Category Archives: Food

Puppy Dog Ice Creams

We’ve just begun the Lunar Year of the Dog, so canine-themed gifts and treats are a very popular buy in Asia right now.

My favourite so far is this amazingly detailed ice cream puppy on a stick, a snip at S$3 from the I-Bing pop up at April’s Bakery. To be honest, the face and fur are so realistic that it is slightly disconcerting to eat – a classic ‘man bites dog’ moment (a story which all former trainee journalists will recognise…)

There are three flavours: the golden retriever is earl grey tea, the Dalmatian is cookies and cream, and the corgi I chose is Ovaltine, albeit rather mild.

April’s is actually a Thai brand, and I-Bing is a sister company which seems to be testing the waters here in Singapore before branching out alone. Their slogan is a hilarious and enticing ‘a fruity frenzy of frozen fun’, which seems to encapsulate their usp perfectly.

The dogs are special, but a whole series of fruit shaped, fruit flavoured frozen treats are on the main menu, from mango and mangosteen to a very fragrant durian.

I-Bing also has some adorable flower pots with colourful roses, each one set in a bed of Oreo cookie ‘soil’. These are also a ridiculously cheap S$3, and come with a cute miniature garden shovel with which to scoop them up. The different coloured blooms are pink milk, pink lemonade, and blueberry mint flavours, the last of these being slightly strange but when it looks this good, who cares?

If you don’t want to eat these right away, they can be packed up with dry ice and whisked home within an hour, where you can pop them into your own freezer for another day. I am rather hoping that I-Bing comes to Singapore to stay.

  


Cheese Tea

Category : Food

Yes, you read that right… tea with a frothy cheese topping is now officially a ‘thing’. It seems to have originated in China, and has turned up in Singapore via Taiwan and Malaysia. And not just any old tea – there are kiosks popping up in every mall with a lengthy menu of flavours.

So, once you have decided on black or green tea, not to mention hot/iced, sweet/less sweet, you get to choose between different fruits and vegetables. Strawberry cheese tea? Dragonfruit?? Chocolate, avocado and even taro flavours are also an option, and prices range from S$3.40 to over S$7.

Seeing me hovering over the display, the girl behind the counter at Heetea decided to reel me in with a free sample, which turned out to be a mistake. The cup was the size of a thimble, the green tea topped with a sweet, foamy ooze of what she assured me was cream cheese blended with milk.

Apparently you don’t stir this in, or even sip the tea from the bottom through a straw, but drink through the foam so you get the flavours of both tea and topping at once. Plus a very messy top lip, presumably.

“Drink it in one shot,” I was instructed, and I really did try, but it was truly revolting and I nearly choked. “Cannot take it, eh?” Well, no. Good job I had some water in my bag to wash the taste away. She’s probably still laughing…


‘Singapore Flavour’ Potato Chips

And why not? Browse the potato chip section of your local convenience store and you will find a whole range of unusual and often downright bizarre flavours. Salted egg flavour, anyone? Salmon wasabi? Roast beef and Yorkshire pudding??

Not being able to resist most of these temptations, even if I only try them the once, there was no way I was not going to sample these Singapore Laksa and Hainanese Chicken Rice potato chips.

They are actually the brainchild of local company F.EAST (this stands for Flavours of the East) who were inspired to create chips based on hawker stall favourites, and apparently have a bunch of other Asian favourites in the pipeline.

I was planning to blind taste these to see if I could tell the flavours apart, but the smell and colour were an instant giveaway – for the laksa version at least. These are reddish coloured and give off a strong aroma of coconut and spice. As for the chicken rice version, although there is a hint of ginger and sesame, unfortunately these paled in comparison.

That said, I enjoyed both of these and will probably buy them again, if only to amuse visitors.


Chipstar Chocolates

Here’s another of those ‘only in Asia’ snacks which seem to defy logic. Maybe I am just too conservative in my tastes (although anyone who has been on a Julietours would probably dispute this…) but I find it very hard to enjoy snacks which combine sweet and savoury in the same mouthful.

But hey, I like Chipstar crisps, which are pretty much identical to Pringles and so dangerously addictive. And of course I cannot conceive of a world without chocolate. As I did not actively dislike some of the items I have previously tasted combining these 2 things, and I am unable to walk past bizarre new offerings like these when I spot them on a Japanese convenience store shelf, here they are…

What you get is exactly what you see in the picture on the packet – chocolate truffles coated in chocolate then rolled in crushed potato chips. Decidedly strange by Western standards, but not as ghastly as you might imagine. In fact, not that far removed from what the taste might be if you rolled these in crushed almonds or peanuts instead.

That said, these are not the nicest chocolate truffles underneath the chips, although no worse than you’d expect for the price. But having tried them once, I will be perfectly happy to leave them on the shelf next time.


Transparent Tea

This has to be one of the more disconcerting drinks I have sampled. It looks like water and yet… it is actually sweet, milky tea.

Now if I actually ever drank my tea sweet and milky, I would probably have enjoyed this very much. But I don’t, so let’s just say I was delighted and amused by the look of it and intrigued to know how Suntory had managed to produce a liquid that looks and tastes like this.

Luckily, it doesn’t seem to be a trade secret. Apparently the steam from boiling water is passed through tea leaves and becomes infused with their flavour. The steam is then condensed back into water that tastes of tea but is still clear.

The milk is a different story, but if you separate out and remove the milk fats and proteins, what you have left is the lactose and minerals which are transparent but still taste of milk. Put them together with the tea scented water and there you have it – Premium Morning Tea, a snip at $2.50.


Calbee Chocolate Sticks

I do not know where to start describing these, except to say I hated them.

Calbee is a Japanese firm famous for crispy potato snacks, many varieties of which are sold in small pouches or tubs like this. I rather like the ‘normal’ chipsticks, which are salty and crunchy, speckled with bits of vegetable so you could almost imagine they are good for you.

These are another story, however, and from the artwork on the tub may well be a Valentine’s Day special for this year. Although I am not quite sure what I was expecting, it certainly wasn’t this – they have a strong chocolatey taste and smell, but still manage to be salty and potatoey at the same time.

It is a disconcerting combination, and for someone who does not like mixing sweet and savoury, not at all pleasant. But I have Asian friends who think nothing of alternating bites of cake and curry, so presumably they are the sort of customers that Calbee hope will be wolfing down these treats.

I shall just chalk them down to experience and never buy them again!


Pikachu Deco Latte

Coffee has been a decorative art form for quite a while now. It is pretty routine for your barista to hand over a latte skilfully topped with a heart, leaf or (if s/he’s an expert) bear or swan. Track down the right café and it is perfectly possible to have a 3D foam kitten nestling into your mocha, or your photo spray painted in edible ink onto the cream topping your frappuccino.

All these treats require a professional hand, or even an expensive piece of technology, so it is nice to see a cute and amusing alternative which you can easily create at home.

Fresh from the Mega Pokémon Centre in Tokyo, here are Pikachu Deco Latte toppers for hot drinks (although I don’t see why they wouldn’t work just as well with cold). They come in packets of five different designs, and there are four different packets to choose from, all featuring your favourite pocket monster. At Y540 a packet, these are incredibly cheap for the entertainment value.

Just open up one of the individually wrapped sachets inside and – using the special lift up tab – carefully position the design of your choice onto your coffee. The discs are made primarily of gelatine and will dissolve into your drink if you leave them long enough, but mine lasted perfectly well for as long as it took me to finish my coffee.

These make a great souvenir, or gift for the Pokémon Go fan in your life!

 


Arabic Chips

Category : Food

I do love a quick spin round the supermarket when I’m on my travels – for one thing, I always wonder if I’d like to live there, and seeing what the grocery shopping is like is a good gauge. For another, I love to discover (and taste) local variations on popular products.

So here, fresh from a short hop to the UAE, are 3 sorts of chips which took my eye.

Lays is obviously an international brand, American in origin and around since the 1930s, but it does come up with a fascinating range of local flavours. The 2 here are produced in Saudi Arabia for regional consumption, and do a great job of capturing a distinctive Arabic taste.

Both have labneh, or yoghurt, as their main flavouring, which is pretty similar to the sour cream flavour you find elsewhere. But one includes mint and the other the ‘zatar’ blend of herbs which turns up as a dip or sprinkles in many local dishes. I liked them both, especially the ‘Lebanese mix’, and was interested to see that both included what are described as ‘natural and nature identical’ flavourings on their ingredient lists.

The Chips Oman were exactly that, and actually were manufactured in Oman. Looking at the shape of the tub, I was expecting the contents to be something very like ‘Pringles’ , but in fact the illustration is pretty exact and these chips, whilst a similar texture, are short flat strips liberally dusted with chilli powder and paprika. Of the three, these were my favourite, and I wish I’d bought more.


Fairy Puff Ice Cream Toastie

The main draw here is the machine which makes this treat possible – a sort of toasted sandwich maker but with a domed lid. Somehow it manages to toast and seal 2 halves of a bread bun whilst NOT melting the ice cream that forms the filling.

Everything else is window dressing and here there was some serious ‘unicorn’ going on.

The bread was a riot of colourful swirls, the ice cream was bright blue, and the decoration was multi-coloured sprinkles.

In days gone by (and sometimes still today if you are lucky enough to find a traditional ‘ice cream uncle’) a scoop of ice cream in Singapore came folded inside a slice of pink and green coloured bread.

As a modern update, this rainbow ‘fairy puff’ manages perfectly both to hark back to the old ways and appeal to the inexplicable current trend for all things cute and fairy-tale. The S$8 price tag was a shocker, though.

And don’t ask me what it actually tasted like…


Sweetcorn Soda

Category : Food

Only in Asia, where it is perfectly normal for something Westerners see just as a vegetable to turn up as dessert.

I have tried sweetcorn flavoured ice cream, toyed with sweetcorn (and red beans) sprinkled over sundaes, but absolutely could not face drinking this sweetcorn soda, which is a new taste sensation on offer in Singapore.

Sorry…but there are limits!


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