In most bigger cities you can find one or two specialty snack stores which sell rare or hard-to-find junk food. Most are obscure spin-offs of popular treats, like cinnamon Coke or the ever-increasing mutations of Oreos. However, these stores typically also carry some international snacks, such as these tangy tamarind-based candies called Pulparindots.
Pulparindots are themselves a ball-shaped derivative of the popular Mexican candy known as Pulparindo, which looks similar to fruit leather. And good news for those with dietary restrictions: not only are these candies vegan, making them dairy-free, but they’re also gluten-free!
I found these Pulparindots in a Vancouver snack shop called Dank Mart (yes, that is its real name). I didn’t spot the original Pulparindo candy in the store, so I am only going to be reviewing Pulparindots in this post.
Before we proceed with the review I want to mention that if you Google “pulparindo,” you’ll notice a bunch of search suggestions relating to lead levels in this candy. Mostly this stems from a 2007 recall on Pulparindo candy in the U.S. after the FDA found lead contamination in the candy samples. All of these tests were done on Pulparindo, not Pulparindots. However, it’s definitely possible that the dots were also affected.
For what it’s worth, I ingested all of my Pulparindots without a care. The lead concentrations that were causing all this concern were around 0.12–0.18 ppm, which is lower than most seafood! Candy is generally subject to stricter lead guidelines because they are more likely to be eaten by children, who are more at risk of lead-related health issues. So I guess don’t feed a whole pack of this stuff to your child?
If it helps reassure you, the latest test in 2018 found that Pulparindo candy had a rather low lead concentration of 0.01 ppm. For reference, that’s lower than the concentrations in many fruit juices and vegetables.
Look and Packaging
Each package of Pulparindots contains 10 candies, which are similar to peanut M&M’s in shape and size. These packages were all sold individually at Dank Mart. They have quite a retro feel with their aggressive yellow-and-red colour scheme and their tamarind mascots that came straight out of a 50’s cartoon.
A slightly unpleasant aspect of these shelled candies is the fact that the yellow dye used on the outer layer comes off easily and can stain your fingertips yellow. And boy, it’s like a neon yellow dye. It almost shimmers. It’s a slightly off-putting detail for something that’s supposed to be ingested. I’m fine with artificial colouring, just make it matte 🙂 kthx.
What Do Pulparindots Taste Like?
The yellow outer layer is mostly just sweet, with a hint of ambiguous fruitiness. However, it quickly melts away to reveal the flavour of the tamarind “pulp” inside. I was expecting this to taste similar to fresh tamarind. In some ways, it does taste the same, but it’s also quite different. The Pulparindots retain the tartness and some of the unique flavour profile of tamarind, but it’s quite muted compared to fresh tamarind.
The inside of this candy is an “old person” taste. I really think that’s the best way to describe the flavour. It seems like something a senior citizen would enjoy eating, you know? The tamarind filling reminds me of the Chinese dried plums (话梅 or huà méi) my parents love to buy. I think it’s that intense combination of salty, sour, and sweet. This kind of flavour is uncommon in kids’ candies here in Canada, which may be why I associate it with a more old-fashioned palate.
Of course, I don’t mean that only old people will appreciate these. I love how chewy the Pulparindo filling is. The salty side of the flavour was a little unexpected but quite enjoyable. And not only did I like this candy, but my boyfriend did too, which is quite the high praise as he can be very picky!
I imagine that the original version of Pulparindo would taste similar except without the yellow outer shell. I do really want to try the original now. IMO, the sweet flavour of the outer shell doesn’t quite go well together with the tart, salty, almost spicy inner filling. I imagine the filling might actually taste better on its own. Also, as mentioned in the Look and Packaging section of this post, I could do without the shimmery artificial yellow colour of the shell.
Two Ways to Enjoy This Candy
So there are two basic ways to eat these candies:
- Bite down and chew on them like a soft candy
- Suck on them like a hard candy or mint
My preferred method is #2, by far. There’s a huge difference in taste for me. The smooth transition from the super-sweet outer layer to the sticky inner layer makes for a more enjoyable and long-lasting candy. However, there is definitely something really satisfying about being to chomp down onto a soft, chewy candy which you can only experience with the second option. But of course, you should try eating them both ways to see which alternative you like more!
What Should We Try Next?
You can see my previous reviews for other uncommon and/or interesting foods here. Based on a suggestion from reader Cece, I am planning to review passion fruit (in all its forms—fresh, frozen, dried, powdered) next.
Does your country have a snack or ingredient that’s not well-known outside your borders? I want to hear about it and try it!