Sunday, August 7, 2011

Oishi Sponge Crunch

There's this bit Louis CK does about Cinnabon stands in airports. I can't quote the whole thing, but the main idea is that the line at Cinnabon doesn't contain many different types of people--it's full of people as fat as Louis or fatter that have no self-respect.

Louis CK is a comedian, which means he exaggerates to get laughs. It's his job. In my mind, Louis specializes in just barely exaggerating mundane things enough to make them funny. In the case of Cinnabons, he hardly has to stretch the truth at all. We know Cinnabons are horrible for us and that you can actually feel your blood becoming goopy frosting while you eat one. We know we're not going to be able to make eye contact with the fit gal working at the adjacent Jamba Juice after we finish our Cinnabon. But a select group of us still eat them. We eat Cinnabons--and this the part of the Cinnabon Experience that Louie doesn't talk about--because they're delicious and we feel warm inside during the short window while we're actually eating. When you're alone at an airport after waking up early to catch your flight, you'll risk your health in exchange for the feeling of putting a sticky sweet Cinnabon in your face.

During my recent vacation to the Philippines, I had a five hour wait for my flight from Manila to Naga. Across from the Cinnabon stand, there was a convenience store. In the convenience store, there were shelves full of Filipino junk food. Presto Creams, Pillows, Boy Bawang, Clover Chips, Choco Flakes, everything. By the time I had wandered into the convenience store, I was about two hours into my five hour wait and I was exhausted and lonely. In the Manila airport, the walls are mostly just enormous windows, which is awesome when it's sunny, but especially depressing on overcast, stormy days like that one. So in the bright, artificial light of the convenience store, I was looking for a comfort snack. I didn't want something healthy or filling. I just wanted junk food that would taste like junk food and take my mind off of the wait and the clouds.

And then I saw a stash of Sponge Crunch next to some Fita Spreads. Sponge Crunch is made by Filipino snack behemoth Oishi, and isn't a new snack for me. I had eaten Sponge Crunch from time to time during the two years I lived in the Philippines. Despite having eaten it before, only then--that day in the airport convenience store--did I realize that the name Sponge Crunch is an oxymoron. Nevertheless, I think the ridiculous name is what made me pick Sponge Crunch as my snack for the afternoon: I needed something indulgent and bold enough to be described as both spongy and crunchy.

I forgot to take a picture of Sponge Crunch while I was there, but I hope you guys will forgive me, because I did dig up a commercial for it on YouTube

Sponge Crunch is the younger brother of Cinnabon. A bag of Sponge Crunch doesn't have the towering, frosting-soaked presence of a Cinnabon, nor does it have the calories of a Cinnabon. But after you eat a bag of Sponge Crunch, you will regret having eaten it. You will wonder to yourself why you didn't share the bag with someone else to split the calories and the guilt. Like Cinnabon, however, you will feel happy while you eat Sponge Crunch.

As I said before, Sponge Crunch is a silly name for a snack. First of all, I don't think we have the technology to make something that feels like a sponge but is also crunchy. Secondly, I don't know anyone that would want to eat something that is simultaneously spongy and crunchy. Oishi seems to be playing to a demographic that doesn't exist.

I suppose the beautiful minds at Oishi named the snack Sponge Crunch to emphasize how chocolaty the snack is--like the snack is this sponge that soaks up more chocolate than any other snack. Furthermore, the morsels kind of do look like little chocolate sponges in the sense that they have little sponge-like holes. With those things in mind, the name is slightly less bonkers.

The basic building block of the snack is a thick chocolate cookie-like ring, and this ring is stuffed with little bits of chocolate. So chocolate-stuffed chocolate, basically. Now, because of the extreme heat and humidity found in the Philippines, a lot of their chocolate products are slightly waxy to avoid melting. As a result, they're lacking in richness and flavor, so I tend to stay away from chocolate snacks there. Sponge Crunch, on the other hand, doesn't have that waxy taste. It can't exactly stand up to Swiss chocolate or whatever, but it doesn't taste fake. The crunchy aspect of the snack is pleasant, too. Honestly, I think the crunchiness is why the snack works. Because they're cookie-based, the morsels can't melt; they can stuff the things with real chocolate bits, which themselves might get kind of melty, but the morsels as wholes are still easy to munch on without getting melted chocolate on your fingers.

So yeah. Despite being detrimental to my physical and mental health in the long run, I like the short-term benefits of Sponge Crunch enough to eat them.

Anyway, back to the airport.

After I bought my bag of Sponge Crunch, I took it down to the gate where my flight would board in three hours or so. The rain was coming in strong spurts. Torrential downpour, five minute break, typhoon-level showers, fifteen minute break, and so on. The flight to Naga earlier that day had been cancelled, because that region was being hit the hardest by the storm, but they still couldn't say whether the upcoming flight--my flight--would be cancelled. So I ate and I waited, and while I was eating I was enjoying life. I was thinking of all the things I would do once the rain stopped. I was remembering days where I had spent entire afternoons wading through floods in the rain during my two year stay in the Philippines. I was humming along to the constant sound of rejected-Sega-game-music ringtones rather than being annoyed by them. (Honestly, though, please put your phone on vibrate when you're in a crowded, noisy place. Especially when said place has important intercom announcements. One more thing, Filipinos, while we're on the subject: can we all agree that texts do not deserve full-on ringtones?) I was content to just be there, eating delicious garbage and thinking about what I would do in the Philippines and what I'd already done there.

Once I had finished the entire bag of chocolate-stuffed chocolate rings, it was time to start the guilt cycle. I first looked at the woman next to me with pleading eyes that said, "Why didn't you help me eat these? You should have noticed how many there are in a bag and the fact that I'm alone, and then you should have offered to bear some of my burden." Then I put my hand on my stomach, trying to feel if my layer of fat had become noticeably thicker during the time I was inhaling the crunchy rings like one of the Jersey Shore guys might down a protein shake. Then I put my head in my hands and wept chocolate tears while I thought of my poor body trying to process all of that sugar.

After a couple hours and a free twenty minute massage, I had pulled myself together. By then, it was about ten minutes until boarding time. The intercom sounded, and a pretty Filipina voice informed us--first in Tagalog, then in English--that our flight was cancelled due to weather concerns. Although I was disappointed that my plans were being suspended for a day, at least I had another chance to eat a whole bag of Sponge Crunch by myself as a pick-me-up.


  1. Sometimes, you just have to get those "specialty" treats when you're in certain countries. Like Gelato. When I went to Italy, I ate gelato at least once a day...

  2. Michael Bluth? Also, thanks for the commercial - "o may goodness"!, they're so clever! I dont think I've ever had sponge crunch, I'll check if the filipino market here has them.

    Couldn't help noticing you got another massage as well...

    Another great post, salamat kapatid!

  3. Did chocolate ooze out of your pores during your massage?

  4. @ Christian - The Michael Bluth thing in the tags is a GRE-style analogy. Look again, babe.

    @ Chessie - Yes, of course.

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