月曜日, 3月 07, 2005

Food/Drink: Stay Away!

1)     The Starbucks Coffee Jelly Frappuccino.
    This is a seasonally limited variety of frappucino with small cubes of coffee jelly at the bottom. In my opinion, it is inferior both to the regular Coffee Frappuccino and a similar product at Wendy's you eat with a spoon, the Coffee Jelly Frostie. I feel that the Coffee Jelly Frostie, made with chocolate ice cream, is a superior coffee jelly dessert. Firstly, chocolate and coffee make a more complementary flavor combination than coffee and coffee. Even more significantly, the cubes of coffee jelly in the Wendy's dessert are larger, so you can savor them at your leisure. The most enjoyable feature of coffee jelly is the unique texture, but you don't have time to enjoy it with the Starbucks product. That is because the pieces are so small and numerous that they fly up your straw at an alarming speed. The effect is similar to the feeling you get from sucking up balls of tapioca when drinking bubble tea, but in that case you have a chance to savor the texture of the tapioca because it stays in your mouth much longer than the coffee jelly. The small bits of coffee jelly merely get swallowed almost as soon as they enter your mouth, adding scant benefit to the frappucino except perhaps for excess caffeine. I recommend the Wendy's Coffee Jelly Frostie over this product.

2)     Peanut Whip. It's not peanut butter. It's like marshmallow cream fluff with a hint of peanut butter. Maybe it would be good for a dessert ingredient, but I have at least ten healthier things I prefer to spread on my toast.

3)     Tomato Amatare. I like Spinach Amatare, so I tried the tomato one last night. The experiment failed. Maybe I added too much of the stuff; it just made the cooked tomatoes soggy and ultra-sweet. Tomatoes are one vegetable that don't really need a sweet sauce, even if you decide for some reason (influenced by East Asian cooking styles, perhaps?) to cook them rather than eat them raw.

Amatare means sweet sauce. In Japanese, Western sauces are called sauce, while Japanese sauces are called "tare". Because it seemed interesting, I translated some of the Wikipedia article on tare:

"Tare" is used as a general term for a seasoning liquid typified by the tare for yakitori, the tare for yakiniku, and the tare for grilled eel. The word is used mostly for Japanese cooking, and the equivalent word "sauce" is used for Western cooking. Tare originally referred to "taremiso," the prevalent sauce in Japan until soy sauce became widespread. From the Meiji Period on, the fluid used for grilling eel and other foods also can be called "tare".

To make "taremiso," add miso to three times its amount of water and mix well. Boil it down and strain it. You could carve some dried bonito flakes with a knife (until the end of the Meiji period, there were no machines to carve bonito flakes, and it was usually carved by hand with a small knife) and add it to the boiled-down sauce, but because bonito flakes were expensive, it is thought that taremiso usually consisted only of miso. Tare that was not boiled down first, which used less water, was called "Namadare" ("raw" tare).

   Isn't that something like pouring straight miso soup on your food? Without cooking it first?
   The article continues with the history of tare, quoting a cookbook from 1643 and concluding with the intriguing headings, "the Disappearance of Tare" and "the Resurgence of Tare." Basically, soy sauce, invented in the 13th century, eventually gained nationwide acceptance, spelling a decline in the consumption of tare. The "revival" of tare happened in 1955, when Korean-style restaurants achieved popularity in Japan. The invention of shabushabu in 1952 (it's a wonder they can pinpoint these modern discoveries so exactly, but I'm still not clear about what happened to soy sauce between the 13th century and the 18th) brought tare into the public consciousness, and thereafter tare came to be used widely for many kinds of sauces. In 2004, some people began, for the first time, to call the soup for soba noodles "tare". This historic moment was also documented for posterity in the Wikipedia article on "soba tsuyu."


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