Taste Contradictions: Sugar and Spice

By Mariko on 28 November, 2009

Taste Contradictions: Sugar and Spice
Little Packages of Spicy Sweet

When I was a kid, I would spend summers watching Eat Bulaga (and, I’ll admit, Annaluna) day after day. (Please don’t judge me. This was pre-cable!) While I sat in front of the TV, I munched on a bag of individually wrapped sampaloc (tamarind candy). My aunt used to send us bags and bags of these sweet-sour-salty treats, each wrapped in clear cellophane, and I would go through them like chips. So addicted was I.

It’s been years and years, and my tita no longer sends me these little flavor explosions. Those store-bought ones that come in yellow cellophane just don’t come close to the perfectly balanced flavor I used to get.

Fast forward nearly two decades. On our way home from a trip to Bangkok, B and I were rushing to get pasalubong for relatives and friends. We were at the airport grabbing boxes of chocolate when we thought we should at least get something remotely Thai. So we decided to get sampaloc, individually wrapped and placed in cylindrical plastic containers. Because of conditioning, I had come to view yellow-cellophane-wrapped sampaloc as inferior to the sampaloc I used to have as a kid. But we were in a rush, we didn’t have a lot of cash to spare, and the sampaloc seemed like an acceptable pasalubong.

Back home, I decided to keep one container for myself. As I tore open what was to be the first of many, many wrappers, I wasn’t really expecting much. As I put the sugar-coated candy in my mouth, I felt the familiar tingle on my tongue. The sourness pleasantly mingled with the sweetness, and I was happy to discover that there was no seed in the center. And then, a surprise: Just as the soft, chewy candy melted on my tongue and coated my teeth, I got a jolt of spiciness. This was candy from Thailand, after all! The sweetness and the sourness dissipated, leaving behind a hot, hot, hot after-taste. Oh, how I loved it so! So much so that whenever a good friend flies in from Bangkok, my bilin is airport sampaloc. He gets me enough containers to last me a pretty long time.

Or at least a few days.




Post a comment
  • DECEMBER 1, 2009 5:05 AM

    MrsLavendula said...

    that description just woke up my salivary glands! hehehe! i must find someone who will visit Thailand soon!

  • DECEMBER 4, 2009 1:28 AM

    Anonymous said...

    Oh my goodness, you just brought back a memory of my eating that stuff in Manila when I was a little girl before the war. I adored that sampaloc. I have not had any since I came to the States in 1945. Thank you for bringing me back a long lost memory. Salamat.

  • DECEMBER 4, 2009 1:38 PM

    simple girl said...

    What a coincidence. We actually sell this particular tamarind that comes in a tube. We still have around 18 tubes left. If interested, just visit my shop at 1JO3 168 mall, soler wing, beside escalator near lots' a pizza. php 100 per tube. Thanks.

  • DECEMBER 4, 2009 1:41 PM

    simple girl said...

    What a coincidence. We actually sell this particular tamarind. If interested, visit 1J03 168 mall, soler wing. php100.

  • DECEMBER 4, 2009 4:51 PM

    Anonymous said...

    omg, sampaloc from Bangkok is the best. I like the mildly spicy one. Also the tiny candy-fied one (like big Nerds).

  • DECEMBER 13, 2009 6:10 PM

    flashbulb100w said...

    I've had those sampaloc candies from Thailand, too. They were pretty good but I just wasn't addicted.

  • DECEMBER 20, 2009 5:00 AM

    moni said...

    Where in the Bangkok airport can you buy these individually wrapped tamarind in cylindrical plastic containers? I will be in Thailand on Dec. 27-31 and I plan to buy these goodies.


  • FEBRUARY 9, 2010 1:03 AM

    Mariko said...

    Hi Moni, this is a very late reply, my apologies. And a pretty useless one at that! I'm not quite sure where exactly they're sold in the airport, but I'm guessing any store that sells sampaloc would have the spicy ones.

  • FEBRUARY 22, 2010 4:08 PM

    Ash said...

    do these candies taste like any American candies?

  • MARCH 3, 2010 3:34 AM

    anonymous paul said...

    They're sold all over the Suvarnabumhi Airport. Several duty free shops along the terminal stretch all carry it. pretty hard to miss.