I'm fortunate to live in an area of Atlanta that has a different international market on every corner. This opens up a variety of options to me as far as bizarre snacks, questionable ingredients and general experimentation. And I do love experimentation.
While we enjoy the cheap meats, hard-to-find ingredients and overall selection at the markets, one of our favorite things to do is to buy something strange-looking and just try it. You never know when you'll find that one thing that you didn't know you loved yet and can't live without. Personally, I tend to focus on drinks. You can tell a lot about a culture by looking at what they drink.
For example, people in Taiwan like things that taste gross. I'm not making this up. If you are lucky (?) enough to try a delicious (?), freshly chilled can of Mong Lee Shang's Pearl Soybean Drink (with tapioca ball) in Mung Bean Flavor, you'll agree that the Taiwanese sure do drink things that taste like mung bean. Ahh...tastes like cultural enlightenment to me!
To be fair, this drink isn't all bad. There's a lovely frappucino flavor...somewhere in there. The problem is that it's overshadowed by a grassy/beany flavor that kind of kills the whole effect. And with that grassy/beany flavor, the tapioca pearls become just grassy/beany-flavored chunks of goo in the mix. There's nothing cute or fun about them at all. I was left feeling cheated. I was also left swigging some Blue Monster to get the grassy/beany flavor out of my mouth.
I asked for second opinions from my cohorts, Jake and Joe (PhantomV48). When they finished glaring at me and making yuck faces, they agreed that while the Taiwanese people are lovely in general, they sure do enjoy drinking things that taste like mung bean.
We rated this one 2 out of 5 mung beans. In all honesty, it made me very curious to try other Taiwanese drinks to find out if this was just one bad drink out of the bunch. I'll report my findings.
So, hopeful that the next drink would be at least marginally more delicious, I decided to try Jumex's Tamarind Nectar (from concentrate). Now this is more like it. Reading the can, I see that tamarind is fat and cholesterol free and is a natural source of fiber. It's also a natural source of delicious. It tastes very similar to apricot. Obviously, Mexican people know what's up when it comes to nectars.
It's a lovely golden-orange color, and has a great balance of sweet and tart. I can imagine it in mixed drinks, maybe in place of peach or mango. You could do beautiful things with this and a flavored rum.
Reading the back, however, I'm a little disappointed to see that this is only 25% juice. It also has preservatives, which means that it won't ferment. To us, that means that we can't make wine with it. Bummer. However, we can use it to flavor wine, and so we may revisit that at some point.
We're giving this 4 out of 5 tamarinds. It's delicious, but still not completely mind-blowing.
Feeling positive, we venture onwards in hopes that our next experiment will prove as successful! We break open a bottle of Atomic Mauby Roots Drink (open with care). I have to be honest. The bottle doesn't say delicious. The bottle says "medicine your grandmother makes you take." True to that theme, the label has a lot of words. According to the aforementioned words, mauby is a bark which "makes a refreshing, energizing drink, packed with vitamins and minerals." Um. ...Yum?
This drink also contains sasparilla, chainey root, and a few other barks indigenous to Jamaica. There are also such diverse elements as; alfalfa, comfrey, dandelion, bee pollen, cloves, and aloe vera. Ah. ......Yum?
In fact: No. Not very yum at all. We had to pass this one around to figure out what that familiar flavor and scent was. Clove? Nope. Steak sauce? Maybe. Worcestershire sauce? THAT'S IT! (Much congratulating and back slapping ensued.)
It's also carbonated, which is a bit strange for something that tastes so much like Worcestershire sauce. Jake called it "effervescent and light with an aftertaste of blaaarrggghhhh." Overall, I don't have much to say about this one. We're going to save it and marinate something meaty in it. Maybe one of these fancy sheep heads.
Maybe then we'll be able to give it an accurate rating, but for now I'll just say we're giving it 1 out of 5 mauby roots.
Anyway, that's it for this adventure. Join us next time when I'll inflict three new drinks on my minions in an attempt to educate and amuse you with our suffering. In the meantime, why not find your closest international markets and do some experimenting for yourself? You may find your next favorite thing. Just steer clear of the mung.