‘Singapore Flavour’ Potato Chips

‘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.

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!

Drip Curry

This is apparently the latest craze to hit the Tokyo food scene, and very strange it is, too.

Drip curry takes the very popular drip coffee concept one step further, whilst using all the same set up and paraphernalia. But whilst it still has a counter lined with individual drip filters, this does not give you a delicate china cup of limited edition coffee, but a cardboard tub of curry rice made with flavoured boiling water.

(I should pause briefly to explain that the classic Japanese curry rice bears little resemblance to the Indian variety you may be imagining. Instead it is slightly sweet, rarely very spicy, and is a great budget favourite on a cold night when you do not fancy noodles.)

Here there’s a choice of beef, seafood and spicy chicken, then a range of options with which to flavour the water – you could for example choose maple sugar or jasmine tea for your chicken, or red pepper or bonito for your fish. I hesitated over the coffee for my beef but went for the garlic in the end.

What happens next is intriguing. The tub of par cooked rice is topped with a block of condensed curry which looks very much like a large flat stock cube. This goes on a small scale under the dripper. A container of whichever flavour you chose is emptied into the paper filter then boiling water poured over it until the scales measure the right weight.

At this point you realise that it is less of a fast food option than you had imagined, because you need to wait for several minutes – and there is a very confusing ‘sauna’ clock which ticks round 12 minutes instead of 60 to help with this – before you can stir it all up and tuck in. As the outlet I chose was on the platform of the Yamanote Line train at Shibuya, it felt like I ‘missed’ a whole series of trains before I could eat my lunch. I confess I found this somewhat stressful…

Once I was able to eat it, I found my curry was full of flavour and there was so much I could not finish it. At only ¥290 for a hot and filling snack, this is very good value, and whilst it isn’t the tastiest thing I’ve eaten it was a vast improvement on instant noodles. It probably won’t overtake their universal popularity, but as it also comes from noodle giant Nissin, this will not matter.

Dragon’s Breath

Now this really is a ‘cool’ snack.

New in Singapore and still wildly popular, this takes the culinary use of liquid nitrogen to new levels. Rather than using the nitrogen to freeze, say, fruit puree into ice cream, here it is poured over a selection of extremely porous bite-sized snacks like meringues or corn puffs.

Each snack absorbs the nitrogen mist and holds it until you crack it open in your mouth, at which point it pours out in disconcerting fashion. Once you get the hang of it, you can then breathe out plumes of mist, which of course makes for great photos.

Of course this is not without some degree of hazard, as the liquid nitrogen is so cold that it would be easy to ‘burn’ your mouth. Warning notices explain that you should crack the snack items without holding them on your tongue or against your gums. Even so, after sharing a single container between 3 of us, we all felt the burn for ages afterwards.

So totally worth it, though!

What’s Your Sausage?

This is one of those food stalls which stops you in your tracks and makes you think: “seriously?”

Worse, it is in the otherwise very smart basement food court at probably the nicest department store in Singapore.

Even worse, these are not even proper sausages but the sort of hot dog style items which are made with mulch rather than recognisable meat.

I am sorry, but I could not bring myself to try one…