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Athena Scalzi

Universal Yums: July 2022 Review

Hello, everyone, and welcome to another Universal Yums review! Today’s review features my dad as a co-reviewer, so you get double the opinion for the same low low price of free!

July’s box full of snacks comes to us all the way from India. Here’s the assortment:

There are ten snacks total, and three of them are the candies at the bottom.

Getting right into it, we started off with the Tikka Masala Corn Chips:

As you can imagine based on the appearance and the fact that they’re made out of corn, these were very Dorito-like. They’re even called Cornitos, so it’s not surprising that they resemble them so much, both in appearance and in texture. These chips were very strongly scented, and honestly they smelled exactly like Tikka Masala. Upon eating them, my dad said “they’ve got a kick”, meanwhile I was dying from the spiciness. These bitches are HOT. I needed milk, but we didn’t have any, so the suffering lasted a while.

I can see how these would be good for someone who isn’t a huge baby about spice, so I deem it a 5/10. My dad settled on a 7/10.

Moving on to something less painful, we have these Almond & Pistachio Cookies:

Not quite as glamorous looking as on the box, but that’s okay because this cookie actually tasted super good. It was crunchy like a shortbread and subtly sweet. My dad and I both agreed that it had a bit of a floral note to it, and we suspected it was cardamom, but upon reading the ingredients, we discovered there was no cardamom in it, though we could’ve sworn that was the exact flavor we were tasting. Overall, it was a 9/10 from both of us.

Next up was this bag of Sweet & Salty Rice Flakes:

This snack was especially odd because there was so much of it in the bag that it was actually pretty hefty for a chip bag. Plus, the contents are not really something you can eat easily straight from the bag. We ended up pouring some out into a bowl. There’s just so many small pieces in the mix that it makes it hard to eat by hand, especially if you don’t put it into another container first. My dad said it felt like a “forbidden cereal”, and that it was similar to a “bar mix” type of snack.

Aside from the inconvenience of eating it, it was strangely addicting. It was crispy, but sometimes sort of softer crisp, like unexpectedly delicate. My dad also said that for being something sweet and salty, it should be saltier, and that the flavors were unbalanced, and that the flavor palette overall was incomplete. I can agree it was a bit on the bland side, certainly not that usual balanced flavor palette you get from sweet and salty mixes, but then again, I plowed through this stuff like it was nothing, so I gave it an 8/10. My dad went for a 7.5/10.

Bringing another cookie into the mix, we have this Chocolate Flavored Sandwich Cookie:

These were so mid-tier that there honestly isn’t much to say about them. Artificial chocolate is always just artificial chocolate, and if you like that taste, great. If you don’t, well, these cookies are not for you. My dad and I aren’t a huge fan of anything chocolate that isn’t actual chocolate, so these cookies didn’t really do it for us. I did think they tasted exactly like a brown Tootsie Pop, though. I decided on a 6/10 for these, while my dad went with a 6.5/10.

Back to the spicy things, we tried these Mini Lentil Samosas:

Listen, samosas are great. These are not. You can’t take something that’s crispy, fried perfection, and try to package it and send it overseas, because you will end up with something that feels very stale. The texture was deeply unpleasant. And the taste? Also unpleasant. AND SPICY. Way hotter than the chips, even. My dad said he was craving a real samosa after this utter disappointment of one, and I agreed. I gave it a 2/10, and my dad so generously gave it a 4/10.

Swinging back into sweets, we have these Coconut Flavored Sugar Biscuits:

Another very simple biscuit cookie thing, much like the chocolate ones mentioned earlier. If you like coconut, great, you’ll probably like these cookies. If not, then you would not enjoy these! These are just very normal shortbread cookies that taste like coconut. They have a pleasant crunchy texture and not much else going on. They earned a 7.5/10 from me and a solid 7/10 from my dad.

Now, for the most unique snack in the box, Soan Papdi:

Have you ever wanted to eat insulation? Based on the box and the image of the snack on the box, my dad and I were expecting something like baklava, but what we got was insanely delicate cubes of asbestos.

Here is my dad holding a carefully procured cube.

And here is how much it fell apart upon transferring the cube into my hand.

And this was after I tried to take a bite. All structural integrity has been lost, reducing it to a million little strands of whatever it’s made out of.

As you can see, my dad had the same issue. This snack was insanely messy and difficult, and honestly after one bite you gotta call it quits because it’s so strongly flavored. It tastes perfume-y and really is not that great overall. This got a 5/10 from me, and a 6/10 from my dad.

Finally done with all the regular snacks, we moved onto the candies, starting with this Caramel Choco Éclair one:

I was expecting a soft, chewy caramel, but got a rock hard caramel instead. It was much harder than I anticipated, and not all that tasty. It was very mediocre. There are certainly better caramels out there, so I wouldn’t waste your time with this one. For my dad, he said it tasted just like a candy he used to have as a kid, so the nostalgia-inducing flavor of it made him give it an 8/10, but his actual rating of it was 5/10. As was mine.

Next up was the candy I was most excited for, this Creamy Pistachio candy:

You know when you’re a kid and you see something food shaped that looks delicious, and you learn the hard way it’s actually soap? This candy tasted like that painful realization that sometimes things that look edible are not actually meant for eating. Not to mention the texture of this was like a wax melt cube, so that only contributed to the idea that this was more like soap or a candle than actual food.

Good lord this candy was so fucking bad. Probably one of the worst candies I’ve ever had in my entire life, second only to Jelly Belly’s intentionally disgusting flavors. Do not eat this candy. 1/10 from me, and a 2/10 from my dad, though I can’t understand how he’d rate it so high.

Finally, this Apricot Hard Candy:

My dad popped this bad boy in and look perplexed, and asked me what flavor the candy was. I said “apricot” and he said he would not have guessed that. I asked what would he have guessed, because it seemed quite apricot-y to me, but he said “sandalwood”. I didn’t even know you could eat sandalwood, I just know it as that scent that all my grandma’s candles seem to be. The description for this candy in the booklet said that it had a milky center, but my dad and I both agreed after cracking it open with our teeth that there was like, maybe one small drop of liquid in the center, and whatever it was certainly had no flavor or was really detectable at all. Overall, it was pretty meh, it was just a fruity hard candy, not bad or anything but not amazing. 6/10 from both of us.

In the end, we ended up having the same favorite snack: the almond and pistachio cookies.

And the same least favorite snack: the pistachio candy.

What looks good to you? If you got this box too, do you concur with our thoughts? Let me know in the comments, and have a great day!

-AMS

By Athena Scalzi

Twenty three year old girl living life.

23 replies on “Universal Yums: July 2022 Review”

You manage to make things I’d never care about interesting and enjoyable. That’s a real talent, and I look forward to these reviews.

It sounds as though some of the goods really were stale, which would give the whole box a thumbs down from me.

I’ve had really good Soan Papdi and I’m weirdly fond of the strange texture!

“though I can’t understand how he’d rate it so high.”

Did you see his last burrito? I don’t think I trust his sense of taste.

My stepson’s first wife (don’t ask) was Russian and she liked to proudly present Russian chocolates to us.

There’s a reason why you don’t hear about Russian chocolates as a Thing.

Since then, I kind of stick with candies from name brand candy countries.

Now I’m curious about which candy prompted your dad’s nostalgia after eating the caramel!
Thanks for the review, sorry that it seemed many items were stale or just mediocre. I am tempted to mail you a package of snacks from our favorite Indian import grocery store – there are many good ones!

Some of these look like more of those bad copies of British tasties e.g. the not-chocolate biscuit – as everyone over here will attest, a good Bourbon is the Queen of biscuits!
Likewise what we would call ‘Bombay mix’ of which I could scarf down entire bags in one sitting!

The Bourbon & the Nice are obvious (& inferior) ripoffs of the famous British brand Peek Freans biscuits. (Their fruit cremes are also yummy.) I suggest you find some of those & give them a try.

These reviews are fun but I always mentally adjust the scores because I like savory foods and especially spicy foods much more than you do and I like very sweet foods less than you do.

I had never seen or heard of anything like the soan papdi, and I was curious enough to look it up. It looks like the unusual texture is more or less the intended effect, and apparently the after picture rather than the cubes is more like how it was traditionally served. If I ever saw somebody selling it freshly made I’d be interested in trying it.

Another great review. And wow…that one candy looked like it was going to be nice and it was clearly NOT. The one that looks like shredded insulation is…certainly something.

The rice flakes looks like something similar to what I’ve seen at the front desk of many Indian restaurants, although I think those were distinctly more on the sweet side, intended like an after-dinner mint.

If you are interested in a more balanced / savory execution of the “sweet and salty rice flakes” snack, try some “Bombay mix” or “Andhra mix” – not so much sweet but salty and spicy. I laughed at the “forbidden cereal” description because I’ve definitely poured it into a bowl and eaten it with a spoon (not a great idea to do much of because it is completely deep fried, but delicious). Looking on Amazon the brand I recognize from my local Indian grocery is “Deep”, that’s what I’d recommend as probably closest to what I’ve had. Worth a try if you have an interest and time for snack exploration beyond the boxes.

That “Soan Papdi” looked kind of interesting; too bad it turned out to be rather bleh. If it had been great I’m sure I could have procured some in the Greater Northern Virginia area.

I received this box when I was expecting the Thai box, so still confused about that. I get the 18 item boxes, so I had more things than you, and my scoring system allows for 0s and negatives. Five of my 18 items got negatives for burn, and three of those got triple negatives for BURN BURN BURN, including your Tikka Masala and Mini Samosa. I immediately said I wasn’t trying those triple burn things again, but a few days later I tried the single burn things and said nope nope nope, no more of them either.
OTOH I absolutely loved all the sour in the British Box, which you didn’t seem to care much for.
The Soan Papdi was very much like halvah, only without the sesame seeds, keeping in mind that sesame seeds are the best part of halvah. I thought it was fine, but would have been better without so much cardamom.
The Khatta Meetha could be eaten with a spoon, but I wasn’t in company, so I just poured it from the bag into my mouth. Hah.

n.b. Even when I hate the snacks, I love the variety.

I’m currently visiting India from the UK and whilst the actual snacks all look familiar I don’t recognise any of the brands which implies they are not nationally distributed. Don’t know if that implies lower quality but from what you’ve said it would not surprise me.

As others have said a lot of these will be available in the UK as well and show how the empire has led to common tastes (eg the Bourbon & Nice biscuits presumably originate from the UK and the Khatta Meeta & other similar mixes are sold all over the UK as Bombay Mix.

Look, I’ve eaten a lot of snacks in India and the only ones that were familiar to me were the biscuits (cookies), which are a strictly tea-time thing and meant to be dunked, and the khatta meetha. That type of snack comes in a variety of spice-levels and is meant to be spooned onto a plate or into a bowl for individual, messy, consumption. They’re usually pretty good! There are lots of other great snacks there and I am SAD that you received so many stinkers.

I love your Universal Yum reviews, and have already decided to give a small subscription to my son for Christmas. I laughed hard at, “You know when you’re a kid and you see something food shaped that looks delicious, and you learn the hard way it’s actually soap? This candy tasted like that painful realization that sometimes things that look edible are not actually meant for eating.” It made me remember licking the handle of my mom’s suitcase, because it was the EXACT color of a Hershey bar, so I figured it was worth a try.

So disappointed that the pistachio candy tasted yucky, because I was all geared up to have one of my friends bring me some when she goes to India next. Oh well.

I am DYING to know if your dad’s caramel experience was with Nips, because I remember eating them at my grandma’s house and being simultaneously confused by the hard! caramel and the liquid coffee center. I am now the only person in the family of my approximate age who misses Nips.

I cannot wrap my brain around prepackaged samosas. because the samosas I have had were all hot and ready to be eaten with dunking sauce. I may be thinking of a different Indian dish, but I’m not sure?

Fantastic review! But count me among those disappointed that the pistachio candy did not perform. Pistachio everything should be amazing!

I concur that it looks like you got a lot of poor quality/stale items, because some of these things are wonderful when fresh/ a good brand. I love the fried samosa snacks, you bite into them and get the cashew and raisin, and a little kick of spice- really addictive. The katta meetha/bombay mix is classic, and there are slighlty different varieties of it.If the Eclairs are the same British empire sweet I know and love, they are supposed to be soft and chewy, with a creamy chocolate centre- hence ‘eclair’ Keep trying stuff, it was a fun read!

sad guess… whatever was available for shipping out was what they bought for this sampler… could have been discontinued products sold at hefty discounting…

Q: were there any “best by” dates on packaging?

given prior bad acts by scumbags such as Dollar Stores and other low end discount operations you might have been sent expired foodstuffs

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