Thursday, April 15, 2010
Overseas Sodas In Your Backyard
I'm not talking about gourmet Tommy's Naked Soda at David's Natural Market or the retro McCutcheon's sarsaparilla at Larriland Farm.
This is just soda. Colas, fruit sodas, the Indian knock-off of Sprite. These are the assembly-line soft drinks from other countries. Exotic mostly because of the label not the flavor -- although the tamarind drinks from Mexico can be pretty unusual and somewhere we approach carbonated yogurt soft drinks, which are the only HowChow "find" that I actually can't stomach.
But back to the soda. Sitting here, I can think of sources for soda from Mexico, India, Turkey, and Japan. The Mexican is pretty common, both at Mexican carryouts like R&R Deli in Jessup and at markets like Lily's Mexican Market in Columbia. The Jarritos brand is pretty common and great with a taco lunch. The Indian varieties don't seem to reach the restaurants, but they're common on the market shelves at places like Food Cravings in Columbia and Eastern Bazar in Laurel.
Limca was one of my first introductions to foreign sodas. Post-college, we visited my friend's family (and some great Indian sites), and I remember standing at the vendor's stall drinking lemon-lime soda from a straw. The glass bottles were refilled, so you couldn't just walk away. I stumbled on those same glass bottles of Limca and Thumb's Up cola at Desi Bazar in Columbia. A $1 trip back 20 years.
Since then, I grab a soda at new places. My current find is Uludag orange soda from Turkey, which I picked up at Nazar Produce in Columbia. It's orange soda. Good, but mostly interesting for the label and because it's thicker, slightly less carbonated. It's nothing as exotic as the ramune drinks you can get at Japanese restaurants or the H Mart.
For now, I tend to drink these as a treat, maybe with a sandwich for lunch. I feel like there is some cool idea just over the horizon -- some kind of theme party or maybe a way to use an unusual soda in a mixed drink. Not that you need a new use, but I'd love suggestions about other brands or other uses for the foreign drinks.
(Update: Check out the comment below from Trevor-Peter about D&G Ginger Beer. That's Jamaican soda, and I used to buy a variety at the now-closed Julie's International Market. That is another interesting alternative like the tamarind.)
The one real effort that people seem to make is to find Mexican Coke or Pepsi. I have seen both at Lily's or at Panam Supermarket in Laurel. Supposedly, Mexican bottlers use cane sugar instead of corn syrup. Some people prefer the taste. Or just the hype.