Favorite Things: Pocky

Usually rooting through my daughter's birthday party goodie bags yields pretty slim pickings. A Hershey's kiss. Tootsie Rolls. Rubber snakes. But a couple of weeks ago, I struck pay dirt, or, more to the point, Pocky.

Pocky, for the uninitiated is a wildly popular Japanese snack dating back to the 1960s. It looks sort of like a 4th of July sparkler but is a lot smaller, more like one of those super skinny red-and-white-striped straws meant for stirring coffee or bourbon. The not-too-sweet, biscuit-like cookie is dipped in a variety of coatings like chocolate, vanilla, strawberry, almond crunch, green tea, sesame, etc. There's even Pocky for men, dipped in bitter chocolate and packaged in a he-mannish  black box.

The individual sticks come wrapped in two vacuum foil bags, about 10 to a bag for around $1.55 (210 calories for half a box). One or two sticks is pretty satisfying. Four or five feels like a downright pig out. Which means they're just the thing for kids ("Sure honey you can have five") and for grownups craving a controlled binge.

I also like the story behind the name. Originally called Choco-tek (not very sexy), the sticks were dubbed "Pocky" after a TV commercial, where "pocky-pocky" was used to mimic the crunchy sound made when eating the snack.

You can get Pocky at Japanese grocery stores like Hinata (4947 St. Elmo Ave., Bethesda; 301-656-1009), but  sometimes it turns up in the most unlikely places, like the convenience store at GW's Ivory Tower (616 23st St., NW).

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