Monthly Archives: February 2017

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Sweetcorn Tea

Another Hokkaido speciality, from the Tsuchikura company which is based in Sapporo, this corn tea looked like a suitably unusual item both to snap up as a souvenir and also mail easily to daughters who were not lucky enough to be out in the wilds of Japan.

A bit of background research revealed that corn tea is thought to have all manner of health-giving properties, from weight loss to blood sugar stabilisation. It is even said to be a powerful diuretic, so that no more than one cup a day is recommended… None of these things appeared to be mentioned on the back of the packet, however.

Having been appalled by the sweetcorn ice cream which is very popular up here, I was expecting the worst with this, but ended up being pleasantly surprised. The tea had a nice roasted smell and the sweetness of corn, whilst still retaining a distinctly ‘tea’ flavour. It reminded me very much of other (non green) Japanese teas like barley and roasted rice, which I enjoy once in a while.

I won’t be buying more any time soon, even if I do go back to Hokkaido, but this was fun to try.


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Air-Laynic Pore Mask

This is another of those seriously medical looking’ injection’ masks, which come with a syringe full of the product for you to add at the point of use, but this one is targeted strictly at the pores around your nose.

I loved the tagline on the packaging – ‘Where is strong butterfly? Pore be surprised’ – and also the promise that this would be ‘the best solution to help your skin problems without stimulus’.

This product is Korean, from a company I have not previously heard of, called 23 years old. Which is presumably why they specify that this mask should be left on for exactly 23 minutes… kind of cute.

Anyway, I dutifully squeezed half the gloopy, slightly creamy coloured contents of the syringe onto the stiffened sheet mask and applied it over my nose. This is when you are supposed to tap the mask to activate the carbon dioxide it contains, which makes for a hot and prickling sensation that is not particularly comfortable. I also found at this point that the size of the mask impeded my vision whilst also overlapping my mouth, which is strange because I don’t think my face is smaller than that of the average Korean girl.

Looking at the ingredient list, it appears that as well as the carbonated water and sodium bicarbonate that obviously account for the fizzing sensation, the mask also contains caffeine, liquorice root and ivy. There’s also a stern warning that you should not go on to apply anything containing aloe or alkali, which is slightly worrying.

During the course of the 23 minute wait, I discovered that tapping the mask again at intervals reactivates the carbon dioxide and the hot, prickling feeling starts again. It was strong enough to make me expect that my skin would look red and irritated afterwards, but it seemed fine, at least until I tried to scrub away dead skin cells as suggested. Then I came over all pink.

As half the product in the syringe remained, and it came with a cap to keep it fresh, I assume this means the mask can be reused. The trouble is, after I had washed this clean, it had clearly lost its original components of citric acid, xanthan gum and lactose, and was now soft and floppy. Whether this makes any difference to the efficacy of the mask the second time round remains to be seen.


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Genghis Khan Caramels

‘Genghis Khan’ is the name given to a slightly spicy dish made with grilled lamb, which is a speciality of Hokkaido and thus fair game when it comes to picking interesting local flavours and turning them into something surprising as a souvenir – like this pack of caramel candies.

No-one is suggesting that Genghis Khan ever visited Hokkaido, in fact the name comes from the dome shaped grill pan this particular dish is cooked on, which looks a bit like the hats the Mongol warriors used to wear.

When it comes to Hokkaido souvenirs I am far more likely to select sweeter, cuter, items, such as carved wooden bears or melon chocolates, but this was so odd I felt I had to try it.

The smell of the unwrapped caramel nearly put me off, but it turned out that this was the ‘meatiest’ part of the experience. The natural flavour of the caramel, which is made with rich Hokkaido milk, overpowers anything else (and this also applies to the other flavours I have sampled, including lavender and melon), although there is a faint aftertaste of barbeque.

If you are the sort of person who loves the crispy, caramelised burnt bits on the edges of your char-grilled meat, this will probably appeal, otherwise you should stick to the more mainstream flavours. It wasn’t as bad as I was expecting, but now I have satisfied my curiosity I doubt I will be eating any more.


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Wrinkle Serum Pads

Cooling cucumber eye pad versions of these have been around for ages, but this was the first time I had seen something targeted at wrinkles. The bright pink colour and printed berry decoration also drew my eye.

To be honest, these are really just a smaller and more portable version of sheet masks, although there was a lot less product in these pads which made them easier to work with – I was able to stick them on and then carry on with other things rather than having to lie down during the 15 minutes recommended wearing time.

These are Korean, obviously, and apparently contain 12 natural ingredients including the cold pressed extracts of organic strawberries, blackberries and blueberries. There are 6 pads in a re-sealable packet, which means they are good for 3 treatments, and they really do smell fruity so are very pleasant to use.

I did find, though, that they were just a bit big to fit comfortably over my laughter lines without encroaching over my eyes. But my skin really did feel tighter and look smoother afterwards, and there was enough product left on the pads for me to wipe them over my neck afterwards, hoping for a similar effect.

I liked these very much and if I see them on sale here in Singapore, will definitely buy them again.

 


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Liquid Salt

Category : Food

This caught my attention in a Bangkok supermarket. I have never seen liquid salt before, and here it was in a range of 8 different ‘flavours’ including spicy, truffle, and the garlic which I chose.

Further investigation revealed this to come from Fossil River, a Spanish company now in its 3rd generation of artisan salt production.  Based in Villena, the firm uses water from underground rivers which is allowed to evaporate in saline pools. This method means the resulting salt crystals retain all their natural minerals.

The liquid salt seems to be mostly water, although it is cloudy rather than clear (each 100ml contains 17g of salt) and I did have the slight suspicion that I could easily make my own by dissolving salt in water. Although of course I would not be using the gourmet salt from the La Fortune salt pan…

This product is designed for dressing salads or enhancing the flavour of raw dishes like carpaccio, with the spray packaging making it is easy to add uniformly. Being a liquid, it blends far better with the dish than if you had sprinkled grains, and the dilution means you end up eating far less salt. Which can only be a good thing.

The spray I have would be better if it contained a lot more garlic, but that is a personal preference. Otherwise I like it very much, and am wishing I had bought more bottles as interesting gifts.


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Facial Mask Powder

I rather liked the idea of a DIY face mask that you mix up from the powder in the sachet. The claim that this contains pearl and gold, and the shimmer of both powder and mask, was a bonus, although the ingredient list revealed a distinct lack of actual gold. The pearl was there, though, which for the price was more than I was expecting.

The mask is supposed to provide gentle cleansing to reveal a ‘beautiful and radiant’ skin, and the main component is diatomaceous earth, a natural silica mineral which is supposed to have endless benefits for the skin including helping to promote collagen production. This had to be worth trying.

Of course, mixing up your own mask can be pretty messy. Here, the powder was so fine it settled in a fine dusting over everything in blast range as I tried to pour it out of the sachet, yet perversely refused to mix properly with the water, so it still had small lumps despite my best efforts to make it smooth. If I had another one, I would try adding far less water than the amount suggested on the packet.

Contrary to expectations, though, it did stay on my face for the recommended 15 minutes and was even easy to peel off in a thin, shiny film. I was half hoping I could use the left over mix another time, but this too set solid in the bottom of the bowl.

My skin felt very smooth afterwards and my pores appeared smaller, but there were some red patches on my nose and round my hairline, where the mask had been spread very thinly and so dried into a pale clay-like coating rather than the plasticky film elsewhere. If I manage to find another of these (it came from Bangkok) then I will have a far better idea of how to use it.


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Coolish

This is such a clever and amusing idea I found it impossible to resist – ice cream that you suck from a pouch. It’s the definitive answer to the nuisance of a melting double scoop dripping down your hand, or simply being knocked off the cone to the floor. The total lack of mess involved also makes it perfect for small children or the adult klutz in your life. Even better, because it has a reseal-able cap, you can stick it back into the freezer to finish off another day.

Coolish is Japanese, and comes in a range of flavours including mango, coffee and Belgian chocolate as well as plain vanilla. You can buy it in convenience stores all over Japan, and also in supermarkets in other Asian countries.

You have to squeeze the pouch fairly hard to break up the ice cream inside before you can suck it from the tube at the top, but it is well worth the effort. And because it is in a cold pouch rather than out in the open air, it melts very slowly so lasts a long time.

We all really like this particular treat, and snap it up whenever possible.


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Chin and Forehead Patches

This is a brainwave from Biore, who make a great range of those sticky strips for removing blackheads from your nose.

You can now buy a special pack which contains not just the regular strips but also smaller triangles of the same material designed to attack those stubborn areas on your chin and between your eyebrows.

Yes, you could have simply cut up and repurposed the normal strips – if you’d thought of it – but this makes life so much easier. Each pack contains 5 nose strips and 5 sets of 2 triangles, so you can have 3 strips working on your face at once.

The instructions remain the same… wet the area, apply the strip, wait until it dries, peel it off, then examine the sticky part with interest to see what it has removed. With the forehead strip, there is the potential bonus of discovering it has also caught those fine little eyebrow hairs which escaped your tweezers.

Obviously this is more of a thing for teenage skin, but I am still very impressed.

 


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Collagen Coffee

Category : Food

There’s a growing number of food and cosmetic products laced with collagen, all of which promise to slow the aging process by boosting the production of this structural protein in your body. I know you have to take these claims with a pinch of salt, but then I see something new and feel I have try it out…

So here is collagen coffee, fresh from Thailand and apparently containing goji berry extract as well for added anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits.

Careful perusal of the packet reveals that each sachet of instant coffee contains 7% collagen and 5% goji, which is actually more than I was expecting. More than 65%, however, is dairy creamer, as this is one of the 3 in 1 instant drinks so beloved of SE Asians.

There are scientific studies out there which delve into the helpfulness or otherwise of consuming collagen, and the general consensus seems to be that your average female would need to eat around 10g a day to see any effect on their skin.

There is so little collagen in these sachets that you’d have to drink more than 50 cups a day to achieve that amount, which is plainly ridiculous. But maybe every little helps…

Anyway, facing up to one of those days where there was more to do than energy available, plus a deadline looming, I decided the moment had come to give this product a go.

And it was not half as bad as I was expecting, for the first half cup. Then a strange after taste began to creep up on me, which I suspect was more to do with the artificial sweetener than anything else, and in the end, I had to pour the rest away. The packet is still in the cupboard, but I am keeping it for emergencies only.


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Gracious Living

I’ve heard it told that, decades ago, antisocial behaviour was a real problem in Singapore and the government of the time acted decisively to stamp it out.

Offenders can still receive a caning for such offences as vandalism and overstaying their visa (although most of these punishments are handed out for very serious crimes), and I remember in the 90s that it was not unusual to see minor offenders shamed by having their photographs in the paper as they carried out community service orders like picking up litter, clad in distinctive fluorescent vests.

The most memorable tale, however, and it may be just a tall story, was that elevators in certain places were fitted with urine detectors. If these were triggered, they locked the culprit inside the elevator and alerted the police to come and arrest them ‘red-handed’.

Whether this is true or not, it seems there may be a re-emergence of the problem, judging by the banners that have been cropping up in my neighbourhood.

Of course, when large numbers of people live in close proximity, as happens in the HDB high rise complexes which house more than 80% of Singaporeans, people do annoy each other hugely with thoughtless behaviour.

These ‘Gracious Living’ cartoons are targeted at anyone who thinks they can get away with dropping cigarette ends out of their windows, or actually using the lift as a toilet. They are funny, but also to the point, and to be honest, there are so many cctv cameras in operation, you’d think people would know better. Let’s hope these serve as a valuable reminder…


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