Category Archives: Food

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Candyfloss Burritos

Pastel is clearly the new black, at least when it comes to food trends aimed at the youth of Singapore.

The latest, offering itself as a ‘rainbow unicorn snack’ is dubbed the ‘candyfloss burrito’, although as far as I could tell it comprised neither of these items (and I shall gloss over the missing unicorn…)

Somehow, at least in Singapore, ‘burrito’ has become shorthand for anything wrapped into a roll of some kind. Hence the popularity of the ‘sushi burrito’, which, disappointingly, means no more than either your standard maki or a Californian hand roll.

Here, the ‘candyfloss’, whilst crunchy with sugar, seemed to be made of shredded vegetable of some sort. The ‘burritos’ were simply crepes. Both had been coloured with varying degrees of success and without the apparent addition of any flavour.

You can buy the component parts in package form, ready to put together yourself, but in such quantities that you would have to be planning a party. If you buy a tray of 3, you are advised to eat them within 8 minutes. I’m not sure what happens if you don’t, because I managed only a few bites before consigning them to the nearest bin.


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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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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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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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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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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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Flying Noodles

Category : Food

Sometimes a meal looks so spectacular that you don’t want to spoil it by eating it. Like these flying noodles, the piece de resistance on the menu at Hana restaurant in Singapore.

Cold noodles served with dipping sauce are a staple on Japanese menus, and very refreshing in hot weather, but here they have (quite literally) been taken to new heights.

The slim white somen noodles arrive draped over chopsticks seemingly suspended in mid-air above a handled wooden bowl. You know it is just an optical illusion, and the chopsticks are fixed by a hidden post, but it looks amazing. There is also a point – it’s not just a fun way to present the dish, but also means that the noodles do not go soggy as they sit in the sauce.

And being cold already, the food is not going to spoil whilst you spend ages admiring it and taking pictures!

There are several variations of this dish, and we tried it with both the salted egg yolk and the truffle oil sauces variations. The verdict? Messy but delicious, and great value for $20!


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North Korean Wine

Category : Food

Tensions are very high between North and South Korea right now, with chances of a political rapprochement appearing slim. Yet not that long ago, relations were good enough for a rail line to be built joining the 2 countries.

For almost a year, starting in December 2007, one freight train a day crossed the border, taking materials from the South to the Kaesong Industrial Region, and returning with North Korean goods. The line never carried passengers, and now looks like it never will, but the shiny, immaculate station of Dorasan still stands on the border, and some of those North Korean goods, the guides say, are still available at the souvenir stands in the waiting room.

It is tricky to get into the DMZ at this point, but a guided tour will give you half an hour or so to wander round Dorasan.  It looks just like a miniature airport building, complete with customs barriers for international arrivals and departures, and although it is standing empty everything is ready to go again at a moment’s notice. It demonstrates the apparent wish of South Korea for peace and a friendly relationship with their neighbours in the North.

And there are indeed some interesting items on sale at those souvenir stalls.

Never one to pass up a shopping opportunity and possible new taste experience, I snapped up some North Korean wine. It’s made from wild grapes, is ‘organic’ in that chemical fertilisers and pesticides are presumably hard to come by in the North, and has so many floating bits that it suggests they don’t have filters up there, either.

But never mind, this is not something you can pick up any time at the local off-licence.

When it came to sampling this, however, I was sadly disappointed. I mean, I wasn’t seriously expecting it to taste like a French wine, but I was hoping it would actually be drinkable. Unfortunately, the sealing process had failed – the screw top was not just loose but also impossible to remove without resorting to brute force and a knife.

I have no idea when this wine was bottled, but it had empathically not survived very long. The smell was atrocious, and a tiny drop convinced me that this was more like battery acid than wine and drinking it might be a really bad move. I’m afraid it went down the sink.

Still, as a curiosity, it was definitely worth a shot.


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Eyescream

This is so silly it was irresistible.

New in Singapore, apparently from Barcelona, this is shaved ice cream presented like a cute and swirly monster.

Big cylinders of the ice cream are stored in freezers at the back of the stall – choose your flavour and it is popped into a machine which spins to carve the top off in big folded ‘shavings’. Next you choose 2 toppings from the vast range under the counter, then let the server bring it all to life with 2 big sugar eyes. There you have it, a sweet treat to chuckle over for less than $7.

I went for chocolate ice cream with chocolate chips and salted caramel sauce. But there’s a huge choice, and I could have had wildberry yoghurt, mango or cheesecake, with the likes of gummy bears, sugared peanuts, cookie crumbs or marshmallows on top.

The ice cream was a bit watery and tasteless for me, but this is a cool idea and clearly very popular. First in Asia – you heard it here!

 


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