Good things for keeps

Handcrafted Palm Sugar ($6.90 for a 150g pack, above) is made from sap from the sugar palm tree.
Handcrafted Palm Sugar ($6.90 for a 150g pack, above) is made from sap from the sugar palm tree.PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI FOR THE SUNDAY TIMES
Confirel Kampot Pepper Sauce ($9.90 for a 150ml bottle, above) from Cambodia
Confirel Kampot Pepper Sauce ($9.90 for a 150ml bottle, above) from Cambodia PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI FOR THE SUNDAY TIMES
Glico Pocky and Pretz
Raw Forest Honey ($18 for a 250g jar, above) from north-eastern Laos.
Raw Forest Honey ($18 for a 250g jar, above) from north-eastern Laos.PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI FOR THE SUNDAY TIMES
3 Bites Full Handmade Gourmet Nougats
3 Bites Full Handmade Gourmet NougatsPHOTO: LIM YAOHUI FOR THE SUNDAY TIMES

In more than a decade of writing this column, I have been mostly surprised by my food finds. The good ones make it to the column. And, of course, there is a scrap heap of products that do not make the grade.

I still get excited when I stumble on something great and these products from a shop called 100 Good Things make me sit up when I taste them.

The shop in Balestier Road finds sustainably and ethically produced products from the region. Ms Joan Koh, who is in her 40s, also stocks soap, bags, bangles, shawls and other products in her shop, which opened in April.

I find the Confirel Kampot Pepper Sauce ($9.90 for a 150ml bottle) from Cambodia thoroughly addictive. It is a thick, green sauce made with peppercorns grown in Kampot province. The only ingredients that go into the sauce are the peppercorns, sugar palm vinegar, salt and water.

It does not blow the head off with heat. Instead, the sauce is aromatic and you appreciate the mellow heat of the pepper. That vinegar adds a lot of pep. It is great with fried fish and as a dip for steamed crab.

Handcrafted Palm Sugar ($6.90 for a 150g pack) is made from sap from the sugar palm tree. The sugar does not have as deep a molasses flavour as gula melaka or gula java, but its delicate flavour is still captivating.

I have been using it as a sweetener for coffee and tea and have sprinkled some on cut halves of ruby grapefruit and stuck them under the broiler. Delicious.

Raw Forest Honey ($18 for a 250g jar) from north-eastern Laos is also good. One taste and you know this is something you want to eat straight out of the jar.

The honey is harvested by villagers who live in the forest and made by bees which forage in the wild. So the taste of the honey is pretty heady - floral, spicy and with a strong minty note. The taste would change according to where the bees forage, I'm guessing, and that makes this product really enchanting.

100 Good Things, 01-685, Block 2 Balestier Road, tel: 9383-1047, open: 10am to 5pm (weekday), by appointment on weekend and public holiday

Nuts about salty Pretz

Nothing gives me more pleasure than discovering a new flavour of Glico Pocky or Pretz, and it has been some time since I have dug up anything new.

So imagine how pleased I am to find two new flavours.

Shoyu Tare Pretz ($2.75 for a 69g box) smells very appetising when I open the bag.

The pretzel sticks are coated with tare, a thickened soya sauce mixture that is used to glaze yakitori and teriyaki. The soya lacquer is not too salty and that little hint of sweet really makes it perfect.

Pocky Peanut ($3.20 for a 64g box) is essentially pretzel sticks covered with peanut butter cream.

It has a good peanut flavour, but is a little too sweet for my palate.

The kids should like it, however. I trust you have ways to deal with children hopped up on sugar.

Glico Pocky and Pretz from Supermarket, B1-50 Liang Court, tel: 6339-1111, open: 10am to 10pm daily

Chai the way I like it

Commercial chai tea is usually a disappointment. The spices are insipid, if you can even taste them at all, and the drinks are usually way too sweet.

So when I spy Henry Langdon Chai Latte on a shop shelf, I hesitate. I love chai and one of my favourite scenes in the movie The Lunchbox (2013) is one where one of the lead characters, Ila, makes herself a glass of chai before reading a letter. I imagine her inhaling a heady brew, with those sweet and warming spices that perk up plain tea.

In any case, I buy the chai mix, thinking if it is bad, I can toss it on the scrap heap.

Thankfully, that will not be necessary.

Instead, I will be heating up a lot of milk and stirring it into the blend of cinnamon, aniseed, ginger, cloves, cardamom, fennel and black pepper. All of these aromatic spices waft from my cup. When I drink it, there is nothing insipid here.

Also in the mix are sugar, honey powder and tapioca starch on a black tea base.

The resulting drink is not too sweet, which is a boon. However, to get a really full-flavoured cup of chai, add more than the two teaspoons indicated on the tin.

Come to think of it, this might make a good pound cake or muffin. Let me go tinker in the kitchen.

Henry Langdon Chai Latte, $15.50 for a 280g tin, from Huber's Butchery, 18A Dempsey Road, tel: 6737-1588, open: 9.30am to 8pm (weekday), 9.30am to 7pm (weekend)

Nougat not so sweet

One thing I've noticed about artisanal food from Singapore companies is that they dial the sugar levels way down.

They are savvy enough to know that Singaporeans don't like sugary treats and tailor their products accordingly.

This is certainly true of 3 Bites Full, a company started by three friends - two Singaporeans and a Taiwanese. Their nougat, made in Taiwan, is not sweet at all.

Holding back on the sugar does make them more delicious, I think. After all, when you make your nougat with French butter, nuts and fruit from California and chocolate from Belgium, you don't want any distraction from sugar.

Of the three flavours that are now sold in FairPrice Finest, I like Luscious Cranberries best. The dried fruit add a little sweetness and tartness to the nougat.

Delicious Chocolate is pretty good too, although I would like a lot more chocolate flavour in it.

Milky Original lives up to its name, with a comforting creamy milk flavour.

3 Bites Full Handmade Gourmet Nougats, $8.50 for a 105g bag, from FairPrice Finest, B1-01/B2-01 Bukit Timah Plaza, 1 Jalan Anak Bukit, tel: 6468-8415/6468-4923, open: 24 hours



This is the last Posh Nosh column.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on June 28, 2015, with the headline 'Good things for keeps'. Print Edition | Subscribe