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Jan 3, 2013 06:49 AM

Products you miss when you're abroad

Hi, everyone! I'm sure many of you have spent some time away from home, in places where you couldn't get snacks, sauces, jams, and other such-like things that are available in any market or corner store back home.

I'll start off this discussion by saying that I used to live in Malaysia, and I miss a lot of foodstuffs I used to get there. Some of them just can't travel, like young cashew leaves, and then there's also tapai (sweet fermented tapioca root or rice cakes), which is seasonal, but quite a number are things you can buy in many supermarkets over there, year-round, but can't get easily even in a big American city like New York. Here are just three that come to mind:

Good satay sauce

Kaya (coconut custard jam, and I do know of one or two restaurants that sell them here, but it certainly isn't widely available in stores)

Malaysian-style smoky palm sugar (manisan)

What about you?

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    1. We lived in the Netherlands for several years. While there, we missed ice. Whenever we go to Europe, we miss ice!

      Food wise, I missed winter squash, USDA well marbled prime beef and Italian sausages. For the most part, the Dutch don't consider winter squash edible. I was sometimes able to find butternut in the "exotisch" fruits and vegetables (along with similarly classed sweet potatoes!). They grow winter squashes for seasonal decor and sell them in garden centers alongside shiny gourds. I never new what they sprayed them with but how I yearned for acorn, Hubbard, buttercup...but they were not sold for consumption.

      We did not care for the lean, grass fed beef there. And their interpretation of Italian sausage "venkelworst" was truly revolting.

      And sharp cheddar cheese. Occasionally we could buy some British cheddar but it was always exorbitantly priced. Access to so many delicious French cheeses made up in that department. After awhile, the Dutch cheeses didn't differentiate themselves enough.

      1. Really good chocolate milk and ketchup chips.

        1. Just came back from Japan, where I lived for years and still visit every year. Off the top of my head, thinking about stuff to buy at stores or order at restaurants:

          Fresh tofu, persimmons, wild caught winter yellowtail (buri), cheap tuna sashimi, various types of pickles, items fried with nama panko, most any fish (fresh water and ocean), cheap plump oysters, flavored Kit Kats, good katsuo, kombu, crab from Hokkaido, fresh sujiko, sake, shochu, good eggs, pork chashu, ramen with broths made from fish..... And no fucking tipping in restaurants.

          1. My mom is Singaporean, so I spend a lot of time in that part of the world. I LOVE the food items from there, and always hit up the local market before I leave to stock up on supplies. I usually stock up on spices -- I MUST get my Baba's curry powders! Those are my biggest buy, as we can't get them here. I also pick up various spices, like Nasi Goreng seasoning powders in the little sachets (so hubby can make it if I'm not home), Milo candy bars, Lipton 3in1 milk tea, etc.

            I can get several brands of kaya in my local asian markets here - Glory, Srikaya, and Yeo's. I prefer the Glory one, but my kids love the Yeo's one because it's orange.

            When I went to India a few months ago, I brought back some indo-chinese spice mixes, and a few bags/boxes of indian snacks and sweets.

            2 Replies
            1. re: boogiebaby

              Thanks for your replies, everyone, and keep them coming!

              Silverjay, what kinds of pickles are commonly sold in Japanese supermarkets? By the way, one item I really liked when I was briefly in Japan last year was candied satsuma imo.

              boogiebaby, what part of the world are you living in now? Also, do you have a favorite brand of nasi goreng seasoning powder? And any favorite brand of Indo-Chinese spice mixes, or did you buy artisanal ones in bazaars?

              1. re: Pan

                Many types, but I was specifically thinking of nukazuke, which are made from rice bran. These are often homemade by a relative or by restaurants. But you can buy them as well at the store. I also like suzuke pickles, which are rice vinegar. As well as anything misozuke, which are miso aged pickles. I mean, it's not hard to find all these in bags here in NY Asian stores. But I like them home made.