Western foods are scarily mislabeled in Asia
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A host of exciting Western delicacies are being imported to Asia, exciting our palates and destroying our kitchens.
Perhaps the most remarkable of these is the apple puff. This is some sort of innocent-looking pastry item that recently appeared in the frozen section of my supermarket.
Actually, the air-conditioning is so high, the entire supermarket is now the frozen section.
I’m convinced this is a trick to make us buy more. Unless I spend each visit sprinting along the aisles with a massively over-loaded shopping trolley, I risk death by hypothermia.
Shortly before writing this, I arrived breathless at the cashier’s counter to discover that I had snatched up a pack of 12 mini apple puffs, imported from Australia. The instructions said: “Using high energy setting on microwave, heat frozen pastries for five minutes.”
I slipped a couple into the machine, and while waiting for them to warm, I recalled the previous western delicacy I had tried: A Scottish dish called porridge.
The instructions for that dish told me to place the rolled oats in hot water and heat for three to five minutes on the stove. I did that.
Five minutes later, I ended up with a pile of rolled oats at the bottom of a pan of hot water.
I phoned a European friend who is a good cook. “What is porridge supposed to look like?” I said.
“Like a human brain on a dish,” she said.
“That sounds yummy,” I lied. She lived nearby, so came over to investigate. She told me my oats were still raw. She said the instructions on packets were normally wildly inaccurate. She halved the water and quadrupled the cooking time and soon produced something that looked remarkably like a bowl of congealed mucus.
But it didn’t taste as bad as it looked. It tasted much worse. “Are you sure one is supposed to eat this?” I asked, my heart sinking. “It’s not a type of glue?”
This memory was interrupted by the realization that the newly purchased apple puffs were also turning into an interesting experiment.
After one minute they started throbbing. At two minutes they collapsed. At three minutes they turned brown. At four minutes they turned black.
At four and half minutes they burst into flame. I still had half a minute to go, but decided to end the cooking process early.
I phoned my Western friend. “What do apple puffs look like when they’re cooked?” I said.
“The same as when they are raw, only golden and crispy.”
“Oh. Not like lumps of coal?” I asked. “And what about the flames?”
“What flames?” she replied. I realized that I had once more been hit by the Wildly Inaccurate Instructions trick.
Now I realize that if I lived in America, I could sue the vendor of these items for almost burning down my kitchen. If this was America, I could sue the store for extreme humiliation. Indeed, if this was America, I could sue Scotland itself for inventing a scary foodstuff.
But this is Asia, where the Silly Lawsuit, a sign of a sophisticated modern society, does not yet exist. Thank God.
I had rice for dinner.
The writer is a columnist and journalist.