What would RTH do?

That is the question.

If I were in a highschool yearbook, they would vote me most likely to die of a lynch mob. That does not prevent me from opening my mouth and serving a warm hearty cup of STFU to people who deserve it. My dark scathing humor will leave no matter of existence untouched. My innocence will touch your soul.

Welcome to a warped world turned inside out and upside down. All sorts of discretion advised.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Taiwanese Snack Bag

One of the most exciting thing about traveling is experiencing the local flavors and cuisine. And Global cuisine has evolved and expanded. For example, almost every country has a McDonalds, a Pizza Hut and a KFC. But each of these franchises is adapted to the suit local culinary taste buds. Indeed, when traveling one must try McDonalds in every country and experience the difference.

But it is not just fast food that is catching on around the world. Just like we Americans love to snack - our pretzels, our bags of Doritos and stacks of Pringles every culture has their own snack/junk food. Whenever, I am in the Indian grocery store I'm nostalgic about Indian snacks - tapioca chips, spicy roasted peanuts, peanut brittle and the likes. I'm nostalgic about our Uncle Chips that came in flavors like Masala and Chaat, about Hajmolas and the plethora of Indian candy.

I discovered my taste for global snacking in Brazil last year. There is just something about being in a gargantuan grocery store in a foreign country and having no clue about the language. There is a certain thrill about picking up bags of chips, snacks, fruit candy just because it looked interesting. I was scurrying like kid in a candy store at a Super Mercado in Sao Paulo. I came back home with a shopping bag of snacks. It was an exciting thrill opening each bag to taste and discover the contents. That is why when one of my friends visited Taiwan recently, I asked her to pick me a goody back of local Taiwanese snacks.

Too bad I didn't log the contents and tastes of the Brazilian snacks. The only thing I saliently remember is the bacon cheerios. I don't know what it was, they had the shape, texture, and slight taste of cheerios but with a very heavy bacon flavor. I actually liked them very much. This time I decided to review each one.

The big red box on top is chocolate sticks. They kind of look like Pocky sticks, but they are more like wafer pirouettes filled with chocolate. They taste just like the chocolate wafter pirouettes you get in the states. Light, airy, with a satisfying crunch and delicate chocolate taste. Very addictive, especially for chocolate lovers.

You can probably see the big white bag with Tom Yum written on it, that is Tom Yum flavored potato chips. Tom Yum is a type of Thai curry that is spicy and sour. It usually has lemon grass, kaffir lime, fish sauce, and crushed chillies. The chips were ridged and quite enormous, not the thin frail weak potato chips you get sometimes. I bet these chips could hold up to some very heavy dipping. The flavor was interesting. To a certain extent it reminded me of Masala Uncle Chips back home. But it had more sour notes. I found more hints of tomato rather than lemon grass or kaffir lime though. I think I really like these chips, I want more. My sister found them strictly OK, while her fiance did not seem to like them at all.

The green packet on top of the Tom Yum chips is candy. It sis coke flavored chewing candy. It even has a cute little coke bottle in the corner. Upon opening the packet you are faced with individually wrapped chewing candy. The candy actually looks like small brown dots like Hajmola in India. When you chew on it, they have the texture of a really soft ├ęclairs or caramel chews. It has that burst of cola flavor but without the carbonated fizz it tastes like warm flat soda. I actually do like flat soda, but I doubt most normal people would find it appetizing. These dots should be bigger as well. They get disappear very quickly.

To the extreme left we have a purple packet that is dried plums without seed. This is by far my favorite Taiwanese snack so far. Gosh, I wish I had a giant purple bag of them right now. They are oh so delicious. Tiny sour sweet packages of absolute tantalizing goodness that just explode in your mouth. They are like a better, tastier version of sour patch kids. The first taste is extremely sour, but then you get into the flesh of the plum and it is delicately sweet, soft and chewy.Who knew plums were so delicious.

Right next to the dried plums we have a green packet about the same size. This is the crunchy pickled plum. These are most definitely an acquired taste. The first plum I had was actually quite revolting. But by the time I got to my third plum, I was getting used to this unusual flavor. It is a little green plum, that is ever so slightly sticky to touch due to the pickling. The flavor is sweet and briny. The texture is a cross between that of an apple and a grape. It has a pit that that you need to spit out. I tried biting into it, it is not edible.

The last packet below the two plums is thin dried cod. This is by far the quirkiest and most interesting snack food from the bag. Thin dried cod looks like strips of dried noodle. The packaging is hilarious with a ball of strip cod holding up an umbrella. If Bobby Henderson would have been Taiwanese, I imagine the Flying Spaghetti Monster would have been The Stringy Cod God instead. As for its texture and flavor - I'll call it fish jerky. It has a slight fishy smell. The thin strips of cod are chewy and leathery like beef jerky. They have a strong fishy flavor. I'm not sure if I really like it, but for some reason I feel quite addicted to it. I keep popping strings in my mouth and chewing. Is this how people get addicted to chewing tobacco?

Now for the fun challenge aspect of it - I'm asking myself: What would I do if I had to make a three course meal from these ingredients?

For appetizer I would make a crispy pork belly with a sweet and sour plum sauce using the dried plums without seed. I'd probably use a Japanese plum wine to make the reduction. I'm not sure of accompaniment but perhaps a light calamari salad for a fun play on surf and turf.

For the main course I would make stir fried cod balls crusted with panko and tom yum potato chips. I would make a playful brothy noodle dish with rice noodles & the thin dried cod. I'd flavor the broth with crunchy pickled plums and a dash of some Tom Yum flavors. Of course utmost care has to be taken to make sure I top the noodles with my cod balls at the very end. If not they will disintegrate and lose their texture. Timing is key in this dish.

For dessert I would melt the chewy cola candy into some heavy cream and make an ice-cream soda flavored ice-cream. I think I'd try to make a brittle with the two plums and powdered chocolate sticks to top of my ice-cream - kind of tying the meal together.

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