I was delighted to run across these mini marshmallows today at Whole Foods Market. Normally, I buy halal marshmallows of various brands (recently Ziyad, for example), which are available at several local stores. However, they only come in the normal “large” marshmallow size. Mock me if you like, but I have wearied of tearing up my normal sized marshmallows into 4 segments (which is about as small as I can manage without getting major marshmallow fingers) to float in my hot chocolate. These marshmallows, though not marked halal, contain only fish gelatin according to the ingredients label. It even goes so far as to specify that the fish gelatin is from Nile Perch or Tilapia. Not that I am that picky about which fish, but I was pleased. The full ingredients list is: Sugar, Corn or Tapioca Syrup, Water, Kosher Fish Gelatin (From Nile Perch or Tilapia), Corn or Tapioca Starch, Natural Vanilla Flavors. The package also advertised that it is fat free (of course) and gluten free (I didn’t feel strongly one way or the other about that). And it was decorated with some cute little anime-esque winking and smiling marshmallow. What was not to love?
Along about midnight, I began to feel like whipping up some hot chocolate, though I hadn’t consciously planned to test the marshmallows this very evening. So I prepared a cup with my miniature electric whisk utilized almost solely for this purpose, and opened the bag. I didn’t pause to check my enthusiasm or proceed with the caution that might have been warranted.
Now, perhaps the marshmallow experts out there are already waving red flags due to the ingredients list, but it didn’t give me much pause except to happily observe the lack of unidentified and perhaps porky gelatin. The texture of the marshmallows when I grabbed a handful to scatter on the surface of my drink, did give me the aforementioned pause. The marshmallows, though of approximately the correct dimensions, were a little less pillowy than those to which I was accustomed. I squeezed them experimentally, they were slightly dense and not very springy, but they squished in almost the normal way. I tossed caution to the wind, and the marshmallows to the chocolate. Only then did I pick out another marshmallow from the bag and pop it in my mouth.
Instantly I had misgivings about having blithely tossed so many onto the surface of my carefully, albeit rapidly, prepared drink. The first impression was one of extreme chalkiness, the second, of a peculiar granularity. Though the texture seemed spongy and giving, once it mixed with the saliva on my tongue it immediately began to break apart into a sort of grittiness like it was reverting to a mutant version of the original sugar whence it came.
I gingerly stirred my hot chocolate. The texture of the melting marshmallows on the surface looked promising, I could see it forming gluey strands on the stirring spoon. Perhaps it was only in raw form that they lacked the normal marshmallow character. With trepidation, I took a sip. Alas, the graininess was even more pronounced, if possible, in the melting ones. The chalkiness had disappeared since they were becoming milk-logged, but the texture was distinctly unappealing. There was no silkiness to the developing sludge, nor did they form the sort of “marshmallow foam” that is left when a typical marshmallow breaks down. They were also much sweeter than I recall marshmallows are supposed to be, to the point of being sickly sweet. Luckily, I had made the hot chocolate somewhat less sweet than usual to allow proper testing of the marshmallows, so I was still able to consume it, but it was not a particularly pleasant experience.
As I write this, there is still half an inch or so of hot chocolate in the bottom of the cup with marshmallow chunks floating in it. That’s right, they still haven’t dissolved all the way. The dissolved ones were the only edible ones, since once the texture was gone the only objectionable part left was the extreme sweetness. However, the whole experience was definitely a disappointment, and I still have the rest of the bag left, which I will not be consuming. In prodding some of the remaining ones I am again marveling at their leaden quality and unforgiving texture, somewhat reminiscent of marzipan (but much less palatable, and I am not really a fan of marzipan. Except for the fact that you can form it into the shapes of other miniature foods).
All in all, this was a miserable fail on what looked like it would be a delightful treat. I strongly urge not buying this product, or if encountering it in the wild, not eating it. Hopefully, someone out there in halal marshmallow land will hear my plea and start making the miniature variety (or maybe they already have, more likely, and it’s just that my stores nearby are not carrying them). Until then, I will continue to make the effort of tearing up my larger marshmallows into smaller, unfortunately non-uniform pieces to float in my cup, and hope for better days.