Sunday, January 3, 2021

Product Reviews: Southeast Asian Treats

In Roy, Utah there is an Ocean Mart. Ocean Mart is a Utah-based Asian supermarket.[1] I originally went in looking for nattō (which I found) so that I could have my Introductory Microbiology students try it. (Nattō is soybeans that have been fermented by the bacterium Bacillus subtilis var. natto.) Now I go there at least once per semester and I occasionally veer off course and buy something else that has caught my eye. Here are a few recent takes.

Mai's Bakery: Taro Cake: When I cut this open, the kids got excited because they thought it was full of chocolate. I warned them repeatedly that it was taro, not chocolate. But they didn't believe me. Or they didn't pay attention. (Surprised?) In reality, it's sweetened taro paste wrapped in a flaky pastry. Overall the experience was mild. The cake was mildly sweet, mild-flavored, and mild-textured. I would eat it again, but I wouldn't go out of my way to eat it again.

三鹿牌 (CTF Brand): Palm Juice: The ingredients list says that it's 99.998% sap from the coconut palm and 0.002% sodium metabisulfite (a preservative). I'm not sure what I was expecting, but I definitely wasn't expecting what I got. There was a hint of coconut flavor, but mostly it had a sickeningly sweet flavor that reminded me of certain Indian deserts that I've eaten (which probably means that they were flavored with palm juice). Leann said the flavor reminded her of graham crackers or nilla wafers.

Honey Bee: Ramune Lychee: The word ramune is a Japanese approximation of the English word lemonade, so it's pronounced RAH-moo-nay (mouse over for IPA). Despite the name, this is a soda, not a lemonade. This soda had an agreeable flavor that was somewhere in the middle of apple, grape, and bubblegum (which I think tastes like nutmeg). Part of what made the experience unique was that the soda was bottled in a Codd-neck bottle [2], which meant that I had to open it by displacing a marble that subsequently fell into the soda.

Rambutan: This fruit looks pretty terrifying (top), but the curly spikes are actually rather soft. Once the fruit has been peeled (bottom), it looks like a large, white grape. The taste is pretty much like a grape, too. I threw away the seed in the middle, but later read online that the seed is edible.[3] So I can't comment on the flavor of the seed. Unlike the other three, I found this one in my Christmas stocking. Thanks, Santa!

[3] You can learn more about rambutans at

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