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Sport Balls, Anyone? How About Pocari Sweat?

May 11th, 2009 by Kevin Murphy · 53 Comments

I love going to our local pan-Asian supermarket, United Noodles, in Minneapolis.  Besides having great sushi supplies, wonderful roast duck, fresh burdock root, lotus chips, quail eggs, duck eggs and tofu about a hundred ways, I always find something I’ve never seen nor heard of before.  To wit:

pocari sweat

They actually had a table set up for tasting this stuff, like a Pepsi Challenge gone horribly wrong.  I tasted it – it’s not at all sweat-flavored, and I learned that it’s sold as a sport beverage in Japan.  Think of it as Vitamin Water with a more provocative name.  Speaking of sports:

sport balls

I had a harder time figuring this one out.  What makes these balls particularly sporty?  Is it the coconut, or the syrup they’ve drowned in? Or do I pursue filthier avenues, afforded me by another fine Florence brand product:

jackfruit

This could mean anything, really.  I immediately presume that it’s the source of Jack-in-the-Box’s infamous Jack Sauce.  Truth is that jackfruit is a common Asian tree-fruit, often cultivated while unripe and, thanks to its chickeny texture prepared and sold as “vegetable meat.”

But before you shudder,  I’ll leave you with somethign a little closer to home:

cushion meat

That’s right, Cushion meat.  I believe the name says it all.  Great price, too!

And now I invite you to venture forward to your favorite local non-traditional melting-pot food provider and send us some examples of real, honest-to-goodness foods that you’ve never heard of.  I’m talking commercially available on a store shelf, none of this Andrew Zimmern stuff. Now get out there and have fun.

Tags: RiffTrax

53 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Jeff on May 11, 2009 at 1:46 pm

    When I was an exchange student in Japan, I was afraid to try Pocari Sweat. I still don’t think I could do it. . .

    SHUDDER

  • 2 Bastian on May 11, 2009 at 2:08 pm

    I tried some Pocari Sweat when I was in London a few weeks ago. My friend Adam loves the stuff. Honestly, it’s not so bad.

  • 3 Erica on May 11, 2009 at 2:23 pm

    Damn, I never realized what a white town I lived in until I realized I have no favorite melting pot food provider other than the Greek pizza place across the street from me.

    I long to be able to say to my friends and family, “I’m gonna run over to United Noodles, you need anything?”

  • 4 Chris D. on May 11, 2009 at 2:27 pm

    Yeah I have a cousin from Japan who brought back some powder-form Pocari sweat a few years ago. It’s pretty big over there I guess. He said it’s the Japanese equivalent of Gatorade.

  • 5 James Shearhart on May 11, 2009 at 2:28 pm

    I once had a rather nice pulled pork crumple zone meat sandwich, but I have yet to try cushion meat pork….

    Maybe it throws the average Asian shopper when it’s labeled “Boston butt”?
    “What? A butt from Boston?! I’m not eating that! Oh, pork cushion? Okay, I’ll have two pounds….”

  • 6 Rob III on May 11, 2009 at 2:34 pm

    Stay away from Wu Yi Slim Tea.

  • 7 Libby on May 11, 2009 at 2:49 pm

    I love Pocari Sweat! It’s really great in the summer months, because Japan is basically the inside of a sweaty gym sock in July. I think Calpis is weirder (yeah, say that out loud and just try to imagine what it tastes like).

  • 8 Libby on May 11, 2009 at 2:50 pm

    Also, you should give me a ride up from Northfield (I go to Carleton) to United Noodles. It would be the best road trip ever.

  • 9 karen on May 11, 2009 at 3:13 pm

    hee hee. yes the japense do have some strange stuff to be eaten. :)

  • 10 chrismartindeed on May 11, 2009 at 3:26 pm

    Florence Sport Balls?

    Florence Jackfruit?

    I don’t want to know what goes on in Florence’s kitchen.

  • 11 wbwolf on May 11, 2009 at 3:42 pm

    You don’t know what you are missing. I fell in love with the stuff when I was in Japan. I prefer it to Gatorade. Get it every time I go to an Asian market.

    At least Kevin didn’t ponder Calpis…

  • 12 Popcorn Sonata on May 11, 2009 at 4:41 pm

    Seriously, I don’t know if what Flo is doing is illegal or just incredibly misguided…and salty.

  • 13 MikeH on May 11, 2009 at 4:57 pm

    I’m in Maine, and unless I travel 80 miles south to Portland, there’s nothing really close to ethnic except some Chinese fish sauce at the local health food store. Kinda sad

  • 14 lazuline on May 11, 2009 at 6:11 pm

    My girlfriend grew up in Japan and she used to love drinking the stuff before I told her how bad the

    !! __MSG__ !!

    that is used to flavor the drink is for her. Well, the Japanese invented MSG, so no surprise there.

  • 15 lazuline on May 11, 2009 at 6:15 pm

    Also, I ate fresh Jack fruit in China from a street vendor.

    It tastes like a bananago (banana + mango )

    really delicious, too bad some Jackass had to name it after himself.

  • 16 jenifersf on May 11, 2009 at 7:02 pm

    Better than Dog Sweat. http://www.engrish.com/2009/04/caution-may-contain-traces-of-drool/

  • 17 Seamus the Red on May 11, 2009 at 7:16 pm

    As a perminent resident of Japan I come across tons of Japanglish products everyday. Recently I tried “ebitcho” a chocolate covered shrimp flavored chip.

    Or “Depresso” a can coffee…and recently I spotted a new cookie in the supermarket called “Chokies”!

    And of course there is the old favorite snack standby… “Collon Cream”

  • 18 Johnny-Longtorso on May 11, 2009 at 8:25 pm

    Jackfruit is the source of the flavoring of Bubblicious Gum. The fruits are huge – and smell, well, just like the gum does.

    I also happen to like Pocari Sweat, drank tons of it when in Tokyo doing trade events (lots of heavy lifting). There was also a canned coffee I fell in love with – called “Scat”. I don’t think they make it any more…. for obvious reasons.

  • 19 Gurdygroan on May 12, 2009 at 12:04 am

    The curse of living in Scotland is that you can’t get Root Beer very many places, apart from my local chinese supermarket. Singaporean import. and various other drinks, including roasted cocnut juice, with genuine lumps of roasted coconut floating in it.

  • 20 chrismartindeed on May 12, 2009 at 1:08 am

    And how can she taste her recipes while wearing a leather mask.

  • 21 BEMaven on May 12, 2009 at 1:13 am

    Do what the Irish do, laddy. Build yourself a root beer still.

  • 22 Margoo on May 12, 2009 at 1:13 am

    As far as unusual fruit is concerned, I would recommend lychee. If you can get them fresh they’re excellent, but most Asian grocery stores have canned lychee, lychee soda, jellied lychee candy, etc.

    I would, however stay as far away as you can from durian. To try to get an idea of what the flavor is like I looked it up on wikipedia where the flavor compared to “…civet, sewage, stale vomit, skunk spray and used surgical swabs.” A lot of public places in Thailand won’t even allow them inside because of the smell.

    I’m also a big fan of Pocky (thin bread sticks dipped in chocolate or other sweet coverings) and fish sauce (fermented fish juice) although not together. But as far as the area I’m in is concerned, neither is really “exotic” so I don’t know if they count.

    By the way the two Asian stores back in my hometown that we went to were Wing Wa and the A-Dong market. Seriously. At the latter they even sell a shirt saying, “I shopped at the Dong.”

  • 23 Stacia on May 12, 2009 at 1:49 am

    This makes me regret throwing away that box of Wang Glove I found a couple days ago. I bought some years ago for the funny factor. Of course, someone else did too, so you can see what I used to own until Saturday:

    http://www.thehumorsource.com/system/items/34018.jpg

  • 24 Michael ("Kruge") Briel on May 12, 2009 at 3:31 am

    I’m a German and the worst “name your fast food product” – fail I personally ever encountered happened just this year. A local grocery chain started selling “Obama Fingers” – I walked through the aisles, saw it and almost burst out laughing immediately. It’s Chicken Fingers.

    Now, the producing company can honestly be excused from being racists – in Germany we don’t have the “Black Ppl = Chicken and Watermelons”-cliché, me I know about it, because I like English as a language and also standup comedy. But, yes, it certainly was a fumble in research not to come across this before printing the packages (google obama chicken fingers).

    For me the worst thing about the whole affair: I bought one, planning to write a oh-so-witty blog article about it all. And they honestly taste like crap. Compared to those things a McNugget is food for the gods!

    They came covered in what turned out to be some cornflake stuff that tasted like carton paper and that was so “crunchy” it hurt my gums. The so-called “curry sauce” that was included tasted incredibly sour. Not your “sweet sour sauce”-sour, more the “licking the poles of a battery while chewing on tin foil”-sour.

    BLEAGH!

  • 25 Michael ("Kruge") Briel on May 12, 2009 at 3:42 am

    You had me with the Depresso coffee and the Chokies cookies, the Collon Cream was the final killer… lol

  • 26 Wook on May 12, 2009 at 5:14 am

    Untied Noodles sounds like a great place. Personally I hate it when I buy noodles and get them home and they’re all tied up in a giant Gordian noodle knot and I hafta spend hours puzzling over it until I become furious and chop it to pieces with a hatchet, which usually wrecks dinner, all in the cause of conquering Asia. What a drag. So thanks, Untied Noodles, for letting me laugh at Lo Mein. Again.

  • 27 Ben on May 12, 2009 at 5:35 am

    I ask myself what would I do if I saw someone wandering around a store taking photos of food items…I think my response would depend on how much physical contact there was between the photographer and his subject. There is such a thing as too much pork fondling.

  • 28 Katie Jane on May 12, 2009 at 7:14 am

    My favorite snack from a visit to the Philippines: cracker nuts. Literally, peanuts covered in a cracker, almost fortune-cookie type coating. They are amazing and used to be available at my local Asian market in different flavors.

    I also loved some sweet-tea flavored hard candy I got in Manila, but I’ve never been able to find it here.

  • 29 BEMaven on May 12, 2009 at 8:06 am

    You would probably make a good living in Japan by thinking up names for their snacks.

    Sugarless Tin Foil Chewing Gum

    Lick The Battery Poles Ice Cream

  • 30 Earl Fando on May 12, 2009 at 11:04 am

    Please tell us that’s not used with the Steve Martin all-natural beauty cream.

  • 31 Earl Fando on May 12, 2009 at 11:05 am

    I always thought cracker nuts was a southern dish.

    The idea of sweet tea candy makes me drool though. Love the liquid version (which, when made correctly, also tastes similar to candy).

  • 32 Music-chan on May 12, 2009 at 11:47 am

    When I still lived in Michigan, there was this great Asian market in Lansing (actually, I believe it’s still there. But don’t ask me which street it’s on) that had ALL SORTS of great Asian foods.

    Along with the Pocari Sweat though, they had this juise called Grass Pulp. I have never, ever, EVER had the courage to try it.

  • 33 Music-chan on May 12, 2009 at 11:48 am

    In a search for the cans, I actually came across this fun little package:

    http://www.indsider.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2008/07/banana-juice_thumb.jpg

    Not grass juice, but really cool looking

  • 34 Lucy's Bane on May 12, 2009 at 11:45 pm

    We have both Ranch 99 and Nijiya Market (aka Ninja Market to hubby and I) here in Silicon Valley. Oh the heaven!

    Favorites: Collon Cream (yes!), fresh sashimi (not inventive, but tasty anyway), daikon sprouts (super spicy!), and that unfiltered sake that comes in a pink bottle.

    @Libby: Northfield FTW! My husband’s pop taught physics at Carleton. He retired a couple of years ago.

  • 35 euphoriafish on May 12, 2009 at 11:49 pm

    But instead you drink Gatorade, with a name that insinuates it could be from the sweat glands of a radioactive alligator?

    Pocari Sweat’s an old favorite for me. Calpis is twice as weirdly named. And what’s truly gross is the canned drink at my local Chinese grocery, which has whole adzuki beans in it.

  • 36 euphoriafish on May 12, 2009 at 11:56 pm

    Really, Mr. Murphy? Pocari Sweat was new to you? It tastes better than the name would lead you to believe. The coconut sport balls are new to me too, however. Wonder how they taste?

    Anyway, I bet I can scoop anyone else here on weird Asian food. Ever try peach-flavored pig placenta?
    http://www.cscoutjapan.com/en/index.php/placenta-10000-jelly-drink-is-foshu-for-beauty/

  • 37 euphoriafish on May 13, 2009 at 12:23 am

    See also Bilk — Beer-milk drink: http://www.japanprobe.com/?p=1059

  • 38 euphoriafish on May 13, 2009 at 12:24 am

    See also Bilk (Beer + Milk): http://www.japanprobe.com/?p=1059

  • 39 euphoriafish on May 13, 2009 at 12:24 am

    See also Bilk: http://www.japanprobe.com/?p=1059

  • 40 Katie Jane on May 13, 2009 at 4:22 am

    I quite agree.

  • 41 AnnPeek on May 13, 2009 at 11:14 am

    I’ve seen the Sweat drink @ Uwajimaya, our local pan Asian supermarket. Heh. My favorite find is Seasoned Baby Octopus. Yep. Oh, and less creepy, but I’m not sure what to do with it ~ packets of squid ink. I would try the red yolked duck eggs, though, on a dare.

  • 42 Elizabeth Young on May 13, 2009 at 1:16 pm

    This stuff doesn’t scare me as much as the McRib. Whatever they put in there is a sweet as meth to a bunch of white NASCAR lovers.

  • 43 Hayclearing on May 13, 2009 at 6:33 pm

    The strangest food I’ve ever found, tasted, and enjoyed is melon soda. This doesn’t seem strange at all, until you get hooked on it – then you realize that any American product with melon flavoring is watermelon, and the ONLY place you can find honeydew melon flavored anything are Asian markets and restaurants. I woke up one day to the realization that I now know at least five places in town I can get honeydew flavored beverages, and feared for my sanity.

    This may be why I haven’t been that adventurous in my Asian snacks since.

  • 44 Michael ("Kruge") Briel on May 14, 2009 at 8:04 am

    The squid ink is used to colour (flavour too? I dunno) dishes. I remember a cooking show on German TV where Blixa Bargeld, head of the Einstürzende Neubauten and bass-player and writer for Nick Cave, cooked a Risotto with octopus ink.

  • 45 Gamera on May 14, 2009 at 4:14 pm

    At $4.94 the Cushion Meat is a bargain. Its a meal you can nap on, and it may also be used as a floatation device.

  • 46 euphoriafish on May 14, 2009 at 7:08 pm

    Squid ink was used in spaghetti in the Italian restaurants I visited in Tokyo.

  • 47 euphoriafish on May 14, 2009 at 7:10 pm

    Melon soda’s great. It’s cucumber Pepsi that kinda scares me.

  • 48 The United Noodles Cornucopia of Weird « The Heavy Table on May 15, 2009 at 5:25 am

    [...] Murphy (of Mystery Science Theater 3000 fame) visits United Noodles and does the “holy moly, Asian grocery stores are CRAZY!” thing. One highlight: Coconut Sport Balls. “What makes these balls particularly sporty? Is it the [...]

  • 49 Michael ("Kruge") Briel on May 15, 2009 at 7:44 am

    Yes, right – the Italians use it as well!

  • 50 RedQueen on Jun 15, 2009 at 6:53 am

    I went to MSU, and I think I know the place you’re talking about! I got half the people in my dorm addicted to this poisonously strong canned coffee they sold. I still long for the stuff lo these many years later, and I haven’t found it anywhere since.

    I think I understand how all the crack addicts will feel if we ever do win the War On Drugs(tm).

  • 51 soemoe on Nov 16, 2009 at 11:03 am

    hi….I m eagerly hope to build a juice factory in Myanmar….with good quality..like pocari sweat..comfort to drink and it taste is very good….in our country..u can get cheap labor and investment…why don’t u spread your economy..to developing country…