Friday, May 27, 2005

Asian junk food

I picked up this addicting Thai snack from my recent trip to Bua Siam in North Hollywood. Displayed on cheap IKEA shelves, along with other take-away goodies like dried mango and Thai cookies, this was a package of, more or less, fried bait. It was beguilingly called "Fish Snack". Something to feed your koi perhaps? More descriptive, but still slightly ambiguous was the phrase "Crispy Seasoning Anchovies with Sesame." No matter. The worse the English, the more authentic, I always say.

Promising funky fishiness and breath-fouling deliciousness, I told the waiter to put it on my tab, for a pittance of $1.50.

Opening the package, I braced myself for the funky fishy fumes to emanate. But alas, my olfactory senses were left disappointed. This mass of fried anchovies was mysteriously bereft of that rotting rankness I've come to associate with anything containing dried fish.

I promptly broke off a piece from the sticky, caramel-colored mass and shoved it in my mouth. The crunch was similar to a very dense Cheetoh, if it were made from fish and laced with a spicy caramel glaze. Headless and puffed like a Japanese rice cracker, these aren't your average fried anchovies (is there such a thing?).

The first flavor to hit was the cloying sweetness of honey, giving way immediately to both chili heat and salty fish. It was hard to stop munching them. Fish after fish, I was addicted. And after a few mouthfuls, and a swig of cold Thai beer, my breath reeked like the San Pedro Fish Market in July.

I'm almost done with the bag, and now I need to find a place in OC to get my fix.

In an attempt to de-anchovy my breath, I popped a few of these Lychee Jelly Snacks I picked up from 99 Ranch in Irvine. The topic of a recent discussion on Chowhound, these are the culprits of many choking deaths. Well, it wasn't exactly these snacks, but its predecessor that was banned by the FDA.

The chunk of coconut previously suspended in these jelly cups were larger single gobs of chewy gelatin caled "konjak", just the right size to slip right into a child's throat and get lodged in the windpipe. The ones produced now are harmless. The chunks of coconut konjak are now chopped into smaller, swallowable pieces.

But they are still just as tasty as before. The lychee flavor comes through fresh and sweet. The juices will dribble down your lips just as though you were biting into a real lychee, while the coconut konjak provides the contrast of chewiness to the soft jelly, again giving the sensation that you are eating the real thing.


At 10:38 AM, Blogger Daily Gluttony said...

Wow! I didn't know those lychee jellies were back on the shelves.

Looks like I am going to become a Lychee Jelly Junkie again! They're addictive!!!

At 8:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

All of the kids in the neighborhood are now begging me for these daily. --Never enough around. Mango is second to Taro.

At 2:07 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi there.
I believe the "coconut jelly" in question is the chunks of semi-obtuse chewiness in the jelly itself, which us souteast asians call "nata de coco", made from the fiber of coconut pulp. The clear, softer flavored jelly itself is the infamous konjac, (also called konnyaku- made from a type of yam) commonly used in japan and to a slightly lesser extent the rest of asia as both cooking and dessert ingredient.

At 11:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just got hooked on those "headless anchovies" with
sesame, sugar, salt, and chile.

I wish they made some without any
sweetening, though. Made with
lemon/lime, salt, and chile would
be delicious, and not disturb my
blood sugar. -- Mel

At 11:13 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Elmo,
Thank you for your blog, next time, I will know where to hunt my food. :) I am just curious where are you from? You have a lot of Thai, Malay, Indo restaurant in your blog. I am from Malaysia, have you try Belacan Grill in Redondo Beach? It is the best Malaysian restaurant I have.
Have a good day, keep posting because your blog is very special

At 11:18 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...


Glad you found me! To answer your question, I'm from Indonesia. But I enjoy all kinds of food. I have heard of Belacan Grill and I desperately want to try it! Thanks for the reminder. I really need to make the drive.

At 10:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

you got it all wrong! These new fruit jellies SUCK compared to the original. Not even close.I'd know, because I've tried them all.

It's not about taste, but texture, and the current crop all have the same mushy texture.

The old ones had a bit of bite in them. The problem wasn't the chunk in the middle, but that the rest of it wouldnt break up without chewing. The new jellies break up on their own with slight pressure. That's what's missing.



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