It's real hot here today. So hot that I'm actually grateful for rompers (there's something I never thought I would type) because my impulse purchase before I left for California is about to become a staple of my wardrobe. I've never spent more than a few months in a hot climate so I still want to run outside whenever the weather is "nice" (read: not cloudy or damp) and air conditioning is just too darn cold. Well, when it's a relatively reasonable 90 degrees (32 for my celsius friends) anyway. This time last year I had just returned from 3.5 months in Southeast Asia and that was when I came to truly appreciate air conditioning. May in Eastern Cambodia was the hottest I have ever been in my entire life. I spent one night with a Cambodian family in Kratie and was so hot that if I wasn't laying awake gasping for breath, I was dreaming about ripping all my clothes off and running the mile through the trees into the river. Seattle raises some real weather wimps, I know. I traveled throughout Vietnam, Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia on that trip - mostly alone but sometimes with delightful visitors from home. Whenever I arrived in a new place alone, there would inevitably come the moment when the foreignness of it all would overwhelm me and I would feel a deep, very American urge to find an air conditioned grocery store. The traditional open-air markets were one of my favorite parts about traveling in Southeast Asia and I would often get up early to beat the other tourists and travelers and wander through the stalls admiring fruits and vegetables I had never seen before. But nothing beats the comfort of packaged food with clearly labeled prices and the sweet relief of icy cold air blowing in your face.
But you know what else grocery stores carried that the traditional markets didn't? You guessed it.
These gems were found in Ho Chi Minh City (formerly called Saigon), Vietnam and since I was only three weeks into my trip at that point, I restrained myself and only bought one box to carry home in the bottom of my bloated backpack.
These I found in Vientiane, Laos the night I arrived when I was feeling particularly homesick and overwhelmed. You'll note that many of the packaged mixes I found in Southeast Asia were actually agar, not gelatin. Agar is plant-based whereas gelatin is...not. But I'm not sure why it would be more popular in the region - something to research another day.
These pre-made treats were spotted in the Bangkok, Thailand airport and I wish I'd tried all the flavors. Apparently at that point in my trip 34 baht (about $1 USD) seemed too expensive for an airport treat.
Nutrijell sounds almost healthy! I found these in Phnom Penh, Cambodia and am super impressed by the effort to fortify such an unhealthy food with vitamins. Good effort.
More of some familiar brands in Thailand. I'm especially intrigued by the coffee flavor.
This is something folks may have come across state-side if you frequent Asian groceries:
A "grass-jelly" drink that I tried at the largest market in Thailand.
And I also came across it in a Chiang Mai, Thailand night market.
Speaking of sugary, slightly tacky foods, boy do I miss it being socially appropriate to put sweetened condensed milk in everything.