Cherry Blossom Chocolate

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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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Instant Cake

Category : Food

Freshly baked cake in 60 seconds… sounds too good to be true? Believe me, it really, really is.

This turned up on the shelves of Cheers convenience store and I could not resist, even though the $2 price tag should have been ample warning.

In theory it is a fine idea… empty the sachet of powder into the tub, add milk (or water) to the marked line, stir well then microwave for 1 minute. Hey presto – instant cake!

In practise it was all another story. It would have been very much more helpful to mark the line on the inside rather than the outside of the tub. It took rather longer than 60 seconds to stir the powder and milk into an acceptable consistency. The lid was so flimsy that it came with a warning that it was a burning hazard and therefore unsuitable for use in the microwave. And the 60 seconds baking time had to be followed by 120 seconds cooling off time.

You will note that I have not mentioned the taste or texture yet. You can probably take a good guess at those. This was supposed to be a chocolate cake but it ended up something like a dark brown, slightly damp bath sponge. I managed one spoonful before it went in the bin.


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Goldfish S’mores

Goldfish crackers have always been a favourite in our house, either as cute croutons in soup, or simply from the packet as a tasty snack.

We’ve sampled all the different types, which include vanilla cupcake, fudge brownie and rainbow colours, but the plain cheesy version has always come out tops.

This s’mores flavour, however, looks set to give the others a run for their money.

Not that we actually like s’mores so much, you understand. That combination of toasted marshmallow and melted chocolate sandwiched between graham crackers is just a bit too sweet and sticky for more than the occasional taste.

It’s just the memories that taste inspires, of weekends cabin camping in the Japanese alps, sitting laughing round a bonfire with marshmallows on sticks, getting burned fingers and tongues. This was when daughters #1 and #2 were members of the Girl Scouts of the USA organisation, which had an overseas troop at their school, and I was a volunteer leader.

There’s no way you can recreate that kind of thing with crackers from a packet, but you have to give Pepperidge Farm credit for trying. The familiar fish come in chocolate and graham crackers flavours, then the ‘marshmallow’ fish is a bit smaller and (sadly) more like a crunchy meringue than a squishy marshmallow, but never mind. It’s the thought that counts and this certainly hits the spot.

I found this packet in Hong Kong, where it was clearly a left over Christmas special, so doubt I will have the chance to buy more any time soon, but it was a real treat. Thanks for the memories!


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Cheese Curry

Category : Food

This is apparently the national dish of Bhutan, so there wasn’t much choice when it came to ordering a set dinner in the Bhutanese restaurant I tried out for some variety in Kathmandu – the cheese curry showed up in every option.

In Bhutan itself, this would be made with a goat’s milk cheese called churpi. Elsewhere it is anyone’s guess (although there is a fair chance that buffalo was involved here…)

I do like cheese, but this really was a first for me, and it took several mouthfuls to become accustomed to both taste and texture. It was more like a soup than a curry, and had plenty of potatoes and onions in there as well as melting lumps of cheese.

Spooned over rice, it tasted very much like a thin fondue served without the usual bread. I didn’t find it anywhere near as spicy as I was expecting, however, possibly because the chilli cabbage curry it came alongside was really fiery.

On the whole, this was more of a taste adventure than anything else. I quite enjoyed it, but am not sure I would order it again…


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Ice Cream Tuk Tuk

When I was young, long summer afternoons were punctuated by the arrival of the ice cream van, its unique jingle heard from streets away so that every child in blast range ran home for sixpence to spend on frozen treats.

By the time the van had parked and the driver opened up the side to turn his van into a shop, we would be standing in line debating what to buy. It might be the multi-coloured Rocket lolly, the pink and white Fab dipped in chocolate and dusted with sprinkles… I always loved the ‘99’, a cornet with a swirl of soft ice cream stuck with a Cadbury’s Flake.

So I was really happy to see this ice cream tuk tuk in Bangkok. Sure, it was not moving but was parked in the middle of a mall, and I realised later it was a ‘chain’ with tuk tuks in a number of shopping areas. But it was selling a wonderful range of decorated ices like the Coconut Cool Cat and Angels Berry, and quite transported me back in time for some very happy memories.

 


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