, but “triple chocolate” and “wafer” are two of them. It’s about as delicious as you’d expect chocolate-coated chocolate wafers filled with chocolate cream would be.

Onward to something a little more outside my comfort zone:

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Listed as two items in the pamphlet, there are two flavors of the same sort of snack in here. In the image above, the top is “roasted corn” and the bottom is “cheese,” specifically swiss. I tried the cheese first, fully aware that swiss cheese is a type of cheese I don’t especially like (when it comes to cheese, I only really care for mozerrella and American white), but I was pleasantly surprised. There are two per packet, and they’re kind of like Cheetos cheese puffs, really, which is funny: we haven’t even gotten to the actual Cheetos, yet.

As for the roasted corn, or “Roasted BBQ Corn” as the pamplet lists it, well, it’s a flavor I could get used to but you can really, really taste that corn-on-the-cob flavor in there, and I’m not that big of a corn-lover. It’s one of those “I’ll eat it, but I don’t get super-excited when it pops up on the dinner table” foods, something I feel intense loneliness in, since everyone around me treats corn-on-the-cob nights like huge events. Ah, well. I can definitely see a corn-lover loving this thing, though!

Next we have a packet of “ginger chews…”

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…and these little things are, while quite sticky (I had difficulty getting the one I tried out of its wrapper), very nice. The pamplet claims they’ll sooth your throat if you’ve got a cough, clear your sinuses if you have a stuffy nose, cure a stomachache, and dissolve in hot water to make ginger tea. I honestly have no idea whether they’re exaggerating or not, but the taste on its own is worth it. There are eight chews in the packet, total.

This one is confusing since I frequently use breath mints that have a similar brand name to it:

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For a moment I thought these might be the “Hotnuts” listed for item one, but no, it’s actually its own separate thing. These aren’t the kind of burn-your-tongue-out spicy snack you might expect. Actually, they’re pleasantly mild. The pamplet suggests sprinkling them into soup, and I can see that working. I’ll probably finish this bag off as soon as I’m done trying the rest.

Continuing our back-and-forth between sweet and spicy, it’s back to the world of chocolate for the next item on our list:

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This Indonesian snack box is hitting a lot of great notes for me. While expectation might be for a really creamy chocolate-banana thing with artificial flavoring and whatnot, these are actually quite flaky and crunchy with a thin layer of creamy filling and a very natural banana flavor that blends nicely with the chocolate. This one’s a winner, although I’m not kind of curious to try out the “bananas covered in sweet batter, submerged in hot oil, fried, topped with chocolate, condensed milk, jam, or in some cases, shredded cheese” banana fritters that the pamplet mentions as an inspiration for this sweet.

Speaking of cheese:

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A wafer roll filled with sharp Swiss cheese. I already mentioned that I don’t like Swiss cheese, so it should be no surprise that this was a miss rather than a hit with me, but I can certainly say that it’s unique.The cheese filling is quite creamy and potent. If it’s a flavor you think you’d like, then odds are you’ll like this one. As for me, well, I’ll finish the first one so that it doesn’t go to waste; the texture is nice, even if the flavor isn’t my bag. Actually the outer wafer is quite enjoyable, it’s kind of like eating a buttered breakfast biscuit, except with cheese instead of butter.

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These two packets have five individually-wrapped sucker candies each. Sampling one was naturally a bit of a process, since I had to wait for all the flavors to hit me. It’s not bad. What it doesn’t say on the package is that the “tangy” part isn’t just “sour” but also “salty.” I will give them the “unique flavor” bit, and hey, it’s worth snacking on if there’s nothing else in the room and you’re feeling a craving for something, anything, my taste buds are just bored right now, but it’s not one I’m in love with. If that’s the low point of this box, though, I’ll be very happy with Universal Yums this month.

Apparently this next one is “one of Indonesia’s most famous snacks,” according to the pamplet:

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Eating this chocolate cashew cream spread is kind of like squeezing a tube of chocolate icing straight into your gob, which is to say, it’s great, but it’s also possibly the most mindless snack you’ll ever eat. Mindless in the way Dynasty Warriors is mindless, of course: straightforward deliciousness, full stop. Contrary to what the pamplet says, I think I’d appreciate this more as a topping than as a standalone snack.

Unfortunately it wasn’t resealable, so I had to eat an entire tube of it before moving onto the next item on the list. At least there’s a second one, so I can save that for the next time I have ice cream or maybe put it on one of the ginger cookies or ChocoBanana snacks.

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Basically Cheetos puffballs, which is unsurprising since they’re apparently a product of the Lay’s potato chip company. That’s the second thing I’ve compared to Cheetos before getting to the actual Cheetos, although in this case it’s more in the “Cheetos cheapiness” sort of way, as opposed to the other thing from before, which was more of an “oh, that’s nice” comparison. This is a pretty basic run-of-the-mill snack. Nothing special or memorable, but then again, neither are Cheetos cheese puffs.

I have a brand name for this next one and it’s “Thank Goodness It’s Not Coffee:”

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The previous videos I did for Universal Yums had a bit of a beef with coffee candy as a recurring item, and blessedly, there’s no coffee candy to be seen in this box. Instead for our obligatory sucker candy we have these barley mints, which is kind of unusual for this sort of thing and goes a surprising distance toward keeping me from saying, “Yep, they’re mints, alright” the way I dismissed the coffee candies. It’s a nice, different take on an after-dinner mint, but it’s close enough to an ordinary mint sucker that you’ll probably like it just fine if you already know you like mints.

Which brings us at last to the final item on the pamplet list, which is…

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…at last, Indonesian Cheetos. Roasted corn flavor, bringing me full circle to the Momogi swiss cheese crunch thing that I first compared to Cheetos and its own roast-corn companion item. I wasn’t even aware of that when I made the comparison, and now I’m laughing at myself. This particular bag is promoting this year’s Ice Age: Collision Course film, which gave me something to look up while I waited for the mint taste of the last item to subside: the film got 13% on Rotten Tomatoes. That’s kinda sad. Rotten Tomatoes can be even crueler than Metacritic a lot of the time.

The Cheetos themselves are sort of like a combination of the two Momogi things, which hits a kind of okay balance for me, although it helps that these are the “Crunchy” Cheetos and not just cheese puffs. I have a feeling I’d enjoy Crunchy Cheetos even if they came in kerosene flavor. I don’t know if America has corn-flavored Cheetos of any persuasion, but these aren’t bad at all. Mind you, I’d still go for Fritos corn chips over these, but that’s not even a fair contest: Fritos are so awesome you don’t have to care about corn to like them. If hamburgers have Chik-fil-A to answer them, then potato chips are likewise rivaled by Fritos.

There you have it, November’s Universal Yums. It was a fun, tasty ride — tastier than the last few, both of which had an item or two that really turned me off, while this was mostly great with just a few items in it that I personally found to be a bit weak.

If you’re interested in trying out Universal Yums yourself and would like to support BrainScratch Commentaries while doing so, our referral link is, again:
http://www.universalyums.com?ref=brainscratchcomms

December’s upcoming box seems to be Germany, going by the “place of bratwurst and beer” hint in the pamphlet. I have no idea what sort of snack items are unique to Germany, but I guess by the end of this month, I’ll have learned a little something new. I certainly did this month. For example: “ginger chews are effin’ delicious!”

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