Bontan Ame – Traditional Japanese Gyuhi-Mochi and Pectin Soft Candy

Our regular readers may recall last year that we introduced Bontan Ame, a classic soft Japanese mochi-like candy made in the southern island of Kyushu with a regional citrus called bontan. I don’t eat much candy but in recent months I have become bontan ame crazed! I eat a box of it nearly everyday. Fortunately bontan ame is not terribly high in calories.

Classic Japanese Candy: Bontan Ame – Mochi and Pectin Soft Candy ボンタンアメ

At a little old store in Kyoto, I found this HUGE box of bontan ame and had to get it. I have never seen a candy box so large in Japan. “Now this is some American-style SUPER SIZED bontan ame!”, I thought, when I spotted it. It is equal to about 5 boxes of the regular sized bontan ame.

The package design of bontan ame is a classic and harkens back to the era when Japan was modernizing based on Western influence and technology but was still distinctly Japanese, unlike the Japan of today that too often apes whatever is popular in the West. This era, about 80 years ago is one of my favorite eras of Japanese history, the other being the Warring States period.

Bontan Ame Candy and Nostalgic Package
Bontan Ame - Traditional Japanese Gyuhi Mochi and Pectin Soft Candy ボンタンアメ 文旦飴

About Bontan Ame
This candy (ame) is made from the bontan, also buntan (ぼんたん、文旦) fruit. This fruit is similar to a grapefruit but larger. Large specimens are the size of a volleyball. This fruit came to Japan from Southeast Asia so it grows in the southern-most island of Kyushu where the climate is most suitable.

Bontan ame was has been made by a company in Kagoshima City, Kyushu since 1926. It is said to be inspired by caramel. It is made of mochi, gyuhi, mizuame (traditional sweetener) and the bontan fruit juice.

Interestingly, each piece of candy is individually wrapped and is eaten with the wrapper on. The wrapper is made of oblaat which is gelatinous, transparent film that melts immediately on contact with the tongue. Oblaat originally came to Japan with Dutch medicine, it was used to wrap up bitter medicine in a package like modern-day gelatin capsules. In bontan ame it is utilized to prevent the sticky mochi-based ame pieces from sticking to one another.

How Does Bontan Ame Taste?
The first thing you notice about bontan ame is the oblaat, the odd crunch on your teeth from what seems like crisp cellophane. This lasts for only the first bite as it melts away in an instant.

If you didn’t know that bontan ame were made with citrus, you might not realize it when taste it as the taste is not heavy on citrus. It is certainly not sour or bitter like lemon or grapefruit. I suspect that the citrus aspect of bontan ame has been purposely mellowed, even more so than the fruit itself.

To me bontan ame is all about the texture. As it is made with gyuhi mochi and citrus pectin so it is of course very soft and chewy.

Like most Japanese sweets, the taste itself is not particularly sweet. Not just citrus, not just mochi, not just mizuame; it is a taste of what Japan created after initial exposure to Western technology and culinary culture. There isn’t really anything like it being developed by ‘junk food’ companies in Japan today.

If you come to Japan and you want to try to find some bontan ame, it is available in most grocery stores and some convenience stores. Look for the distinctive package.

Bontan Ame Candy and Nostalgic Package
Bontan Ame - Traditional Japanese Gyuhi Mochi and Pectin Soft Candy ボンタンアメ 文旦飴

Bontan Ame Soft Candies with Edible Oblaat Wrapping
Bontan Ame - Traditional Japanese Gyuhi Mochi and Pectin Soft Candy ボンタンアメ 文旦飴

Bontan Ame – Early Modern Japanese Package Design
Bontan Ame - Traditional Japanese Gyuhi Mochi and Pectin Soft Candy ボンタンアメ 文旦飴

Bontan Ame – Early Modern Japanese Package Design
Bontan Ame - Traditional Japanese Gyuhi Mochi and Pectin Soft Candy ボンタンアメ 文旦飴

SHARE! Kyoto Support Forum

Tweet! Tweet! Find out what’s going on in Kyoto right now, follow me on Twitter.

6 Responses to “Bontan Ame – Traditional Japanese Gyuhi-Mochi and Pectin Soft Candy”

  1. jen says:

    this was one of my favorite childhood candies growing up!! I think it was just the cellophane wrapper I was so fascinated with. I haven’t had that in YEARS! Now I must go out and find it!

  2. These remind me of my childhood too. I preferred those “Milky” candies to these (you know the one with the picture of the girl with pigtails on the front), but now I’m craving a piece of nostalgia.

  3. [...] unique caramel is made by the same Kyushu based company that makes bontan ame, another meibutsu (meisan) product. It indeed has a ‘caramely’ taste but is not as [...]

  4. Corie L Stern says:

    I devoured Bontan Ame as a child in Seattle and when I go a Japanese grocery store I always buy them….longggggggggggg time favorite candy and thank God its low calories!!!!

  5. Peko Peko says:

    Hello jen, Yes, I think that the novelty of the cellophane wrapper makes this candy fascinating to people.

    Hello Marc, Oh, yeah, I know the one with the girl in pigtails but I haven’t had that candy though. I will get some next time I see it.

    Hello Corie, Oh, so you can get them at Japanese supermarkets over there?!? That is great!

  6. Molana Oei says:

    woah, these look incredible!

Leave a Reply

ContactCopyright © Kyoto Foodie: Where and what to eat in Kyoto, All Rights Reserved.