Comprising of several countries that reside along the Indian and Pacific Oceans, Asia is a region that has fascinated people from the West for centuries, even to this day. While the simple explanation for this can be summed up as Exoticism, or the love of something that’s foreign to one’s own culture, it’s a little more complicated than that. Since ancient times, both the western and eastern countries developed in similar yet different ways in near isolation from one another with exceptional interactions via trade. For instance, both had feudal systems of government during the Middle Ages as exemplified by the Monarchies in Europe and the Shogunate in Japan.
Then after certain European explorers, such as Marco Polo started writing about their experiences in these countries, Europe became increasingly more fascinated with Asia. This in turn resulted in extensive trade with the region, with other countries such as France and the United States getting involved as well. Yet despite the two World Wars, where Asian countries like China and Japan got caught up in the affairs of the West, that didn’t stop people’s interest in Asian culture and products. In fact, it grew after WWII especially when these countries started making things that made people want to go over and check them out. While most of these products are readily available, there are some that aren’t so obvious and that’s what we’re here to look at!
In different parts of the world, certain companies have been making cans that are made from transparent plastic as opposed to aluminum. One example is Glinter, a company that is based in Malaysia which sells different kinds of fruit-flavored sodas. Although according to Metropolife, while the soda’s design is neat “The soda itself” isn’t great. Though this could be a matter of personal taste, it does seem to be a growing trend as Original New York Seltzer (a popular see-through soda from the 1980s) got re-released in 2015 after being discontinued in the 90s as stated by Eater.
This is not a trick of the eye, or a photoshopped image for that matter. In China, there is a certain brand of pears that are grown in the shape of little figures resembling the Buddha. The group that is responsible for making these is the Fruit Mould Company which is also known for making other unusual fruit such as “Heart-shaped watermelons” “Star-shaped cucumbers” and gnome-faced apples according to National Geographic. How it’s done is by placing the fruit inside a mold while it’s still young and letting it grow until the fruit resembles the mold’s shape.
Though this may seem like a prank, it is a real thing that exists in Japan. Known officially as the Survival Senbei iPhone 5 Case, according to HuffPost, it’s a phone case made entirely from rice crackers which can be eaten. On the downside, it can easily be broken despite the toughness that some Japanese rice crackers have with the idea being that one can still eat the phone case even if it breaks. Still, the thing costs approximately 85 US dollars according to Oddee making it a questionable purchase in the long run and certainly not the most practical.
Like many other fish, sharks are hunted for food as well. Though in particular, their fins which are cut off and used in a dish that’s appropriately called Shark Fin Soup. Popular in China and other parts of Asia, this ingredient is sold in a variety of markets supposedly to “cater to the old generation of Cantonese”, according to Culture Trip. This designates those that speak a variant of the Chinese language that’s spoken in parts of southeastern China as well as other countries that are further south including: Malaysia, Vietnam, and even Thailand which has a significant Chinese community.
Having become famous through internet pictures and videos, this product is essentially a facial mask that forms bubbles instead of mud. While this may seem kind of silly (which certainly isn’t helped by the above image) it’s apparently very effective. As Sporteluxe states, the bubbles are a natural reaction that happens when the product makes contact with the person’s skin which has oxygen inside it. So when that happens, the product is able to seep further into the multiple layers our skin has allowing for the pores (which get filled with dirt and oil everyday) to be cleaned more thoroughly.
Of the various things Japan is famous for, it is known for having unusual flavors of well-known brands of food. One such example is Kit Kat bars, with the above image showing one that is Green Tea-flavored (as indicated by the bar’s green texture). However, there are other equally strange ones including: Strawberry Wafer, Citrus, Cinnamon, and Hōjicha (a type of roasted green tea). The reason for this, according to CBS News, is that Kit Kats are very popular in Japan since the Japanese translation for them is “Kitto Katsu” which also means “Good luck” or “Sure win”.
Also known as Jibachi Senbei, according to Mach5Weird, these special treats can only be found in Japan. How the process works is that first, professional wasp hunters go out into the woods and catch Digger Wasps. Also known as Sand Wasps, they tend to burrow underground with the ability to paralyze their prey using venom that’s injected through their stingers according to Space for life. Then once the wasps are safely caught, they are boiled and placed in dough that’s baked into individual cookies for consumption. Though who would eat this, assuming the wasps' stingers aren't removed before being baked?
For those who don’t know, NEET is a term that stands for “Not in Education Employment or Training” which in turn is used to describe people who aren’t going to school, and don’t have a job or get any sort of training. While it was originally coined in Britain, according to Tofugu, it’s more commonly used in Japan as a negative connotation against someone who’s considered to be a slacker with no sense of direction in their life. However, there are NEET rental services where NEETs rent themselves out to people as a source of income without doing any actual work.
For those who like corn chips, which are often eaten during the Super Bowl inside party mixes, and Mountain Dew (or Mtn Dew) soda to the point of wishing there was some way to combine the two this is just the thing to get. Made in Japan, they are described as being “The size and shape of Cheetos” according to SoraNews24 followed by “A tingling sensation in the mouth” when eaten. In other words, they resemble a product made by the same company that created Fritos, America’s brand of corn chips, and simulate the taste of soda. What a concept!
Back in 2007, Pepsi made the bold move of selling a soft drink that was only available in Japan during the summer. This drink was called Pepsi Ice Cucumber. As one might guess, this soda is meant to taste like cucumbers, which seems like an odd choice for a soda ingredient. While the drink itself “really does taste like cucumber” according to Bubblegum and Wasabi, it doesn’t taste good. So why make something like this? Well, Pepsi’s Japanese distributer claimed it was meant to be refreshing so people could get through the summer heat as stated in the Washington Post.
Though it originated in Central America, according to TravelFreak, this particularly strange fruit is found in a lot of places in Southeast Asia where it is cultivated commercially. Also known as Dragon Fruit, which is kind of fitting given how fantastic this fruit’s interior and exterior is, it apparently comes with quite a few health benefits. Chief among them are low calories, TravelFreak says, which is great for anyone who’s on a diet or wants to start one. In terms of flavor, it’s been described as sweet as well as nutty (due to the obvious black seeds inside of it).
What appears to be egg yolk hardened inside a spiky melon is actually the inside of a Durian Fruit. Native to Southeast Asia, they are notorious for having a very repugnant smell that’s so bad that it’s “banned on public transportation and in shared spaces” according to TripSavvy. Yet inside of them lies a core that is the complete opposite. As described by TripSavvy, the Durian Fruits' core “is actually creamy” making it more delicious than it smells. Popular in places like Malaysia and Thailand, there is even a festival dedicated to this fruit that’s celebrated during the summer months.
Within every egg, there are two parts. There’s the yolk, aka the yellow part, and the white or the clear stuff. Now while the yolk is generally considered to be the most meaty part of the egg (for obvious reasons), the white isn’t considered anything special by contrast. But in Asian countries, egg whites have been and are being used for skincare purposes. According to Sporteluxe, egg whites have “pore-refining, skin brightening properties”, which is now being used in actual products as opposed to before where people would actually just crack eggs on their faces and smear it all over.
When a snail moves along, it produces a kind of mucus that serves a number of purposes from sticking to vertical surfaces to a defense mechanism. But for humans, snail slime serves another purpose; namely, cosmetics. While Japan sells the stuff in bottles, Thailand has places where one can get a facial treatment by having actual snails placed on one's face who then crawl anywhere they please. According to USA Today, a university research group found out that, “Snail slim(e) from Thailand is the best in the world” when it comes to cosmetic products.
Ever get tired of cleaning the screen of an electronic device? Have a robot do it instead! Yes, this is a real thing. Created by Takara Tomy, which is actually a combination of two different toy companies in Japan that merged together recently, it is called Auto Mee S and its purpose is to clean the screens of either a “Smartphone or iPad” according to Oddee. Like a Roomba, it glides along the screen’s surface using small wheels while cleaning the screen using a pad-like device and doesn’t fall off. Only costs “$21 plus shipping from Japan,” Oddee says.
While electric blankets and seat warmers are nice for keeping warm during the cold months of winter, they’re not exactly portable. So what’s a possible solution? Socks heated by batteries, of course! Made by various companies, these socks come equipped with batteries that can either be clipped on or come pre-attached (as the ones in the above image demonstrate). Once they’re fully charged, they automatically heat up one’s feet which can last a while depending on the brand. For instance, the Kairo Heated Socks from Thanko can apparently last “Around 4 hours” according to the Japan Trend Shop website.
As virtual assistants such as Siri and Alexa have become increasingly popular to have, some have wondered what would happen if they appeared as human beings we could interact with. Enter the Gatebox, an Amazon Echo-type device whose main feature is a glass cylinder that projects a holographic female avatar named Hikari Azuma which is capable of holding basic conversations with the user. Created by Vinclu Inc., which is a “Tokyo-based startup” company according to The Japan Times, their main goal with this product is to give users the chance to form emotional relationships with their virtual assistants.
Over the course of many television shows and internet videos, much attention has been drawn to the fact that certain Asian countries sell fried insects for people to eat. Some popular examples include Thailand, where a variety of them are sold at street markets according to Culture Trip including grasshoppers (like the ones shown above). Then in Korea, their main insect dish is called Beondegi which consists of steamed silkworm pupae “served in a cup” as stated by Mach5Weird. While there is a certain stigma against eating insects in Western countries, they have become a popular dare food of sorts.
Now here’s an odd dish: Chinese in origin, this is a bird’s nest that is artificially made for consumption with the catch that it’s made from bird saliva. In particular, from swallows which are common worldwide though some species are native to the region. Used as a key ingredient in Bird’s Nest Soup, it is notoriously expensive because the actual birds’ nests have to be cleaned of saliva by hand according to Slightly Astray. That way, they can be made into the solid structures seen in the above image which can either be prepared at street venues or taken home.
Yes, these are actually sold in places like Bangkok in Thailand. Kept inside buckets (like the one shown above) or tied inside nets, one would assume they’re being sold as pets which isn’t a farfetched notion since certain species of frogs are sold on the Black Market. However, these guys are most likely getting sold as food as there are certain dishes that use frogs as a key ingredient. One example is Jungle Curry, with the frog serving as an option in terms of meat apart from wild boar according to Eating Thai Food and even quail that’s been minced.
While these may seem like ordinary eggs at a glance, they are actually samples of a dish called Balut. Originally from the Philippines, it is essentially a fertilized egg that has a “Nearly developed embryo inside” according to Mach5Weird. In other words, an unborn chick that’s almost mature enough to hatch. After being boiled briefly, they are eaten in raw form after being taken out of the shell. So why are these things eaten? Apparently, there’s a lot of nutrients inside of them. This includes “Vitamins and protein,” Mach5Weird says, as well as not having a lot of calories either.
At a glance, this looks like an ordinary pill inside a glass jar. Don’t be fooled, though! This is actually a compressed face sheet, which is the cheaper alternative to face masks. How it works, according to Sporteluxe, is that the face sheets are sold in the ball-shaped form as shown above which then expand into “full-sized face masks” after being dipped in a substance called facial essence that is a complementary product to the face sheets. With these, one can cleanse the skin around one’s face anywhere they want whether they are at home or traveling abroad.
Like with the face sheet, this is another deceptive product. Based on the texture alone, they look like cotton balls but as the title of this header implies they’re actually “cocoons made from silk worms that Korean women use to gently exfoliate their skin” as stated by Sporteluxe. In other words, they serve the same purpose as cotton pads only they go on one’s fingers instead of being held in one hand. Thus, they are more precise in terms of covering areas of the face that are hard to reach and they apparently “help the skin maintain moisture” Sporteluxe says.
Originally from South Korea, this looks like any other beauty product leading one to assume it’s either some kind of lotion or shampoo. In truth, it is a raw form of sauce that’s made almost entirely of sap from the maple tree, 93 percent, to be exact, according to Sporteluxe. So it’s like the equivalent to pouring maple syrup over one’s face, only for skincare purposes. Because apparently, the molecules in sap from maple trees are small enough to where it can deliver certain ingredients in skincare products “into the skin quickly and effectively” Sporteluxe says, making it more effective.
For those who like having their eyebrows tinted, it can be a pain because it’s just one more thing that has to be applied every morning and washed off in the evening. Then the alternative is going to a beautician, whose services can add up to quite a large expense depending on how frequently one makes appointments with them. Fortunately, South Korea has another solution in the form of peel-off eyebrow tint. Sporteluxe claims it’s pretty simple, as it involves applying colored gel over the eyebrows leaving it on for exactly two hours and then peeling it off afterward.
Resources: theculturetrip.com, oddee.com, mach5weird.com, japantimes.co.jp, eater.com, travelfreak.net, cbsnews.com, tripsavvy.com, washingtonpost.com, nationalgeographic.com, usatoday.com, japantrendshop.com, huffingtonpost.com, slightlyastray.com