the same block as the two Chinese
movie theaters in New York, there are grocery stores. I am already well-acquainted
with the tart taste of two-for-a-dollar Gee Lee beer, but I
want to look into the incredible selection of humble tin can soft drink
concoctions. I sucked down can after can of amazing differences, until the sugar-soaked
buds of my tongue were swollen and welty. Many of these drinks are like the
eccentric Western potion Yoo-Hoo, suspect both in concept and delivery.
At turns, I am delighted and disappointed by what I find.
Lemon Barley Lucozade seems a great beginning: a fulsome
and delicious variant of Squirt. I could drink a bottle every day. But the formula
apparently comes from England, so it turns out to be too easy a start. For more
authentic "pure energy," I tried Jan-li-bo replenisher,
the Official Drink of the Chinese National Sports Teams. "Country Pear
with a Burst of Honey" flavor has the same acrid burn of thawed Flav-R-Ice
sticks. Not many drinks that only slip in 2.5% juice from concentrate would
have the gall to lecture you on the Chinese tradition of harmony between man
and nature. Turns out the burst of honey is the secret energy ingredient, which
I have a hunch may be overshadowed by the 18g of high fructose corn syrup per
one-cup serving. Call the company at 1-800-526-1688, and ask how many Chinese
athletes have collapsed mid-competition after drinking this vile serum.
Carambola Drink (with Green Power) promises to
taste better if the contents of its tennis ball can-shaped carton are served
cold. I'm not sure what salty nut-flavored corn syrup tastes like hot, but I'd
guess it's even more like rodent nutrient at room temperature. Wei-Chuan
Peach Drink doesn't pack more than 10% into a twelve-ounce can, but
the sugar and three carefully-selected acids provide half your daily Vitamin
C needs and a pulpy peach pungency. Hubba hubba! Lotte Sac Sac Mandarin
Orange Drink improves on the idea of orange juice by fortifying the
tart brew with a healthy blend of sugars. The "sac" in the title refers
to the juicy bits of pulp piled into the little can. All "drink" variants
offer a wholesome artificiality, but Lotte smartly keeps the
serving size below the sugar overdose level.
Sarsaparilla, looking like an errant can of Shasta,
recreates the medicinal burn of Listerine better than any beverage I can recall.
An intoxicating blend of four sugars, fizzy water, and "natural flavor."
One place too much sugar is acceptable, even desirable, is Tung-I Coffee
Square, which came in a non-descript little orange-brown-white can
boasting "You Can Fly High." Rich in vitamin C, the cold canned coffee
is deliciously slippery like an egg creme, in every way the equal of America's
Capio. The white specks that float to the surface are most assuredly benign.
back a cool high snifter of Golden Sound Basil Seed Drink with
Honey may be the closest I ever come to swallowing a mouthful of semen.
A wee banana flavor creeps out of this chalky gray syrup, where are suspended
a zillion tomato-like seed sacs. While the Basil Seed drink is a good
way to freak out dinner guests, Oriental Mascot Grass Jelly Drink
is a good way to grab homebody's interest, hiding several thousand tiny chunks
of chlorophyll Jell-O in its dark color. Again, sugar is the primary
flavor agent. Mesonna is a superior brand of grass jelly drink,
and is also the only Asian power beverage whose name is a homonym for a Japanese
is the non-specific name for a round-leafed plant that grows
in rock crevices and marshes. Foco Pennywort Drink carries
the enviable dull black inscrutability of dirty mop water, offers a bitter spinachy
peck and 20% of a person's daily iron needs. Despite amazing can artwork depicting
an efficient social utopia, Taro Sha looks and tastes like
sour milk, lima beans, and water. Yeo's Longan Drink is made
from a vegetable that street vendors often hawk. It looks like little round
brown eggs in clusters on a skinny tree, and it suits the fruit-sugar-water
recipe better than any other "drink" I drank.
Fu Rock Sugar Bird's Nest brew is made with top quality
bird's nests from Thailand and white fungus from China. It smells like nothing,
looks like cum with dandruff in it, and tastes like clean toilet water. It's
supposedly very good for your lungs.
the noblest drink in all the well-ordered aisles -- a tall skinny can
of Baxian Drink from National Brilliant Limited, made
from lotus seed, chrysanthemum, malt, lily, and lyceum Chinese. A bearded wise
uncle, old and healthy, gazes out intelligently from the front of the canister,
saying "Baxian Drink has the effect of keeping good complexion,
strengthening the vital energy, the state of blood and internal organs."
And if that's true, with this charming blend of lotus seed, chrysanthemum, lily,
and lyceum Chinese, he's really onto something. In fact, after swallowing 13
cans of sugar-coated optimism today, I can't help but feel great.