Lobstah! (And other delights)

18 Jul

I’ve finally recovered from the epic Tour de Bèbè, our whirlwind visit to the US spanning from Boston to Michigan to Chicago to downstate Illinois. Traveling with a baby meant our dining choices were dictated by convenience, but I did manage to have some spectacular meals. Unfortunately, I was so busy with baby that I forgot to take photos half the time. I’m thinking specifically of when I took my parents to The Bristol, where a longtime friend has found his calling as a manager. (Ironically, when I first met him he was quite the picky eater, but living with me broadened his food horizons, which were further expanded by his now-husband.) In my defense, the restaurant was so dark that the photos wouldn’t have turned out anyway, but still…

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Lay’s Masala Flavor and Oregon’s Best Wasabi Chips

5 Jun

Two posts about popsicles, and now potato chips: SOK readers must think all I eat is junk food. I couldn’t resist when I saw these at the supermarket, though, especially the Oregon’s Best brand chips, which are proudly made in the US and come in the traditional American flavors of seaweed and wasabi.

Masala and wasabi chips

There’s a respected tradition of offering chips/crisps in culturally specific flavors, and masala-flavored potato chips aren’t actually all that far off from Indian snacks like Punjabi mix or papadum. Despite the chilis on the package, the chips weren’t particularly hot. I liked the masala spices but noticed a bit of a chemical edge after a bowlful. The wasabi chips were a little one-note after the masala, but if you enjoy wasabi peas, you’d probably like these. My first thought was that either flavor, but especially the masala, would be brilliant on a tuna fish sandwich. (Side note: I found out about the potato chip thing reading Then She Found Me, a book which I’m guessing is far better than the movie. We didn’t have potato chips in the house often — they were sort of an exotic foodstuff, like ranch dressing or casserole — but my mom would often put nuts in her tuna salad, adding a pleasant crunch.) Curried tuna salad is totally a thing, and for the wasabi chips, I’d give the tuna an Asian twist, maybe with some sesame or something.

There are some who swear by Doritos as their crunchy add-in, and to them I would recommend the Thai Sweet Chilli Sauce Doritos. But that’s another post…

Oh, Miso Ice Cream!

31 May

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I seem to be on a popsicle kick lately. One of the supermarkets I frequent in KL has a fancy popsicle stand called G-Stick, and they had a limited edition run of Japanese-themed popsicles, including Miso Hazelnut, Wasabi, and…Lavender. (I guess Hokkaido is famous for its lavender fields, but it’s not the first thing I think of when imagining Japanese flavors.) I wasn’t too impressed with my last wasabi-flavored sweets experience, so I went with the miso.

ImageMiso is a fermented soybean paste that most people have probably encountered in the form of miso soup. It’s salty and packed with umami, and in Japanese cooking, it’s often combined with sugar for a savory-sweet flavoring; misoyaki butterfish is a good example. Miso also pairs well with fats, like mayonnaise, so miso ice cream isn’t actually that much of a stretch.

The actual product didn’t have as strong of a miso flavor as I expected. It tasted a bit like salted caramel ice cream, but with a stronger nutty/savory undertone. What I found weirder than the miso ice cream was the wee belt of nori (seaweed). I understand that it makes a cute accent, but I think chocolate would have paired better with the ice cream. Maybe the nori should have been on the wasabi popsicle, maybe with a sushi rice-flavored glaze for the full effect? G-Stick, are you up for the challenge?

Let’s blow this popsicle stand

20 May

OMG, the baby is asleep! Quick, write a blog post!

Potong popsicle stand

In Malaysia, the icy treat we know as a popsicle is called an ais krim potong (literally, chopped ice cream). For whatever reason, they’re usually round — maybe they’re made in the same molds as tube ice? — and come in classic flavors like red bean, yam, and black mochi rice. (What can I say, Asians do sweets a little bit differently.)

As in the West (plus Australia), someone has decided to do an artisan/hipster take on the lowly potong in KL, and they’re calling themselves — what else? — The Potong. (That’s their adorably twee popsicle cart above.) The coconut chocolate flavor appears to be the crowd favorite, as it’s always sold out, but I’m always drawn to their seasonal flavors like pineapple chili.

Potong popsicle

It’s all about the packaging.

Their most recent line, for spring, featured floral flavors; I tried the lychee with rose water. I was a little nervous because rose water confections often taste like soap, but the floral notes were pretty subdued; the orange zest tended to dominate the more subtle flavors of the lychee and the rose. Still, it’s hard to resist such a poetic combination. The Potong, I’m looking forward to your summer collection.

If your iPad gave you Diet Coke…

4 May


Touch-screen vending machine

Japan is widely recognized as the Mecca of vending machines. The newest twist is a touch-screen version. Instead of buttons (as in the US) or empty cans, there’s a giant high-def display of your beverage choices, which you select by touching. I’m not sure what the advantage of this is over displaying actual cans, except maybe reeling people in with the “Ooh, touch screen!” factor. I guess you could show ads and such when it’s not being used for vending. Maybe in the future you’d be able to check your Facebook while waiting for your frosty (or hot! Japanese vending machines can heat and cool) beverage.

I totally fell for the “Ooh, touch screen” myself, and treated myself to a hot Calpico, which is what they call Calpis in the US to avoid the unfortunate homophonic connotations of the original name when pronounced by English speakers, especially Americans. (The Japanese pronunciation sounds more like “karupisu”.) (Also, Googling “calpis” led me to a homemade calpis recipe, which excites me to no end, as it’s quite expensive to buy outside of Japan.) Calpico is a yogurt-based soft drink, and tastes a little like the beverage form of the Korean frozen yogurt that was trendy a few years ago (“plain” flavor, of course). I’ve only ever had it cold, with or without fizz, so the hot version was something new. I have to say that, like frozen yogurt, Calpico is best served iced. But at least it gave me an excuse to use a cool vending machine!

Seasonal McD’s: Matcha Shake and McNuggets with Plum Sauce

23 Apr

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Last month saw me back in Tokyo for my grandma’s 99th birthday. I hope that I’m as accomplished of a cook when I get to be her age; she still makes her own pickles, and has never used a microwave. (I’ve blogged about her cooking here and here.)

This post, however, is about cuisine that’s 180 degrees from my grandma’s from-scratch dinners. Since they don’t celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, the Japanese have no Shamrock Shake, but this spring McD’s offered a Japanese take on the green classic: matcha (green tea) flavor. At 120 yen it’s a fraction of the cost of a green tea Frappuccino; unfortunately, it’s a fraction of the flavor, as well. The shake tasted less like green tea and more like those soaps that are supposed to be green tea-scented, in some universe where green tea smells like cheap perfume. The greenness of the shake also left something to be desired. Things made with actual matcha are a vibrant green; this shake looked more like it had been flavored with green tea dregs.

The other seasonal offering was plum dipping sauce for McNuggets, which I haven’t had in ages. The plum in question is the Japanese plum, or ume, which is one of the first flowers of spring, though cherry blossoms get all the glory. The plums are quite tart and are usually pickled (umeboshi) or used for plum wine. So the dipping sauce wasn’t the sweet plum sauce that comes with Chinese duck, but rather a sour-salty version. It made for a refreshing (in a slightly artificial sort of way) contrast to the fried nuggets.

Croc Pot

4 Mar

Croc-fest

Just because I have a baby doesn’t mean I’ve stopped eating “weird” stuff. All the advice about avoiding spicy or gassy foods while breastfeeding is kind of nonsense, in my opinion (excepting true food sensitivities, obviously). I mean, Indian and Thai babies are breastfed without there being a colic epidemic, and I’m sure their mothers haven’t given up chili. Anyway, Tom visited a crocodile farm-cum-restaurant with his coworker and brought back some things for me to try.

Now, I’ve had alligator before at a Cajun restaurant, in the form of gumbo and battered nuggets, but this was a lot more visceral: crocodile ribs, tail bits, chunks of reptilian fat…Visually, there’s no way around the fact that the animal you are eating is neither fish, fowl, or mammal. The three dishes I tried were croc ribs, croc meat steamed with tofu, and croc a la soy-cooked pork. The flavor of the meat was quite mild, though I wouldn’t say it tasted like chicken, as the texture is somehow…meatier. The bit that gave me the most cognitive challenge was the fat. I’m usually a fan of animal fat (bring on the chicharrones!), but…reptile blubber. More specifically, reptile blubber reheated in the microwave. Actually, it turned out to be pretty tasty, though I was surprised at how much of it there was. I think of crocodiles as being lean, mean, purse-making machines. Maybe these specimens were raised specifically for consumption?

Restoran Crocodile Farm Seafood Village
Jalan SS 12/1
47500 Petaling Jaya