Monday, January 26, 2015

KFC Korean Burger and Rio

blogger widgets Let's discuss two things that are currently heavily advertised in Nanjing AKA:
  • a 2nd tier city in mainland China 307KM (~190 miles for us Americans) northwest of Shanghai
  • Nanking
  • China's old capital before Beijing
  • Known for the infamous Nanjing Massacre which happened during WWII
  • Where I was born
Anyways, everywhere I go I see these two products, on the subway, billboards, newspapers and on Youku (China's Youtube twin, in my opinion the cooler one! It's one of the few sites where I can stream up to date American TV shows without having to use VPN (in non technical terms, VPN lets us expats stay connected to our friends and news through Facebook, Youtube, Twitter, Instagram and other social media sites that are blocked by the government).

Numero Uno: KFC's Korean Crispy Chicken Leg Burger 

Who can resist this delicious looking crispy chicken sandwich?? It's hard to see but the fries are seasoned as well and the thirst quenching blue "imaginary dream" drink. (As translated from Chinese).

Enlarged for you to see the texture, are you drooling? Image via KFC China

I haven't mentioned yet that it's endorsed by girly (by which I mean sexy) looking Korean pop stars called EXO-M (no offense to KPOP lovers out there, I'm always mesmerized by the music videos playing in Korean restaurants. Every time we go to a place like that, I secretly wish my friends would stop talking and let me watch in peace ). Here's EXO-M:

Image via KFC China
At first I thought there were 10 members in the group but I think it's supposed to show the side by side transformation to aliens hence the blue outer space theme on the KFC website. Ended up not getting the collectibles, they're not even that cute! 

Here's what reality looks like:

I swear it's the camera's fault! 

It was not crispy at all which is supposedly what the little circle things on the chicken are for. From the picture you can't tell but there's a handful of seaweed strips and the red sauce, that's not ketchup it's Korean hot pepper paste, gochujang. I still had high hopes for the french fries because in the picture it looks so seasoned. Again reality is not what you expect... all they do is give you regular fries with a packaging of a powder that looks and tastes like instant noodle seasoning. You're supposed to shake the fires and seasoning in the bag. Let's not even mention the blue dream drink which is like cotton candy soda (I'm probably biased since I'm not a fan of soda), I got a milk tea instead. 

Verdict: Advertising works, I saw this ad and commercial three times yesterday and craved KFC for dinner. Next time I think I'll be sticking to my usual spicy chicken burger (which is deliciously spicy and highly recommended by me). 

Numero Dos: RIO 

Product placement and heavy advertisement did it for me again. I caved and bought some at Walmart yesterday. 

One word about Walmart in China, it is not at all like what we see in People of Walmart. It's just a regular grocery store that sells vegetables, meat, dried goods etc. Although yesterday as I was walking through the security sensors with my groceries I started beeping. As the Walmart employee was checking my bags, a small crowd of middle aged women started to close in. They were all excited to see what caused the beeping, probably hoping that I "stole" something. Lesson learned: any little thing in China can cause a big commotion.

Back to Rio, we're not talking about the cartoon about the bird. 

In the commercials they advertise this drink for women who don't like the taste of alcohol but want to celebrate with a drink. 

They sell in both glass bottles and canned. The glass bottle is 3.8% alcohol while the canned is 3%. Glass bottle cost: 12RMB= 2USD and Canned: 5RMB= 80cents. 

I've tried sips of peach+brandy and fruit punch+vodka in the glass before so this time bought two new flavors: Lemon Rum and Grapefruit Vodka. Just to be safe as I remembered it was too sweet for my taste, we opened one at a time. And that was the best decision ever. We tried the lemon rum, it's a light green color and tastes like overly sweet Sprite in a sickly way. I think I'll be sticking to beer.  

I want to leave you with this final picture. See if you can find what's disturbing about it:

Answer: Why does this bottle of wine cost only 8.80 RMB ($1.40)?!? Did they use fake grapes like the fake egg scandal a few years ago: ?

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Boy Bawang

blogger widgets Gusto kong ipakilala sa iyo ang Boy Bawang. Finally get to put my newly learned Tagalog phrase to use!

I'd like to introduce you to Garlic Boy:
Garlic Boy is the cute character on every Boy Bawang package which is the leading corn snack in the Philippines. These are some of the sample flavors:

L to R: Garlic Flavor, Chili Cheese, Adobo, Bar-B-Q, Hot Garlic
This time I tried the Golden Sweet Corn Butter flavor:

It's sweet at first and then a hint of chili powder and garlic which gives it a kick. I like the crunchiness and the sweet corn taste but not so much the white powder covering each kernel that I assume is either powdered butter flavoring, MSG or a mixture of both. 

So far I've also tried hot garlic, adobo and the chili cheese flavor. My favorite has to be the hot garlic, it's the perfect spiciness for a snack but does leave an overwhelmingly garlic smell behind. The chili cheese and adobo (I'll explain what adobo is below) are both very artificial tasting, similar to the butter flavor, the cheese and adobo flavor are also in powder form. Picture eating the powdered cheese in instant mac and cheese... not very appetizing. 

Filipinos absolutely love garlic, I can see why this snack is so popular. Since being in a relationship (he's Chinese Filipino) I've eaten more garlic in these four years than all my years before. Here's my top 3 favorite Filipino dishes that use garlic:

1. Garlic Rice 
Lots of, you guessed it, GARLIC and butter. What makes it so delicious is that the minced garlic is crispy from being "fried" in the butter. It's not as easy as it sounds as the garlic and butter burn easily. What I've learned from our numerous failed attempts: Keep your fire as low as you can, when you smell a hint of burnt garlic take the pan off the fire and keep the garlic moving with the spatula. It's ready when the garlic is golden like in the picture below (I did not make this):

Image via gostjobles
2. Gambas
Recipe (link in image) calls for garlic and spices. I haven't tried making this myself as it's hard to find some of the spices in China but out of all the dishes I'vr tried in the Philippines, this is probably my favorite.
Image via Burnt Lumpia
3. Adobo- means marinade in Spanish and Tagalog. 
I made adobo a few times myself, proud to say it looks like the picture below. I'll post a picture when I make it next time for those doubters :)

Very basically it's marinating chicken (most common meat used in this dish) in garlic, bay leaf, equal amounts of soy sauce and white vinegar. I give it a spicy kick by adding a lot of sriracha to the marinade (my favorite hot sauce, I think it deserves it's own dedicated post!). 
Image via Wikipedia
To jump back to Boy Bawang, the adobo flavored corn snack is supposed to be flavored like the dish but instead it tastes like eating garlic powder. 

The takeaway from this post is garlic is delicious. If that doesn't convince you to eat more garlic, they are also beneficial to your health. According to Medical News Today, garlic can prevent lung cancerprostate cancerbreast cancerstomach cancer, rectal cancer, and colon cancer. Just lay low on using too much butter in your garlic rice!

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Durian Cake

blogger widgets The world's smelliest fruit banned in some hotels and public transportation, the durian is definitely a blessing in disguise. It is a native fruit to South east Asian countries of Malaysia, Thailand and Philippines.
Photo courtesy of Noracarr123
While most people can't get past the smell to taste it, millions can't get enough of it, including me! Quality durian is a delicacy and can get very expensive if you are outside of southeast Asia and if you just buy the meat of the fruit. It takes a lot of work to get to the inside of a durian similar to what it takes to get to the edible part of a coconut.

Many many years ago when the fruit had just gained some popularity among the Chinese families in the US, my mother bought one to see what the hype was about. Boy, did the smell fill up the house. In mandarin the world for durian is liu(2) lian(2) (榴莲)my Dad nicknamed it chou(4)lian(2) 臭莲, 臭= stinky and that name has stuck ever since. My first thought was that this is most disgusting thing ever! Why would anyone eat this? But I gave it another go and realized that past the smell, durian is delicious and addicting! It has a sweet creamy texture sort of like ice cream, it's hard to describe as there's no other fruit out there like the durian so you must try it for yourself.

A milder version for people out there who want to taste test durian is to try a durian cake.
Durian layer cake from Musang King.
Excuse the half eaten picture, I was so excited I only remembered to take a picture half way through :)
A popular dessert place in Asia for durian specialties is Musang King, I believe it's a chain from Malaysia (not certain) and is very popular in Hong Kong and mainland China. Even before you open the door to the store, the smell of durian hits you. Some people say it smells like stinky socks... but if you are a durian lover like me, you'll start salivating as soon as you smell it! Musang King has every sort of dessert and cafe snacks you can imagine all made with fresh durian, just to list a few: durian shake, durian yogurt, durian chocolate cake, durian coffee. The menu list is very long, they are known for the durian layer cake (in the picture above) which is a perfect combination of cake, cream and a generous amount of fresh durian. The cake is pretty heavy and sweet, eating it with a warm cup of tea (I made some pomegranate bamboo tea) creates the perfect balance. I saw other customers at the store order the cake and durian shake, they must have had a durian overdose for sure!

Another place worth mentioning is Secret Recipe (a chain from Singapore), their durian cheesecake is light, flavorful and highlights the sweetness of the durian. Another great try for newbies.

I actually just found out that Malaysia's musang king is one of the most expensive and sought after variety of durian and as of last year is being sold in the UK for the first time. If you are interested in learning more and keeping up to date with news about this beloved fruit, be sure to check out: Year of the Durian. I'm craving some durian just by writing this post!

Monday, January 12, 2015

Kangaroo and Five Other Jerkies Popular Around the World

blogger widgets This post is dedicated to meat jerkies. I'm not a big meat eater but on my holiday trip to Australia this Christmas I bought some kangaroo and emu jerky to bring back as souvenirs. I've heard that Australians eat kangaroo as a way to keep the kangaroo population in check but still far less popular than the usual beef, chicken and pork. I only saw a few restaurants who featured dishes like fried kangaroo meat and kangaroo burger. Surprisingly one was in a rotating sushi restaurant in Cairns. I never got the courage to order it so I'm not able to tell you what properly cooked kangaroo meat tastes like. This is the haul I brought back from Australia:

Today's all about the jerkies, we'll cover Tim Tams next time
So the million dollar question is then what does kangaroo taste like? So obviously jerky tastes different than cooked meat. This jerky had a pretty strong spicy flavor which covers a lot of the gaminess. But not quite as gamey as buffalo meat even though it feeds on shrubs and grass just like buffalos. The meat is also very lean, I believe their fat percentage is only 2%. Overall the taste is not too bad but the idea of eating kangaroo is not very appealing to me out so one piece was enough! Didn't get a chance to taste the emu jerky, if anyone's tried it before I'd love to hear what you thought.

 I did some research on other types of jerkies that are eaten. So here goes:

5 Unique Jerkies Popular Around the World

Whale Jerky (Japan)

So we know Japan is known for it's sushi, it's fresh sashimi and whale meat? While it's illegal in the states to hunt whale, it's not a rare sight to see whale meat and whale jerky in Japan. Apparently you can even buy it on Amazon Japan. There are reports that show that most whale meat sold in Japan exceeds the Mercury level limit so it's wise not to overdo with eating whale meat. All I can think of is poor Shamu! 
(Image via Evil Tracey)

Ostrich Jerky (USA and other countries)

An exotic animal native to the Africa. Like most herbivores the ostrich meat is very lean. It's not uncommon to find ostrich in specialty jerky stores and online. 

Emu Jerky (Australia)

While ostrich jerky is common in North America, Emu jerky is not so much. Emu's are native to Australia and are the second largest bird in the world after the ostrich.
Ostrich (R) vs. Emu (L)
Image via
Crocodile Jerky (Australia) 

Crocodile along with emu and kangaroo are the three big jerkies in Australia. Why not try all three with Australia's infamous vegemite? I'm just kidding, please don't! I tried vegemite for the first time and why I'm all for trying new things I do want to erase vegemite from my taste memory. Just imagine soy sauce paste mixed with a ton of salt. 

Horse Jerky (Various countries in Europe) 

Not sold in the US even though it is now legal in most states to buy and sell horse meat. From 2006 -2011 horse meat was illegal in the US but horses were allowed to be shipped to slaughterhouses in Mexico and Canada during that time. If you are really interested in what horse meat tastes like you can find a videoon Huffington Post: Is Horse Meat Legal In The U.S.? Yes It Is, And We Ate Some (VIDEO). I don't think I can stomach the thought of it. 

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Traditional Chinese Snacks

blogger widgets
Today in the office my coworkers invited me to try some local Chinese snacks. I have seen most of them in the Asian supermarkets in the states but have never picked any up for myself before. Excited to see what they taste like!

Top Row L to R: FulingJianBing, Glutinous rice cakes, Ultra spicy Green peas
Bottom Row L to R: Brown Sugar Preserved Plums, Spicy Peanuts, Sachima
The FuLingJiaBing aka FuLingBing aka Tuckahoe Pie is like a thin white pancake with filling. The main ingredient which makes it unique is the "fuling" (Poria) which is a mushroom from Yunnan used in Chinese medicine. The medicinal use of the fuling is to reduce dampness from the spleen. Flour, sugar and fuling are mixed together to create the thin white outer layer, it tastes like thick rice paper. Sandwiched in between are a variety of fillings like nuts or honey. The one I tried kind of reminds me of a thin honey jelly nougat with a nutty aftertaste, not as chewy though. The earliest known recipe comes from the Qing Dynasty where the Tuckahoe Pie was served to high ranking officials and the royal family as a light snack. Final Verdict: Don't think I'll be trying it again,  not really a texture or taste that suits me.  

Rice cakes are made from glutinous rice. You can find glutinous rice powder in supermarkets which can be mixed with hot water and turned into rice cakes or it's more common just to buy premade rice cakes. Different Asian countries make different dishes and snacks but all are called rice cakes. Even within China there are different rice cake dishes.

Shanghai'sSavory Rice Cake

 Sweet Pan Fried Rice Cake from Southern China's Guangdong 
Korea's Ddeokbokki Dish (one of my favorite dishes)
Japan's Infamous Mochi
The rice cake snack I tried is a traditional Islamic snack in Beijing called  驴打滚 literal translation is Rolling Donkey. Yes, there's a reason why it's called that and it's from how it's made.  It is made from steamed glutinous millet aka sticky rice and filled with red bean.It is then rolled in soya bean-flour, which is where the snack gets the name. 
Rolling Donkey

The spicy peanut and green pea have a special name for it's spice called MaLa which means numbingly spicy and is a characteristic of Sichuan food (a province in Western China known for it's spicy food). The Sichuan chilies and peppercorn makes your mouth  feel both on fire and numb at the same time. Sounds excruciating but Sichuan hotpot is loved in China, you'll see Sichuan hotpot places practically on every street. It's too much for me to handle but if you love spicy food you will no doubt enjoy Sichuan peppers as well!

Two more snacks to go! Are you hungry yet?

Sachima (the pastry found on the lower right of the first picture) is snack I grew up with. Imagine the American Rice Krispy Treat, very similar airy texture and flavor but with less butter smell. According to research done by Carolyn Phillips in her post "A Chinese New Year Treat Wrapped in Mystery" she found that Sachima originated from Northeast China in what was once known as Manchuria. A little disturbing but Sachima's literal translation from the Manchurian word is "dog nipples dipped in syrup". Good news is that Manchurian's definition of the word "dog nipples" refers to goji berries (a fruit that is similar to Chinese wolfberries). The traditional method of making Sachima is to combine Beijing style egg puffs tossing them in syrup and adding goji berries, nuts, raisins and sesame seed to add flavor and color.

The last snack I tried today is the Brown Sugar Dried Plum candy (黑糖话梅. It's creamy, sweet and sour at the same time. This plum comes from the plum blossom tree and is pickled in vinegar and salt. In Japan, the plums are used in their infamous plum wine.  The Chinese love eating dried plum, not only for the taste but also for medicinal purposes. It can help with bad breath, digestion and the intense sour taste gives a boost of mind. I do advice not to eat too many dried plums in one sitting as it will give you a stomachache but these candies are so hard to resist!

Avocado Cream Cheese Tortilla Chips

blogger widgets During Christmas, my fiancé went to Japan and brought back a ton of snacks. If you've ever been to Japan, you may know that their packaging are so cutesy (or as they say かわいい "kawaii") and unique that it makes you want to try and buy everything!! I had trouble picking which snack that I wanted to try first but I finally settled on these Avocado Cream Cheese Tortilla Chips. 

Apparently Sailor Moon Crystal teamed up with Japanese snack giant Koikeya to bring these series of tortilla chips. For those who don't know, Sailor Moon was a hit anime show in the 90s. All five original characters also referred to as Inner Sailor Senshi are featured on the bags of chips (Moon, Mercury, Mars, Jupiter, and Venus) as well as cape-wearing, rose-tossing ally Tuxedo Mask.

These chips have a very unique taste, a bit sweet, creamy and salty at the same time. After the first chip, my taste buds told me that they didn't like it but I decided to give it another shot. It started to grow on me and I found that I couldn't stop eating them! The tortilla chips taste very fresh and have a great crunch. The chip has a green tint as it's avocado flavored which goes really well with the light cream cheese flavoring and the slightly sweet scent of corn.  

There are two other flavors that you can buy: bagna cauda (a dip from Italy made with garlic, anchovies, olive oil and butter), and balsamico grilled pork. Frito Lays came out with Doritos Avocado Cheese chips that was only available in Japan but they discontinued this flavor as of February of last year. I wonder why they don't sell this flavor in the US, doesn't seem uncommon as we all know how delicious cream cheese and avocados on a bagel tastes.

Since I have so many Japanese snacks to try, the next few posts will continue to be about Japanese snacks!

Saturday, January 10, 2015

New Year New Blog!

blogger widgets
Two years ago I started dumplingbox, a subscription box for Asian snacks as a hobby. I not only wanted to share my love for snacks but also my interest in Asian culture to more people out there. It was great fun searching the shelves of Asian supermarkets for products that I thought my box subscribers would love (also because I wanted to try the snacks myself hehe). The box only lasted for six months, but during the six months dumplingbox was a hit and it was so hard to let go. But I kept my head up as I was moving to the land of snacking, CHINA!

I have been in China for a year and a half now. I've tried so many new snacks, some delicious some just down right weird that I can't wait to share! Recently, dumplingbox was bought by someone who wants to continue the box, for the past two years I have been hesitant to sell as it was my first "business venture" and something I cared a lot about. I think this event prompted me to start this blog as a way to continue sharing my love for snacks in a different way. (I seem to always be excited when I see snacks, this may be an innate passion of mine that I haven't discovered yet!)

I am far from a food critic or a want to be food blogger, I want to use this blog to capture my snack adventures, to learn about new cultures and share my experiences. I'm ready to snack are you?? 

This was my first dumplingbox, I would say these are some of my all time favorite snacks!