The nadir of a lifetime of eating cereal
June 11, 2021 10:18 AM   Subscribe

Cereal taster (and occasional New York Times columnist) Jamelle Bouie (previously) takes on Kellogg's Green Onion Chex from South Korea (previously). Spoiler alert: it did not go well for him.
posted by Cash4Lead (48 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
 
Actual tasting is at about 3:45 in the video; the reaction told me everything I needed to know.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 10:25 AM on June 11 [5 favorites]


Bouie is just as great on video as he is on the page.
posted by octothorpe at 10:29 AM on June 11 [6 favorites]


"Created with malign intent"
posted by octothorpe at 10:30 AM on June 11 [12 favorites]


Green onion would probably work better as a Kit-Kat.
posted by box at 10:36 AM on June 11 [12 favorites]


To the credit of Kellogg’s food scientists, Green Onion Chex are blasted with green onion flavor, to the point where it’s overpowering. The problem is that they’re also sweet, with the sugary coating of a more traditional Chex flavor.

Oh no.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:40 AM on June 11 [34 favorites]


Oh, I would eat this, just not with milk.
posted by sageleaf at 10:44 AM on June 11 [9 favorites]


Adding a touch of honey would probably be a better sweetness contrast than processed sugars. But then again, of all the insect vomits, honey is my favorite.
posted by Drastic at 10:50 AM on June 11 [7 favorites]


In the comments for the "previously", I mentioned that my roommate was visiting Seoul at the time of posting, and that I had alerted him to try to track a box down to bring home. He was unsuccessful. And now I'm thinking that may be a blessing in disguise.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:52 AM on June 11 [3 favorites]


I was thinking about this and it occurred to me that I've had many mildly sweet green onion crackers and pastries. It's not, in itself, a disqualifying flavor combination. I do find it hard to imagine sweet green-onion Chex. A review from people would regularly eat sweet green onion crackers would be interesting.
posted by Frowner at 10:57 AM on June 11 [4 favorites]


That's where your milk comes from. It's fucking disgusting.

First, this is kind of a weird derail in general. If you don't like cereal, don't come into a cereal thread and tell everyone their food is inherently disgusting.

But it's especially irrelevant in this case because Bouie does his taste tests with oat milk and I imagine many people here eat cereal with non-dairy milk as well.
posted by jedicus at 11:05 AM on June 11 [31 favorites]


I was so intrigued by the idea of these, shattered that they are so different from what I imagined.

Bouie totally conveys how shocking these were to his palate, and for that I am thankful. At least I didn't try to order boxes at great expense!
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 11:07 AM on June 11 [1 favorite]


I adore these cultural WTF moments that food so often brings; just love seeing all the different ways our various cultures inform our expectations. Whether it's learning that fish is acceptable as a morning food in Japan, or the surprise the American idea of combining peanut butter with jelly engenders in many other cultures, a harmless clash of culture like this is always fun to see. 'Course, my next question is, is onion/sweet really a valid food combination in Korea? I have no reference. I've seen some funky (to Western palates, anyway) sandwich flavor combinations from the region, so I'm game to believe it is.

A favorite* I stumbled across not long ago. It left me crying with laughter.

*I am at least aware that surströmming is supposed to be opened underwater to reduce the uh…aroma…but that wouldn't be nearly as funny.
posted by los pantalones del muerte at 11:16 AM on June 11 [4 favorites]


OH - they are sweetish. Because savory chex mix is obviously delicious and I like mine with a lot of onion powder. So I thought this would be a reasonable twist on the idea. But. No. I’m out.
posted by double bubble at 11:17 AM on June 11 [2 favorites]


I recently had some Chinese potato chips that were essentially seaweed-flavored Ruffles. Salty and a little bit sweet. They were delicious. I can see green onion sweet/savory working.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 11:26 AM on June 11 [2 favorites]


I enjoy reading Bouie’s cereal reviews but generally don’t get into the videos. This one seems like a must-watch when I get home.
posted by obfuscation at 11:26 AM on June 11


But now I am curious. The article says this flavor combo was at the request of the South Korean consumers? I wonder what dish inspired the idea? Usually chip and cereal flavors have a corollary to something eaten regularly. E.g., fully-loaded baked potato, barbecue, cinnamon rolls.
posted by double bubble at 11:27 AM on June 11


"[Most breakfast cereals] are resolutely against nature"
posted by praemunire at 11:28 AM on June 11


The article says this flavor combo was at the request of the South Korean consumers?

This may have been a Boaty McBoatFace situation.
posted by praemunire at 11:29 AM on June 11 [15 favorites]


Mod note: Quite a few deleted. Left some responses up that kinda summarize what the derail was about (someone expressing their strong aversion to Milk). Please do not derail further, thanks!
posted by travelingthyme (staff) at 11:38 AM on June 11 [2 favorites]


Y'all never eat some really good sweet caramelized Vidalias or Walla Wallas?

Haven't we had entire threads with hundreds of comments about how to make and use nice sweet onions?

Sweet and onion go together just fine, and I think these sound yummy.
posted by SaltySalticid at 11:44 AM on June 11 [6 favorites]


It seems like it's the type of onion that's the problem rather than the essential onion-ness itself. Where's the shallot version?
posted by feloniousmonk at 11:53 AM on June 11


The tasting reaction reminded me a of a favorite Peanuts comic.
posted by JanetLand at 11:55 AM on June 11 [1 favorite]


> The article says this flavor combo was at the request of the South Korean consumers?

This may have been a Boaty McBoatFace situation.


It was indeed.

The "Previously" linked above gives the whole story, but in brief: back in 2004 Korean Kellogg's came up with a mock "election" to promote its chocolate chex, urging kids to vote for "the new mayor of ChexTown". They figured they'd come up with a yucky opponent for the chocolate flavor chex because "come on, kids are obviously going to vote for the chocolate chex instead over green onion chex."

Except green onion chex won by a landslide. Chex panicked and claimed "we had a bunch of phone-in votes at the last minute", but the public smelled a rat. ...The fact that there had been legit instances of voter fraud in South Korea in recent memory just made it an especially sore spot for cereal fans and it was this cultural meme that came up every year. So last year Chex finally gave in.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:57 AM on June 11 [32 favorites]


'Course, my next question is, is onion/sweet really a valid food combination in Korea?
sorta.
- a side dish common to chinese takeout in korea (for jjajangmyeon and jjampong) involves cut onions dipped in chunjang (fermented black soy bean paste, generally on the sweeter side)
- picked onions that have been steeped in soy sauce, vinegar, and sugar are a somewhat common banchan

however, in both of those cases, those are white/bulbed onions (yangpa/앙파, lit. "western onion"), and not the green onions/scallions (파, lit. "onion") used for this cereal. (for more depth). there's no dish that the chex really correlates to--while there are scallions in korean pancakes (pajeon (파전), made from wheat flour, or bindaeddeok (빈대떡), made of mung bean flower), those both have a more savory flavor profile.

the "previously" also links to the full-length ad, which uses the trot singer tae jin-ah singing a modified version of his original song, heard in this melody; the song's title means "i'm sorry", and the lyrics apologize for not living up to their earlier "promise" and the delayed release of the flavor.

it was, of course, a marketing stunt, and not a month or two later did kellogg's korea release an ad for choco chex featuring late 90s/early 2000s korean dance group clon's song "dorawa" ("come back" or "return to me"), and that ad ends with an animated choco chex saying "i'll work hard to make a sweeter world; more enjoyable, sweeter again, chex choco."

also, having had it, it's not good with milk, or on its own. it's better tossed in as a salad crouton or in a chex mix.

i do suppose it depends on how much you like the flavor of green onions. given that they're a very common garnish in korean food, it might well be somewhat of an acquired taste.
posted by i used to be someone else at 12:25 PM on June 11 [20 favorites]


These are a mildly sweet green onion cracker that I've had. I've also had a lot of buns of this general type where the bread is that gently sweet, very soft kind, a bit more gluten development than those Japanese milk buns. I've also had this type of bun with both green onion and sausage. The first time I ate one with sausage it gave me a bit of conceptual pause since I had not grown up with that combination but it was delicious so I proceeded. Again, I am not at all sure how this sweet/onion profile compares with sweet onion Chex.

This makes me think about how a lot of the desserts I had when working in China were very mildly sweet and people routinely told me that they found Western desserts much too sugary...but then a whole lot of things were slightly sweet that are rarely sweet in the US. Like there was this student restaurant that did basically fried chicken with a pot of hot lemon sugar syrup to pour over it, basically candied fried chicken. It was so good - not, on technical points totally different from, eg, honey glazed ham, but the syrup was so much like candy in itself that it was very different from things I'd had before.
posted by Frowner at 12:33 PM on June 11 [9 favorites]


I honestly thought he was going to spit it out. That he held on for a complete swallow is the height of professionalism.
posted by tommasz at 12:54 PM on June 11 [1 favorite]




Booker T and the MGs would go on to release 'Mo' Onions,' but I prefer their cover of Abbey Road. Here's 'Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight/The End/Here Comes the Sun/Come Together.'
posted by box at 1:56 PM on June 11 [4 favorites]


I showed this to my coworker who returned from Korea back to the US a few months ago, and he said:

"There was a really weird thing where garlic/onion flavors were paired with sweet flavors A LOT in Korea. Like one of the first things expats would say is “Never order garlic bread.” Because it’s going to be like Garlic Cake haha"
posted by cschneid at 2:07 PM on June 11 [4 favorites]


This whole thread is kind of bizarre. Have none of you ever had sour cream & onion chips? And no, I wouldn't eat them for breakfast, but onion cream cheese on a bagel is delicious.
posted by oulipian at 2:27 PM on June 11 [2 favorites]


onion cream cheese on a bagel is delicious.

I had herb and garlic cream cheese on an onion bagel this morning and it was delightful.

I would totally try green onion Chex.

Green Onion Chex are blasted with green onion flavor, to the point where it’s overpowering.

One person's bug is another's feature.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 2:36 PM on June 11 [1 favorite]


And no, I wouldn't eat them for breakfast, but onion cream cheese on a bagel is delicious.

...on a cinnamon sugar bagel?
posted by praemunire at 2:58 PM on June 11 [8 favorites]


“Never order garlic bread.” Because it’s going to be like Garlic Cake

I came across this in China too. I didn’t particularly enjoy it, but if I’m honest, I’m not sure how much was the actual taste and how much was just the fact that I was not expecting sweet. (My assumption at the time though was more that they weren’t trying to create a new flavour so much as someone just trying to make garlic bread - most of the Western style bread there seemed to be sweet, particularly as a European.)
posted by scorbet at 3:12 PM on June 11 [2 favorites]


...on a cinnamon sugar bagel?

In that case, you'd want to throw in some lox just to cover all the bases.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 4:17 PM on June 11 [3 favorites]


"There was a really weird thing where garlic/onion flavors were paired with sweet flavors A LOT in Korea. Like one of the first things expats would say is “Never order garlic bread.” Because it’s going to be like Garlic Cake haha"

Honestly, don't get what's weird about that. A lot of American-style barbecue does contain sweet with onion and/or garlicky flavors.
posted by FJT at 5:07 PM on June 11 [2 favorites]


We don’t get Chex of any description in the UK. Definitely not green onion flavour. I’m kind of imagining pickled onion monster munch with milk? And apparently sugar. I’d give it a go.
posted by tinkletown at 5:39 PM on June 11


UK: Did you ever catch Crispix cereal between discontinuations? 'Corn on one side, rice on the other' hexagons? Rice Chex are all-rice squares, Wheat Chex same thing in wheat, Corn Chex, etc.
So that, but onion Monster Munch flavouring powder coated.
Something you might eat dry from the packet, no problem. [That's what the 'Chex Mix' snack is; dry cereal and some salted nuts and savoury crackers or hard pretzels, mixed in a salad bowl, to nibble on in front of the TV.]
But people are being -understandably- dubious about a nice bowl of (Twiglets? Frazzles?) & cold milk for brekkie.
posted by bartleby at 6:21 PM on June 11


Hmm, could it be good in a chex mix? With all the other savory things? Or dipped in black bean sauce?
posted by batter_my_heart at 6:47 PM on June 11


Or dipped in black bean sauce?

Hmm. Chili crisp would be worth a try too, because why not?
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 9:01 PM on June 11


As covered above, this product was specifically designed to be unappealing to the average Korean consumer. I appreciate an open mind about food as much as anyone, but seeing people trying to relate it to some other sweet-savory Asian dish they might have encountered that also had some type of allium as a component is weird. The difference between a green onion and garlic is profound.

Yes, it's possible you might like it in a number of applications and you wouldn't spit it out after gamely trying, like Bouie, but that's on you, not on your exoticized conception of Korean palates.
posted by pykrete jungle at 9:12 PM on June 11 [12 favorites]


I mean, look at the Kellogg's commercial. The food scientists depicted in it are themselves horrified by what they're creating.
posted by pykrete jungle at 9:13 PM on June 11


My first thought was Hawaiian Brand Sweet Maui Onion Chips, minus the saltiness, I guess. Add the milk and maybe you start heading towards Cream of Onion territory. It's something that could be done right, but as others have mentioned, it's been designed to be as disgusting as possible - similar to the Jelly Belly Bean Boozled and gross Harry Potter selections.
posted by rh at 9:29 PM on June 11


Not green onions, but a common pastry in Malaysia/Singapore is the heong piah, which has a sweet filling consisting of maltose and shallots. Being familiar with that, tasting onion in a sweet dish isn't too weird for me. If you think about it, it's about as weird as tasting beef fat in a cake full of dried fruits. The greenish notes of green onions might be a bit hard to resolve though.
posted by destrius at 2:17 AM on June 12


Okay, finally gave it a watch. Wow! That was quite the reaction. Now don’t get me wrong, these sound like a terrible combination, but like... a combination of at least separately acceptable food flavors. His reaction was like he was eating surströmming or something! I honestly do find myself kind of wanting to try it because it’s hard to imagine it’s THAT bad.
posted by obfuscation at 4:48 AM on June 12


I'm guessing it was the extremely strong green onion in particular that drove him off. I'm a lover of all things allium, but it's definitely possible to make something inedible by adding too much at a much lower level than with some other aromatics.
posted by praemunire at 3:26 PM on June 12


But people are being -understandably- dubious about a nice bowl of (Twiglets? Frazzles?) & cold milk for brekkie.

Actually, what has me dubious is the fact that they tried to include a sweet element alongside the onion flavor. I was hoping to get a box to do some kind of experiments with mixing it into Chex mix or using it as a breading for fried food or some other savory creation. Even just as salad croutons or something.

The fact that there is apparently a sweet element is what catapulted that into nopesville for me. (I never was into the sweet-and-savory combination, to be honest.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:08 PM on June 12


The opinions expressed are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Serious Eats staff.
posted by ckape at 1:15 PM on June 13


We're far from the shallots now...
posted by chavenet at 11:17 PM on June 13


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