What the Street Eats: Tamarind Juice and Vero Mango Lollipop

Welcome to the first installment of a recurring series entitled “What the Street Eats”.  Now, you’re probably thinking that this means Murray is going to review food from hot dog carts, taco trucks and other various street vendors.  Or maybe you thought I would be stopping people on the street and interviewing them about their favorite places to eat.  Not the case.  I will actually be eating things which are physically on the street…like in the gutter or on the sidewalk.  Now, of course I won’t actually eye up a discarded sandwich, wrestle it away from a squirrel and chow it down, but I will be searching for my next eating adventure by picking up the wrappers I find in my boulevard.  I’ve chosen the  title “What the Street Eats” because I can only assume that the street actually ate these items.  I mean no self respecting human would eat something and then just throw the wrapper in my front yard, so I’ve concluded that it’s the street itself who has eaten these items and simply doesn’t have the means to find a garbage can.

Well anyway, the culprit isn’t really important here.  What is important is that I always seem to find a new and exciting wrapper in my yard each morning, so there should be no shortage of material for this series.

It’s spring in Minnesota and if you live in the city, it’s the ugliest time of year.  Since it snowed in November and didn’t get warm enough to melt off that snowfall until just a few weeks ago (mid April), we literally have about five months worth of trash piled up, and that’s a good way to start out our discovery of “What the Street Eats”.

This morning, I found four discernible pieces of food packaging.

  1. A can of Tamarind Juice
  2. An apple juice box
  3. A Vero Mango lollipop wrapper
  4. What appears to be a Wendy’s Frosty cup

I’ve had a Wendy’s Frosty before and I’ve also had a cheap juice box, so I’m not really inclined to waste your time with any in-depth analysis of those two items.  Therefore, I turned my attention to the Tamarind Juice and the curious Vero Mango Lollipop.

The can of Tamarind Juice or  ‘Jugo de Tamarind’, as the Spanish translation below read, piqued my interest because of the artist’s rendition on the front of the can.  It was what I could only assume a “Tamarind”, but it didn’t look like anything that I had ever seen before.  It was too long to be a soybean, and too thick to be a vanilla bean.  Also, it didn’t look like a fruit that would produce any juice.   I began to wonder if they really meant juice “OF” a Tamarind, or if they meant something more like Tamarind flavored juice.  You know, kind of like coffee or tea.  The beans or the tea leaves don’t really create juice, but merely add the flavor.  Part of me wanted to just try the juice without knowing what to expect, but these days, with the internet, it’s impossible to just wonder about something.  So, before vamanosing to my local supermercado, I looked it up.  What I learned was that this was a sort of bean that had a very bitter flavor and was often used for cooking or was ground up into a pulp and sweetened with sugar for use in various beverage or desert applications.

After returning to mi casa, I was eager to open the heavy gauge steel can and take a swig. The last time I drank something without knowing what I was getting into, it was an ill-advised college era cocktail.  Luckily, this experience didn’t end up with me sleeping on a pizza box in my tighty whities.  In fact it was quite a nice surprise.  The flavor was difficult to pin down; somewhere between pineapple and peach.  The juice had a heavy, viscous feel but a light and refreshing taste. I took several small drinks and kept doing that annoying tongue smacking that people who are trying to taste something do.  I really couldn’t come up with a good comparison for the taste.  I guess sometimes, there are things that are just in their own category.  This is a beverage I could actually see myself going back to, especially on a hot summer day (if that ever happens this year).  I can even envision a more responsible cocktail.

p.s.  Make sure to follow the instructions on the can and shake before drinking.  It’s a bit pulpy.

Taste:  9.50/10

Value: 6.50/10 ($1.09 for a 350 ml (11.8 oz) can at the local Latino grocer)

GrubGrade: 9.00/10

Nutrition Info: 230 Calories, 70 mg sodium, 57 g carbs (sugar) (note: both sugar and high fructose corn syrup are listed in the ingredients), no vitamin C;  30% Juice

I figured as long as I was in the ethnic grocery store, I would pick up some other items I don’t normally get on a grocery run; I mean when in Rome, right.  So along with my Tamarind Juice and Vero Mango Lollipop, I picked up some authentic  corn tortillas like the ones you get from a taco truck.  I then went home and made some chicken tacos to round out my meal. As you can see from the pictures, I did bastardize them a bit by using pre-shredded “Mexican Cheese”, but I stuck with the garnish of cilantro so as not to over Americanize my meal.  In the background, you’ll see me giving a shout out to my favorite salsa: Little Lisa’s.  I’m not sure how widely it’s available because I know it’s made here in Minnesota and it’s a fairly small operation, but it’s the best store-bought stuff I’ve ever had.  You know its fresh when it’s not next to all the other salsas on the shelf; it’s in the refrigerated section.

After polishing off my tacos, and washing them down with my new found sweet and refreshing Tamarind juice, I was ready for desert.  Again, I was kind of thinking it would be fun to just try this lollipop looking thing without actually figuring out what it is beforehand, but the strange look of this item had me leaning towards the side of caution.  Armed with three years of high school Spanish and the title “dulces Vero Mango” I figured I could get a good handle on what I was about to try.   I knew two of those words – Dulces = sweet or candy and Mango just means Mango.  Shamefully, I resorted to the internet to look up the third word, “Vero”, only to find that it meant “bell-shaped”; clearly referring to the shape of the lollipop and not adding any further insight into its taste.  With this loose translation in hand, I was ready to enjoy what I figured would be a little after dinner sweet… the Vero Mango Lollipop.

Luckily, I opted to read the ingredients, because if I had not, I honestly may have lost my lunch (or technically my dinner). Upon doing so, I was disturbed to see that two of the main ingredients were “Chili” and “Salt”. OK, I know people over use WTF these days, but seriously, WTF.  A lollipop containing chili and salt? It had a coating on it, that, had I not read the ingredients, I would have assumed was cinnamon. Nope. Chili powder. Holy crap, the experience of trying to lick a sucker coated in chili powder was really not too fun. I honestly nearly gagged. I had been saving this as desert, thinking it would be sweet. I tried several times to get through the chili powder coating to the sweet candy center, but I just couldn’t do it. I took it to the faucet and ran it under the water to try to get the coating off. After  several iterations of licking, sucking (get your mind out of the gutter) and running it under tap water, I was able to get down to the hard candy part, but there was still chili powder (and I guess salt) infused in the candy. I tried really hard to just taste the candy but the salty chili was overpowering. I think the candy tasted somewhat like a green apple flavored Jolly Rancher, and when I did get hints of that taste, it sure made for an interesting combo (let’s be clear, I didn’t say good combination). I really gave it the old college try, but I just couldn’t do it. I eventually had to throw it away.  I should have known when the lady behind the counter gave me a funny look when I asked if they carried this item but I thought it was just because probably not many people come in with a wrapper and say: Do you have this?  Unfortunately, this stupid little lollipop ruined what otherwise would have been a great dinner.  The only redeeming thing I could say about these is that they might work well if you were trying to scare you child off of sweets.  I guess , today, we found out that What the Street Eats on any given day can provide us with a wide range of tastes and promises to lead us to places our palates have never been.

Taste 1.00/10

Value 7.00/10 $0.99 for a bag of 4 suckers

GrubGrade 1.00/10.00

11 comments on “What the Street Eats: Tamarind Juice and Vero Mango Lollipop

  1. this is a great concept! looking forward to future episodes.

    those chili powder lollipops are intolerable. i love spicy things, but this is just not something that should exist. i couldn’t get through one either. bluh.

  2. Chefprotoss or dan says:

    Great review! Yeah, spicy lollypops are huge south of the border. I’m a fan but if you walk in blind you will be disappointed. I have found that tricking people with tastes doesn’t work well since so much of eating is visual recognition.

    I loled a bunch so thanks!

  3. Min says:

    Tamarind and mango flavored things are some of my favorites in the world (my favorite is a delicious tamarind-mango chew that is made in the Philippines). I’ve had both of these products before, and I agree with your assessment on both. Tamarind juice is delicious!

    And the lollipop would have been much better executed if the actually candy had just been spiced, instead of covering also covering the darn thing in chili pepper.

  4. Berroci says:

    Great work. I thought this was just going to be a predictable entry about taco carts or noontime office worker interviews, but it was far better than that.

    You could also do an occasional, related piece called “What the Rain Gutter Eats”–mostly leaves I’d imagine, but there might be some surprises.

  5. bob statz says:

    an after-meal repast is dessert, not desert…remember…two esses in dessert.

  6. Kevin says:

    Fantastic concept

    My driveway takes in all the garbage from the sidewalk for some reason. If I did this, my entry would cover 10% of all food in existence.

  7. You’ve got me laughing till I cry!

  8. missouri says:

    Love the new segment – looking forward to more entries!

  9. […] about what I might find.  I mean last time I ate what the street ate, it was a mixed bag.  I liked the Tamarind Juice, but couldn’t choke down the Vero Mango lolipop coated in chili powder.  If I […]

  10. […] HQ in South Carolina just to try their bacon and explored foods much closer to home by asking What the Street Eats.  What will year two of blogging bring from Murray?Well, I’ve decided to start out the new […]

  11. Cassi McDonald says:

    I recently was handed a Vero Elotes (corn/strawberry flavor, I think) by my son. We have a habit of challenging each other to eat strange food. He dared me to eat it and my 1 1/2 year old grandson was eating one. Now, first of all, I do not really like hot spicy food. Although we are in Texas, I tend to gravitate to the milder stuff. I like you, wanted to immediately throw this thing away. But, I could not be outdone by my grandson.

    I teared up and my mouth was on fire. I felt that I had a hole burning in my tongue. Then a strange thing happened. The longer I sucked on it, the more I wanted to continue eating it. Once I was done, I had to immediately find more. I then went online and found that Amazon carried them, as well as the Mango and Watermelon flavor. I then purchased a package of Elotes and Mangoes. I think that the Mango is not as hot, so it is probably a really good thing that you began with the Mango.

    All that I can say now is that they are addictive. This sweet, salty and spicy treat have really burned a spot into my soul. I do not want to look at the complete nutrition information because the sodium content is probably a month’s worth on each candy, but it is really something that grows on you. That is what people say about beer, too, but I never grew to like that one.

    I did really enjoy your blog and will follow and read you regularly.

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