Pictures from Myanmar and Vietnam

Can be found here:

Posts will follow as I battle jet-lag and uncertain internet access for the next week or so.

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Some More Random Snack Foods

In Bali, I spotted milk sodas, which just did not sound appetizing to me.  For some reason, I assumed that they were carbonated, but I now see that it says “cultured milk drink,” not “carbonated milk drink.”  Granted, to me the word “soda” still implies carbonation.  I normally love carbonation – I drink sparkling water like I’m a dehydrated European camel – but I don’t think I would want to drink carbonated, flavored milk.  It sounded too disgusting to try, but now I’m wishing I had, just to know what it was like.

In Thailand, I found French Salad Flavored Chips.  I really loved the packaging – if you look closely there’s an Eiffel Tower on the far right of the package.  I get that the Eiffel Tower is to symbolize the French part of the chips.  I’m just not sure what the smiling Asian guy is supposed to symbolize….

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The Chewing Gum Myth

Whenever I told people I was going to move to Singapore, I usually got one of two responses: don’t chew gum and don’t get caned.  (The next most popular was, “are you going to have to learn the language?”)  It seems the only two things the average American (not you, my dear reader) knows about Singapore are that chewing gum is forbidden and caning is allowed.

As someone who suffers from what might be considered a chewing gum addiction (particularly when I am stressed, which happens frequently), some family members and friends expressed concern over my decision to move to the only country in the world where it is illegal.  And while there have been several occasions (usually when working on upcoming presentations) that I have craved gum, I’ve somehow managed to survive.

So what did I recently discover, 8 months into my 9 month grant? You CAN BUY CHEWING GUM in Singapore.  Early on, I had heard that you could buy chewing gum for medicinal purposes, but I didn’t pay much attention.  After all, I don’t smoke, so I have no need for (or interest in) Nicorette, and I couldn’t think of a plausible reason for a doctor to write me a prescription.  However, it turns out that you can actually buy it over the counter at a pharmacy.

I finally discovered this shocking little secret from my roommate last week.  I was working on my 9th speech for Toastmasters; it’s a persuasive speech and I was, of course, arguing that Singapore should legalize chewing gum.  In support of my argument, I was using the findings of some ridiculous studies (funded by Wrigley’s, a fact I neglected to mention) that have shown chewing gum helps prevent tooth decay AND can help improve test scores and increase weight loss.  Learning that you could actually buy chewing gum at a pharmacy seemed to kill a large part of my argument, so I decided to test it out.

I envisioned the gum in a little, nondescript blue packet, having been manufactured at some pharmaceutical plant.  I figured that the gum itself would be overly chewy (or stale) with not much taste.  Imagine my surprise when I discovered that you can buy several different flavors of Orbit.  (You do, however, have to write down your name and identity card number – I guess in case the chewing gum police need to talk to you.  That being said, the pharmacist didn’t verify what I wrote down.)  The gum is about the same price as normal (it was S$5 or US$3.60 for 40 pieces).  The only indication that I was buying something special (besides feeling like I was trying to buy Sudafed in the U.S.) was that there was some sort of dental hygiene approval seal on the bottle of gum.

I haven’t been back for another bottle (is it possible I’m overcoming my gum addiction?), but it’s nice to know the option is there.  Viva la chewing gum!

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It’s not cool to pick your nose.

I wrote too soon about good Singaporean PSAs – I saw this yesterday on the MRT.  I can’t decide which is my favorite – this one or the clam costumes.

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Bleed for your country. Not for the mozzies.

I think my favorite Singaporean sign is still this menu, but in terms of PSAs, I think the one below is pretty good.  Maybe not quite as eye-catching as the clams, though?

(Located outside a military camp.)

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Roti John (White Man’s Bread)

Roti John is a Singaporean invention of onions, eggs, grilled meat,  and spices spread on a loaf of French bread and grilled.  Supposedly it was invented in the 1970s by a hawker named Shukor, whose Western customers always asked for an onion omelette that they ate with bread.  Shukor decided to combine the two; grilled meat and spices were added to suit the local clientele.  The name comes from roti, the Malay word for bread, and John, a colloquial term for Caucasians in those days.  Thus, Roti John basically translates into “White Man’s bread.”

The daughter of Shukor still runs a stall at Serangoon Gardens.  I made three separate trips there to try the “original” Roti John, only to fail.  (The first time they were out of bread; the next two they were closed.)  I finally gave up and ate it at Golden Mile.  In hindsight, I should’ve opened up the sandwich to take this picture.  Also, I feel like the sauce looks like fake blood.  And overall, I was unimpressed with the roti john – it was pretty bland.  That might have been because I accidentally ordered it from the stall NEXT to the one recommended by Makansutra. I’m not sure how I missed this sign:

It took me awhile to figure out the names – why name some of your sandwiches after people, and others after bad songs or random words?  I decided it appears to be based on alliteration.  (Brad Pitt = Black Pepper; Macarena = Mushroom; etc.)  However, this does not explain the Kebab J. Lo (with Cheese).  The only thing I can figure out is that the hawker assumes that eating cheese goes straight to your butt?  Any other suggestions?

You can try the Roti John Brad Pitt and Kebab J. Lo at Adimann Hainanese Boneless Chicken Rice, Stall #B1-14 at Golden Mile Hawker Centre (505 Beach Road).  Alternatively, you can try the “original” roti john (assuming they have bread and are open) at Shukor Stall Makanan Istimewa, Stall 30 at Serangoon Gardens (49A Serangoon Gdn Way).

For more travel-food posts, see Wanderfood Wednesdays.

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Loving Hawker Centres

I’ve found a Westerner who loves hawker centres as much as I do.  Every week during Malay class, I stared at him, bewitched by his goofy amusement, wishing I could take him home with me.  Unfortunately, that might get me caned…for stealing a poster.  So, I had to be content with this picture of what is clearly the best ad the Singapore Tourism Board has ever created.

There’s also writing at the bottom that reads, “It’s easy to see why diet books never make it to the top of the Singapore best-seller list.”  The poster is set in Lau Pa Sat, a historic building in Singapore that was constructed around 1894.  It’s different from the hawker centres I study in that it’s privately-run and not government-regulated, but that’s a topic for another post.

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“You have a lucky forehead.”

I was sitting at my favorite frozen yogurt place yesterday, happily reunited with the internet (which isn’t working at my apartment),  when a gentleman approached me and declared, “you have a lucky forehead.”  He was an old Indian man, complete with a turban and a wiry, white beard.  Lest you think he was competing for best pick-up line with the guy who told me, “my mom said I’d be a chickensh*t if I didn’t come talk to you,” my new Indian friend continued, “I don’t know you.  I tell you everything about your future.”

I suspected this was not free and told him I didn’t have any money.  Apparently his fortune-telling services were only $20, and  immediately went down to $10, yet I still said I didn’t have any money.  He quickly got up and walked away, without a word.  I have since regretted my decision.  At first my regret was because given his opening, it could have been a highly amusing experience.

But now, the regret is also because I’ve been wondering what I’m doing next with my life. (I leave Singapore in two months.)  I’m curious what he would have said; at this point, listening to what an Indian guru has to say about my future couldn’t hurt.  Too bad I don’t know how to find him.  Maybe I can put up flyers? ( “Seeking: Old Indian guy, black turban, white beard.  Last seen at RedMango, June 17th 3:00pm.  Said I had a lucky forehead.”)

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KitKat Hunting

As previously noted in my post on crazy Pringles, I love finding unusual flavors of familiar products.  At some point several years ago, I learned that Japan is home to numerous flavors of KitKats, none of which make an appearance in the U.S.  I found some for sale on ebay, but was unwilling to pay $13 for one candy bar ($3 for the bar and $10 for shipping, or something absurd like that) in order to actually try them.

So my tasting experience with unusual KitKats didn’t happen until I flew through Tokyo on my way home for Christmas.  I had completely forgotten about their existence until I wandered through an airport store during my layover.  I felt like a kid in a candy store, which I pretty much was.  I think I spotted the Wasabi KitKats first, followed by a variety pack combining Apple, Cheesecake, Soybean Flour, and Soy Sauce bars.  A trip through another aisle of the store revealed a Green Tea flavor, as well.  I bought them all.

Wasabi KitKat

Hold on a second, you’re saying.  Wasabi?  Soy Sauce?  In a KitKat?  That sounds disgusting!  Yes, I agree.  But it was too bizarre to ignore.  The tastiness (or lack thereof) of these flavors is at least aided by the fact that they don’t involve chocolate.  Rather, the coating over the wafers is wasabi or soy-sauce flavored. (The green tea is similar in that it does not have chocolate.  The Apple, Cheesecake, and Soybean Flour flavors, on the other hand, were incorporated into the chocolate.)

Green Tea KitKats

So what did they taste like?  Much like the lemon-sesame and blueberry-hazelnut Pringles, I would not have known what I was supposed to be eating if it had not been pictured on the package.  The wasabi coating was light green and I suppose had a bit of a zing to it, but not much.  The soy sauce coating was white and slightly sweet  instead of salty, like I was expecting.  It tasted more like medicine than soy sauce, although that’s probably a good thing.  (The Apple, Cheesecake, and Soybean flour flavors were much tastier.  I’m not sure if it was the chocolate, or the fact that they are more traditional Western dessert flavors.  Probably both.)

Since Singapore isn’t that far away from Japan, relatively speaking, and we get crazy Pringles flavors, I’ve been keeping an eye out for special KitKat flavors.  A few weeks ago, my friend Juliana saw an article in the paper about Raspberry-Passionfruit and Matcha-Sakura (Green Tea-Cherry Blossom) KitKats for sale in a small Japanese food store.

That weekend we decided to go KitKat hunting.  Sadly, we discovered that other hunters had exhausted the supply before our arrival.  We even saw proof that the KitKats had been there – cardboard boxes in the trash, but there were none left for us, and the sales clerk didn’t know if/when they would be getting anymore in.  They did have bags of Maple-flavored and Flan-flavored KitKats, but I didn’t feel like spending $9 on a bag.

Maple and Flan KitKats

I also found an online reference to sweet potato-flavored KitKats available in Bishan.  My love of sweet potato is akin to my love of pumpkin, but I unfortunately haven’t had time yet to trek out there and check it out. Given our failed attempt to procure other exotic flavors in Singapore, my hopes for finding the sweet potato ones aren’t high, but I will nevertheless venture out there soon.  If they exist, I will definitely post a review.

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Pretty Much the Best Menu Ever

Sadly, I had already eaten lunch when I spotted this sign.  Otherwise, I would have had a difficult time deciding…

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