Rainbow Cheese Toast

Rainbow Cheese Toast

Category : Food

If ever there was a snack designed for its Instagram appeal, it is this Rainbow Grill Cheese Toast. It’s bright and colourful, with four shades of vividly dyed mozzarella and a generous handful of sprinkles, it comes apart with just the right degree of stretchy gooey cheesiness, so what does it matter how it tastes?

Maybe I am being unfair, and there are people out there who like the taste of melted mozzarella on heavily buttered toast. I’m not one of them, but never mind – it made me laugh and it was fun to try it out. Well worth S$5 even if I did barely eat 2 bites. And who knew you could get halal mozzarella cheese?


Edible Helium Balloon

This was a ‘you have got to be kidding me’ moment. But no, there in the market was a stall selling edible voice-changing balloons, in strawberry or blueberry flavour. Obviously, I was unable to resist…

The set up was fascinating – a large canister of helium sat next to a set of food warmers containing the gloop which would become the balloon. Rather like those nitro puffs you get in fancy restaurants, this particular product has to be eaten instantly, on the spot.

The gas gets pumped through a tube held under the surface of the syrup, which obligingly blows itself into a bubble that can be whipped up out of the container and transferred to a stick. There is precious little time to admire this creation, and no chance of carrying it away to enjoy later.

The girl in charge of making these held onto the stick, instructing me to take a bite then suck in all the gas inside. “Now, talk as fast as you can”, she instructed, “and don’t laugh because then it won’t work.” The trouble is, as soon as you hear yourself speaking in that ridiculously squeaky voice, you can’t help laughing, so the effects of the gas last for seconds only.

You can, if you want, eat the shrivelled and sticky remains of the balloon still clinging to the stick, but that isn’t really the point. As experiences go, this was hilarious, and I suspect that with a bit of practise you could make the squeaky voice last a lot longer. At almost S$9 a go, however, that might become expensive.


Truffle Bouquet

Chocolate and flowers are top of the list when it comes to choosing a gift, and who wouldn’t want to receive either of those as a surprise?

Better still, how about chocolates that look like a bunch of flowers? I was really charmed by these bouquets of truffles which popped up in my favourite Meguro supermarket. Each chocolate was individually wrapped at the end of a long stick and available in various sizes of ready-made bouquet, or singly – for ¥270 each – for you to make up your own selection.

Flavours included not just the expected ones, but alcoholic versions like rum and raisin, or red wine and pink peppercorn. I’d like to tell you that my husband took the hint here, but we were running late to somewhere else at the point I spotted these, and I was hurried along. Tragically, we never got back to remedy the situation, but it’s an easy concept to copy at home, and I might well be trying it as a gift at the next suitable occasion.


Buffalo Skin

Category : Food

 

One of the things I love about local produce markets is the amazing variety of things on sale that are completely new to me. In Laos, it was clear that buffalo skin was the front runner in terms of amount and variety on display. Stall after stall had up to a dozen different types, yet I had not seen this on menus or even being eaten from the bag.

It turns out that you need to do a fair amount of preparation before you can reach the point of tasting buffalo skin, which as you might expect is very thick and hard. You can roast it over an open fire until it is charred black, then pound it until it softens and the charred bits have fallen off. You can boil it up in a stew or soup, or you can marinate it with fish sauce and bake it slowly until you have something resembling jerky. You can even deep fry it.

Always game, I bargained for a small bag of pale white strips, but was not prepared for the appalling stench that greeted me as I opened it. There are limits. Not wanting to waste it, I sent samples to daughter #1, whose dog did eat it but promptly threw up. (Daughter #1 already treats my souvenir parcels with suspicion, now I am really in her bad books…)

Whilst part of me is sorry I failed to sample what is clearly a Laotian speciality, it appears I may have had a lucky escape!


Wasabi Ginger Ale

I’m not big on fizzy drinks but I do like ginger ale once in a while (preferably in whisky…) and of course I am usually entranced by new things from Japan. So obviously I did not hesitate to sample this fascinating new soda from Singapore’s ramen king, Keisuke.

Wasabi can be an acquired taste, and whilst I do like it I don’t like too much of it on my sushi because I want to be able to taste the full flavour of the fish as well.

But ginger has a similar spicy kick, and I was delighted to discover how very well the 2 flavours go together. The wasabi is almost at the bottom of the ingredients list, so there clearly isn’t very much of it in there, but what it does is somehow enhance the spicy flavour of the ginger without overpowering it. It makes the whole thing richer and tastier than regular ginger ale, and I shall definitely be ordering more.


Dessert Pizza

This seems to be a ‘thing’ right now, which is interesting. I mean, why not serve a pizza with sweet toppings as opposed to savoury? It’s like saying you can only eat bread with the likes of ham and cheese, which would thoroughly disappoint the jam on toast eaters in my family.

Having decided this was a good idea, I have been spoiled for choice in sweet pizzas to sample. Clearly, I bypassed the durian version (not being entirely certain you could class any durian as sweet…) but was more than happy with the various concoctions of fruit and chocolate that I tried.

In Singapore, you get what you are given, and this seems to mean orange with chocolate or Nutella with banana, both excellent combinations.

At Max Brenner’s Chocolate Bar in Tokyo, however, it was very exciting to be able to create one of a kind pizza slices from a vast range of options. These start with the base, which you can get coated with milk, dark or white chocolate, or milk or strawberry cream cheese. Add marshmallows, sliced fruit, candies, cookie pieces and all sorts of sprinkles, top it with ice cream if you like, and tuck in!

In retrospect, this all sounds to be completely over the top, but after a hard afternoon shopping in Harajuku, it was a delicious and energy boosting treat. Let’s hope this particular idea is one that catches on!


‘Sweet Meat’ Soup

Category : Food

This is a euphemism. It sounds a great deal better than ‘dog meat’ soup, although there is nothing sweet about it.

People tend to have strong reactions when it comes to the idea of eating ‘pets’. Let me say right away that I don’t really see the difference between eating any sort of animal. I have kept and loved rabbits, guinea pigs and horses, yet have happily eaten the meat of all three when I had the opportunity. The sort of dog that crops up on Asian menus is not, incidentally, the sort you keep as a pet – these dogs are generally bred for their meat in the same way as chickens or cows.

In many places, like Vietnam, dog meat is a delicacy which is expensive and tricky to track down. In North Korea, where the soup is offered at only 5 euros a bowl, it proved hard to refuse the chance to try a brand new culinary experience.

So did I like it? The straight answer is no. It arrived at the table looking murky and unappealing, like particularly dirty dishwater, and some fishing about was required to find the slightly purplish strands of meat at the bottom of the bowl. Then it did not really taste of much, even when I scooped in the entire accompanying saucer of chili paste. My main objection, however, was the texture. This was like too-soft lamb which came apart in my mouth in a way I really did not care for.

I could not finish this, and will not be ordering dog meat soup again. If anyone offers me something slightly different, however, like maybe roasted dog, well, who knows….


Bee Larvae

Category : Food

Wandering through the early morning farmer’s market in Luang Prabang, I was tempted by the honey stalls. I love honey, and always try to buy some interesting new variety on my travels. One of these stalls, however, had something I’d never seen before.

Roasting happily over a small charcoal stove on the ground were pieces of what looked like honeycomb wrapped in banana leaves. Closer inspection revealed that this was honeycomb long before the stage where any honey is involved – this was the structure, but each section still contained the grub which would grow into the bee.

It looked fascinating, it cost pennies, and I have tried various bug like things before without ill effects, so I decided to give it a go.

The banana leaves are supposed to make the larvae aromatic, and prevents them from drying out as they roast. They also make for a handy wrapping and keep the whole thing from falling apart in your hand. So far, so good. Trying this very local snack, however, was a bit of a challenge. The roasted honeycomb cells were very soft, and broke away from each other into individual tubes. Each of these was gooey and squidgy with the cooked larva inside, and I found the texture to be deeply unpleasant in my mouth.

Let us say I shall chalk that down to experience. An experience I will not care to repeat…


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…


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