Dessert Pizza

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…


‘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!

 


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