Black licorice is a divisive nibble. Some love it, others visibly gag at the thought. And there’s typically no middle ground, with people either seeking it out, or throwing it in the bin immediately. I’ve got to admit that I was the latter when I was a kid, pitching the black jellybeans every year (with my dad trying to snag them before that), and then one day? Boom: I was in love. I don’t know if it had anything to do with my travels to Europe, where I got to try “salty” black licorice, or better still, that amazing chocolate/licorice combo Iceland got me addicted to. But either way, I now crave that umami/salty/molasses goodness, be it ouzo, fennel, anise, or the real black-gold deal.
So when my lovely editor sent a packet of these my way, I gasped in delight…because this happens to be my absolute favorite form of straight-up black licorice. A perfect blend of “salmiak salt” (aka ammonium chloride, the stuff that gives “salty” licorice it’s tang), licorice, and sugar. These fishies hit me right in the salivary glands with their tang, and it’s lovely. That initial tang gives way to a mellow molasses-meets-licorice chew, a loud and proud flavor palette that lets the licorice shine. And the chew goes on for a while, giving you maximum enjoyment. In fact, I often bite each fishie in half, to further extend my delight. And the fact that these candies are vegan-friendly – no gelatin here – makes me happier still.
The nice umami flavor of these fishies pair exceedingly well with a red wine. Don’t give me that face; the same tang in ammonium chloride is in tannic reds. So they work well together. But they’re a fine nibble all by themselves, or paired with another handful of your favorite candies. (Remember: true licorice does have health benefits and hazards, so nosh responsibly.) May I suggest a combo of black licorice and dark chocolate? Or go for the ultimate trifecta; black licorice, dark chocolate, and coconut. Hey, licorice allsorts mixes coconut in. So you can do it yourself. I believe in you.