Umaibou : Delicious Stick

Go to pretty much any Japanese super market or combini and you'll find Umaibou (うまい棒), pronounced "ou-my-bow" where the "ou" is like "you" without the "y" and "bow" as in "bow and arrow". Literally translated it means "delicious stick".

Like many things in Japan they are individually wrapped and are only 10yen each (about 9 cents) although you can get them in large bags of 40 sticks for less.

They have probably 20 or so flavors.  Some of them are coated, some have a powdered flavoring.  They can most easily be described as a large cheese puff.  Some are chip flavored (ie, mostly salty) others are sweet flavored.

Because they are cheap and tasty pretty much anytime I grab some grub at a combini I pick one up as a snack.

I usually get the mentai flavor.  It appears to be the most common and popular.  Most combini only carry 2 or 3 flavors where as a larger super market or a snack shop might carry more.

Here's some of the flavors:

Mentai flavored. Mentai is a small fish egg that is spiced up so they are tangy.  They use them with all kinds of things like pasta, onigiri.  I'd say this is the most popular flavor Chicken Curry Flavored. Finger lickin good. Cheese flavored. Tastes exactly what you'd expect a cheese puff to taste like.  You even get cheetle all over your hands Caramel Flavored. This one has a kind of hard outer caramel crush.
Chocolate Flavored. This one has a chocolate coating Corn Portage flavor (cream corn soup). Trust me, it's good Shrimp and Mayonnaise.  Ever had to die for walnut mayo shrimp at a Chinese restaurant? Cocoa flavored. Tastes very much like a cocoa puff.
Nattou Flavored.  The bane of most foreigners.  Actually, generally only Eastern Japanese people like Nattou which is stinky sticky fermented beans. Takoyaki Flavored or rather octopus dumplings.  The real thing is awesome and these aren't bad either. Terkiyaki Burger Flavor. A little too strong for me. Tonkatsu sauce flavor. Tonkatsu is battered fry pork. There's a specific brown tangy sauce you poor on it which this taste like.
Veggie Salad Flavored. For you vegetarians :-p Actually think of it more like Italian dressing flavored.  Kabayaki Flavored. I don't know what Kabayaki is and I'm too stuffed full of umaibou to look it up    
  • Umaibou

    I once saw an interesting documentary about a product development team that was trying to come up with a new snack food, and they used the same machine that this was made on, a cooker extruder. It’s also used to make dog food.

  • dog food, awesome!

    extruders are used to make lots of foods.  These for example, and Combos, and I’m sure most regular cheese puffs.  Pringles use a similar tech as well.

    While we’re at it you can watch this video (wmv, quicktime).  As far as know most Pocky are extruded as well, at least the center part.

  • The same documentary!

    I think I saw the same documentary, a long time ago. It was about the development of Combos, I think. It was quite entertaining!

    Personally my favorite snacks here (in Japan) are 柿ピー (kaki pea) which are those little orange banana-looking crackers mixed with peanuts. Unfortunately a bag is not nearly as cheap as a quick umaibou.


  • Leo

    Thanks, now I’m really hungry for these snacks. lol. Thanks for the Pocky commercial. I’d like to have seen the video about them being made. I’ve seen ’em over here in specailty shops, I’ll have to break down and try them soon.

  • buu

    booo, in my country (argentina) not exists these!! I want to “test” em!

  • Chip

    One of my Japanese students gave me a takoyaki Umaibou once. I ate it a little hesitantly expecting it to be fishy and nasty, but it was actually good. I got some for myself the next time I went to Japan.

    If you’re interested, go to: to see the blog of a guy who challenged himself to eat 1000 Umaibou in just one week. If you can read Japanese, it’s pretty interesting.

    BTW, kabayaki is grilled eel with some kind of sweet soy sauce in it.

  • Ah, I’ve had kabayaki then I just didn’t know what it was called.

    That guy that ate 1000 umaibou in a week must have a mouth of steel.  Last summer I ate about 10 at a picnic and my mouth was sore from all the salt and spices.  I like them a lot but I’m not going to eat 10 in a short time again anytime soon 🙂

  • roz
    ok pocky!

    the umaibou are oiishiiii! the msg does numb your tongue after a while

    pocky is crazy eh, it used to be just chocolate and strawberry but they hv so many fancy flavours now (dark choc, almond, even pocky for men)

    the basic choc & strawberry ones cost S$1.00 here (about US$0.75) here btw..(they were about US$3 in NZ…)

  • These look pretty yummy. Plus, you gotta love the packaging ^_^

  • Dea

    I ate SO many of these when I went to Japan almost 4 years ago, and I’ve been trying to figure out what they were ever since!!!! Yessss!

  • Mario

    I just got my quarterly package from my friend in Okinawa, he sent me about 25 Umaibous 😀

    Just tried stuff one in my mouth like they do in the show aki@deep. Bad idea. LOL

  • I remember this snack when I was a kid…I love cheese & chocolate flavor the most ^^

    Well, back there it cost only 1 pesos. Now about 5 pesos…too bad our university doesn’t sell them ^^

  • Moniqe komen


  • Sunny

    Do you know where I can get umaibou?? I cannot find anystore around me…

  • anyone know where I can get some mentai powder?