The picture above is a scoop of mango ice-cream (in this case Selecta brand) drizzled with black coffee. It’s a combo I learnt from my dad when I was a kid growing up in Hong Kong. I was about eight or nine when he shared this with me and, at the time, it seemed a little bizarre. Firstly, coffee is a drink and, as far as I was concerned back then, it was a breakfast drink or an after dinner drink. I remember the first time I saw my dad make this combination was at the old Kai Tak Airport and we were heading off on a trip to Manila. It was mid-afternoon, we were at the old restaurant enjoying a snack before our fight was called. (For you fellow Hong Kongers, yes, Green Noodles was a part of this snack.) So, for my dad to have ordered a cup of coffee at mid-afternoon was a bit of a shock to me. Mid-afternoon snacks – merienda, as we call them in Tagalog – are commonplace but I couldn’t recall ever seeing my dad, or anyone for that matter, drinking coffee at that time. Secondly, it just seemed strange to consume black coffee. I was already a coffee drinker at that time but I’d put milk and sugar in it; something my parental grandparents – my lolo (grandfather) and lola (grandmother) – showed me, drinking our coffees from recycled bottles of Nescafe (which became the drinking glasses of the house). Black coffee, as my dad had it, was something altogether new and even scary. Additionally, black coffee isn’t sweet so adding something that isn’t sweet to something that is made this combo more odd in my mind. In spite of all of this, black coffee drizzled over mango ice-cream is something that I’ve grown to love and, at certain times, something I crave.
Mixing sweet and savoury, however, as I look back on my youth and my culinary upbringing, isn’t something that’s new or unheard of in Filipino and other Asian cuisines. Banana eaten with almost any kind of Filipino dish (Adobo, Asado, Bistek, to name a few) is something my late father-in-law enjoyed and something my mother still does. Atchara, pickled unripe papaya, is another sweetish Filipino side dish that’s often eaten with pork BBQ or salted fish. Oyster sauce, going purely on its name, sounds like a salty dip that might have a graininess to it. In reality, it’s very smooth and a little salty but with a sweetness to it as well. For those of you who might be sure what oyster sauce is, it’s the brown sauce on top of the steamed Kai Lan (Chinese broccoli) that’s served at dim sum. Indian food is often served with mango chutney which is a little bit sweet and, of course, there’s Raita, a yoghurt-based dish, usually made with cucumber, to add a sweet cut to the spicy yumminess of curries.
Taking a step away from Asian cuisine, my mother used to enjoy her McDonald’s French Fries with a strawberry milkshake. The French (I think it was the French) came up with chocolate covered ants; something I’ve yet to try. Strange combinations of taste and/or ingredients aren’t new but new ones do arise. A few years ago, one of my foodie friends came over with chocolate covered bacon. It came from a shop in Brooklyn, where she lives, and I think it’s a combo that originated at this shop. In fact, what prompted me to write this blog post was a new flavour of Pop Tarts my son and I discovered at the grocery store – Maple Bacon.
In recent years, salted caramel has been the flavour du jour and it’s lasted making it more a ‘flavour des annees’ (pardon my horrible French, which I studied for four years in secondary school). As if it was just discovered, like some rare valuable commodity, every food merchant and manufacturer was capitalising on its value. ‘Salted Saramel You-name-it’ popped up everywhere; in Starbuck’s Frappucinoes, Nature Valley snack bars, coffees and coffee creamers, pancake toppings, everywhere.
As a foodie, I’m always interested in new flavour combos so if you have anything interest that you’ve created or enjoyed since your childhood, do share. Please. Leave a comment.
Anyway, thanks for stopping by and I wish you happy times in the kitchen.
P.S. Another interesting combo I got from my dad – actually there are two – are the following and happened during one of our Christmas dinners in Hong Kong. For reasons I can’t say, because I don’t know them, my dad mixed our Leche Flan (Filipino flan made from egg yolks, condensed milk, kalamansi or lemon rind) with our Fruit Salad (not a fresh fruit salad but more of an Ambrosia, with grated cheese and Nestle cream). The other combo he did was to add our Macaroni Salad (with shredded chicken breast, diced hot dog, mayonnaise) to the Fruit Salad. Hmm. I’ve tried the former but not the latter and I can say that the mixing of the two sweets is okay but not fantastic (I like them both but putting them together is like a culinary identity crisis). When (if) I get to the other one, I’ll let you know.