The idea for an Asian snack food tasting session came out of a Twitter convo with Thanh, Adrian and others. It was one of those ideas that sounded fantastic – a group of us getting together for lunch and tasting dried cuttlefish and dried mangoes.
We had lunch (perhaps I’ll blog it later) and then we pulled out our bags of snacks. Look at our selection of dried cuttlefish / fish snacks!
We started off with a pack that I’ve seen often. The slogan on the front of the packet says “Chewing gum of the Orientals”. Ummm thanks!? (I don’t like the term Orientals to describe Asian people… I am not a rug, thank you very much. I laughed when I purchased this packet, but if someone said to my face, I wouldn’t be impressed.)
The brand for this one was Ken Ken. The cuttlefish didn’t have any added flavouring or spices, and… well it was pretty foul. Tastewise, it was very pungent and fishy, and had a rather bitter edge. None of us were fans. Best selected quality? I think not!
Next up was another packet from Ken Ken that came with a sachet of sweetish chilli sauce. I think we were supposed to dip bits of the cuttlefish into the sauce? Like the previous packet, the cuttlefish itself didn’t have any added flavour and the chilli sauce wasn’t very appetising either. The sauce wasn’t enough to drown out the bitter fishiness and it was all pretty awful. Another fail.
The third packet was XO Red cuttlefish. This turned out to be sugar coated – argh. I’m not a big fan of sugar coated cuttlefish – it is such a strange combination.; This was coated with large sugar crystals and was sweet and fishy, a combination that I don’t think works well together! But even though I’m not a big fan, after the previous two packs that we had tried, I actually thought it wasn’t that bad. Not bad, but not great either – I certainly won’t be rushing out to get some more!
Next up was another packet of plain Ken Ken cuttlefish. It had a very chewy texture, and like the other non flavoured versions was awful and boring at the same time. Thanh noted that he liked the very chewy texture, but I couldn’t get over the taste.
The fifth packet was white fish snacks – not cuttlefish, but it fit with the general theme! This one had a subtle, fishy flavour with a papery texture. I’m a big fan of these ones, though I normally buy ones that have a spicy flavour added. I find that with these fish snacks, the more you eat, the nicer they get. It seems that as you chew it (some might find this a bit gross… warning…), the saliva brings out the flavour. I did warn you it sounded a bit gross.
Up next was a bag I think was called Hokka. And – hooray! We finally had a bag of cuttlefish that was good! This version had the most flavour of them all – a little sweet, a little spicy, and fishy. It also had a good texture, being chewy but not too chewy.
The seventh packet was another bag of sugared cuttlefish. It had lots of sugar crystals, and like the XO red version it was that strange mix of sweet and fishy. Not really a combination I’m keen on myself, but Thanh and I were outvoted on this – the other three said that they liked it. Guess there’s no accounting for taste!
Next up was something that looked particularly exciting! We had flattened discs of cuttlefish flavoured with satay (I think) and threaded on sticks. It looked pretty good… but… this received an immediate thumbs down (and even spitting out from the boys). It was sweet and had candy, caramel tones along with the fish flavour. Ugh. It also had a very offputting texture that was somewhat paste like.
Well, almost at the end of the fishy snacks. The last one was sandwiched codfish jerky – inside the strips of fish jerky was black sesame. This one completely confused my taste buds. I grew up eating sweet black sesame soup as a child, which is delicious – all dark and nutty and yum. So imagine black sesame soup, with the addition of fish… yes, it sounds disgusting, and yes, it pretty much was. I disliked this one the most.
After all the dried fish snack eating, we moved on to the dried fruit.
I had brought along a bag of Philippines brand mango (purchased from Costco). I LOVE this stuff, as evidenced by the fact that I had already eaten most of the bag! I was pleased to see that the tasting panel agreed with me. The dried mango tastes like real mango, it’s sweet but it’s not like candy. It had a very soft texture and isn’t as dry and hard as other brands can be. It was a winner!
Next up, we ate some dried pineapple. It came in round slices, which looked great, but the fruit was incredibly sweet, tasting like candy. It didn’t really taste like it was made from real pineapple.
Dried papaya was up next. Papaya had a big hurdle to cross for me, as I despise real papaya. I wasn’t enamoured of the dried version either – like the pineapple it was very sweet, with no particular papaya flavour. It also had an offputting mealy texture. Bleurgh! Eating this reminded me how much I hate papaya.
We then moved on to dried jackfruit. It was also rather sweet, but at least tastewise it had a resemblance to jackfruit with a bit of tartness.
Slices of pickled mango ended our fruit tasting. It was okay, but it was a bit dull. It needed more oomph – more spiciness, more sourness – just more. But at least it was palatable… with the snacks we had eaten already, palatable = good. We had very low standards by the end of the tasting!
We ended with a Dragon Pearl biscuit each. This was one of those Asian style cookies that seem sweet when you start eating them, but turn out to be savoury. The flaky biscuit had an onion filling, which was quite dominating. I-Hua and I liked them, but no one else seemed to!
That ended our snack tasting. I couldn’t believe that while we all love dried cuttlefish, we somehow managed to buy packets of the most disgusting versions ever. While it hasn’t taken away my love for dried cuttlefish, I will be selecting my purchases much more carefully from now on!