Author Archives: julietours

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Shiok Ah Ccino

August 9th is National Day in Singapore, and it’s always accompanied by massive displays of pride in the achievements of this tiny city state. And that covers not just the National Day Parade or the Singapore flag flying proudly from most residential windows, but special edition Singapore-themed items ranging from red and white T shirts to decorated cakes.

Somewhere in between comes the Shiok Ah Ccino, a remarkable, and Singapore exclusive, offering from Starbucks. Drawing on several of those local delicacies familiar in kopi tiams around the island, they have managed to create a drink that perfectly blends the Starbucks signature frappuccino with tastes that are completely Singaporean.

So the regular frappucino is blended with and the whipped cream topped by the thick sweetness of gula melaka, which is a palm sugar syrup.  The main ingredient, however, is a large scoop of coffee jelly shreds, which are an interesting take on that slightly bitter tasting local favourite which goes by the English name of ‘grass jelly’ even though it is black rather than green in colour. There’s crunchy coconut on top as the finishing touch.

Shiok, incidentally, is the local way of saying that something is really good.

It took me a couple of days to work up to tasting this one, and I did not manage to drink it all, but it was actually quite nice, despite the ‘exclusive’ price of S$7.90 for the smallest cup. Of course it helps that I really like gula melaka… What defeated me in the end was the coffee jelly, since there was so much of it that I could not get a mouthful of the drink itself without several strands sliding up the straw, and I found that horribly disconcerting.

Still, it is clearly super popular with the locals and it’s a great and rather flattering idea from Starbucks. I look forward to seeing if it reappears next year.


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Ginger KitKat Balls

I can never resist the lure of a new type of KitKat, and there are so many amazing and/or outrageous varieties to be had in Japan that your taste buds can go into shock (wasabi and soy sauce, anyone??)

These ginger tea flavoured KitKat balls were a welcome contrast to some of the odder things I have sampled recently. They are new and different, but taste just the way you’d expect – slightly sweet and slightly spicy like a warming mug of ginger tea mixed with chocolate. The little bit of biscuit crunch is a bonus.

It’s always a treat to find something that is unusual but not a challenge to consume, and I really enjoyed these. Like most of the KitKat flavours it is probably just a short-lived special, but whilst it is around I will be buying it where I can.


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Resealable Cans

Plastic water bottles have a terrible impact on the environment… we generally use them once then throw them away, meaning that quite apart from the landfill problem, around 8 million tonnes of plastic ends up in the sea every year.

Recycling is the answer, and these particular aluminium cans apparently have the best recycling rate of any drink currently available – they can be back on sale within 6 weeks. The really clever thing about these cans, however, is that they contain alpine water rather than flavoured soda, and include a special lid which can be resealed so you can finish your drink later.

This is CanOWater, available in both still and sparkling versions and using natural mineral water from the Austrian Alps.

We tried them both, and they taste just fine. The slight hiccup we experienced, however, was in actually opening the cans – embarrassingly, I had to go back to the vendor for help. Once you have prised the special sliding mechanism open, it does work pretty well, although my can did drip slightly inside my bag on the way home. For keeping the opened drink fresh in the fridge, though, it works perfectly.

At the moment, these cans seem to be available mainly in upscale grocery stores and so are unlikely to wipe out the market in plastic bottles just yet. But the idea is sound and I wish them luck with this project.


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Ninja Ice Cream

You know you always wanted to try ice cream ‘based on ninja stealth and invisibility technique’…. Here was my chance, with the exclusive ‘black gold’ cone from Kyorollen, at Emporium in Bangkok.

It comes at the premium price of 159 Thai baht, but for that you get a creation which is put together by hand like an artistic masterpiece and served in its own wooden stand.

Everything here is black – the cone made with sumi bamboo charcoal, the kuromame black soya beans, the sticky ball of mochi, even the ‘raw’ chocolate cube. Well, I suppose the ice cream itself was slightly on the grey side, but considering it is made with the famously creamy milk from Hokkaido, this was not surprising.

I could probably have done without the soya bean and mocha components of this treat, but they looked great and I very much enjoyed the rest. Japanese ‘raw’ chocolate is always delicious and this one had a fudgy texture which I particularly enjoyed.

It was an expensive indulgence but definitely worth it.


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White Henna

I love henna, from the traditional, intricate, Indian patterns to the more modern and dramatic Arabian designs, even the fun, brightly coloured versions which have appeared in the last couple of years.

White henna is apparently the latest thing, and is a star attraction at the Ramadan market in Singapore, so I was very keen to try it out.

But whatever it is, it really isn’t henna, although it is packaged and applied in the same way.

Seriously, it looked and felt like I was being painted with a particularly sticky sort of Tippex, which resolutely refused to dry.

“Come back in 20 minutes and I will put powder on it”, said the lady in charge of the stall where I had this done. But by the time I returned, the design was already the worse for wear. Admittedly, I had been shopping and snacking my way round the market, but even taking care, I found the henna was a nightmare to deal with.

The pattern became blobby and any contact resulted in strings of sticky rubbery material stretching between the design and whatever had touched it. Having what looked like ordinary talc dabbed onto it did somehow ‘set’ what remained, but in retrospect I think it would have been more sensible to sit around the stall for those 20 minutes until the design was ready to be powdered.

As it was, the whole thing looked very messy.

With normal henna, of course, you scrape it off once it is dry and the colour first darkens then fades from your skin over the next 10 days or so. The white henna stays on, but not for very long – 3 to 4 days is supposed to be the limit – although how you keep it intact whilst working, washing and generally getting on with your life, I have no idea.

I found bits peeling away annoyingly before the day was over, and scrubbed the whole thing off before bedtime. It is unlikely I will try this again.


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Cherry Blossom Chocolate

It isn’t even cherry blossom season any more, but I had never seen this version of Dars before so felt honour bound to try it.

To be honest, I am not a great fan of the sakura taste, although I have consumed it in tea, ice cream, and no end of delightful cakes where there is a piece of dried blossom as decoration. There’s nothing wrong with it, there just isn’t much of a flavour there to form an opinion on. So apart from the pretty colour, there doesn’t seem much point.

Here, the predominant flavour is the white chocolate, with just a hint of something extra which is hard to define. The pink colour is not particularly striking, either.

No, I wasn’t impressed, I only ate 1 piece and will not be buying this again.


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Unicorn Cafe

Tragically, no actual unicorns, but a great many toy ones and enough rainbows to make your head spin. Welcome to the Unicorn Café in Bangkok!

This is hidden down a side soi off Sathorn Rd, and was surprisingly hard to find, but once you are engulfed by the swirling pastels of the decorations, you wonder how you could possibly have missed it. There’s even a large plastic unicorn in the window which looks like it escaped from a circus carousel.

This is definitely a destination for young Asian girls. You can dress up in a unicorn onesie, lounge with large plush unicorn toys on pink sofas and take selfies to your heart’s content. There are rainbow coloured cakes and drinks on the menu, unicorn souvenirs to buy, and everything including the floor and ceiling is a riot of swirls, stars and –obviously – unicorns.

I did order a cake and a drink, although since they were a triumph of decoration over taste, I did not actually consume very much of either. It was all highly entertaining, however, and well worth a visit.


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Blue Pea Tea

You know how it is when one day you’ve never heard of a certain thing and the next it is absolutely everywhere… suddenly it seems I cannot get away from blue pea tea.

Sometimes also known as butterfly pea, the blue pea is actually a flower, which is dried to be used not just in tea but also as a natural colouring for food. It is traditionally used to colour cakes in Peranakan cuisine, where its mild flavour is virtually undetectable.

Apparently, though, the blue pea flower contains antioxidants which are really beneficial for your skin, hair, eyesight and memory, so it is suddenly becoming popular.

In the space of a week I have been able to try it as a cold brew at a local street party, with rainbow additions at the Ramadan market, and served at an elegant Thai-style afternoon tea in Bangkok.

There’s nothing special about the flavour, but the colour is spectacular, and I am told that adding a splash of lemon juice to perk it up will turn it a delightful green.

If it really is so good for you, I shall choose this again if the opportunity arises.

In the meantime, the answer to that question you are dying to ask is no, it doesn’t…


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Tok Zen

This is Thai massage with a twist and not for the faint hearted – alongside using pressure from the hands, knees and elbows in the traditional way, a wooden hammer and chisel are also deployed to work the meridians (or zen) of the body and unblock the flow of chi.

The story is that this rather specialised form of massage was invented by farmers whose exhausted bodies needed more serious therapy than that offered by the usual massage style. Simple wooden tools like hammer and chisel were also readily available, and can be used with much less effort needed from the masseur.

My long suffering husband was brave enough to try this, and at the time did not find it any more painful than a proper Thai massage can be. By the following day, however, he was definitely suffering the after effects, especially along the arms and legs where the tapping went closer to the bone.

Investigation reveals that the best tok zen tools are made with wood from a tamarind tree which has been struck by lightning, then blessed by a Buddhist monk. It seems unlikely this was the case with the hammer and chisel used in the Silom massage parlour we visited, but the experience was something special nonetheless!

 


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2 in 1 Potato Crisps

Top marks to whoever at Lays Thailand came up with this hilarious idea.

Helping you out with that tricky choice between favourite flavours of crisp, they have launched these 2 in 1 packs. Each contains a pair of tastes which complement each other nicely – one being the main event and the other the sauce.

There are just the 2 options at the moment, which I snapped up on sight on my latest trip to Bangkok.

My favourite was the grilled prawn with dipping sauce, as the tastes are quite distinct and go very well together. The crisps are even slightly different colours, so you can easily see which is which.

The steak and peppercorn sauce variety was less successful, in that I could not tell the crisps apart either by flavour or colour, but they still tasted nice and I was happy to finish the pack.

It will be fun to see if they come up with any new combinations, and since the small packets cost a paltry 10 Baht each, I will be ready to try them all!

 


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