If You Give a Girl a MILO…


If you give a girl a MILO, she’ll be so delighted with the chocolatey goodness that she’ll want to explore what other local (but foreign) beverages can excite her taste-buds.

When in any foreign land, one must take full advantage of the unique offerings in all its incarnations—drinks included.  Experimenting is all the more enjoyable when your work vending machine is rich in variety and low in cost (Canned bevs are SGD .50 or about USD .35).

Although I haven’t tasted the complete range of SE Asian drinks, I think I’ve been quite adventurous, going well beyond my comfort zone of water and soda and taking a dip into the bizarre; sometimes to my delight and other times, not so much.

Here’s a look at the good, the bad and the just plain gross.


MILO—the infamous chocolate malt drink. The nectar of the gods, as referred to by a fellow Singapore mate. Served hot or cold; with a thick layer of foamy froth or blended with ice and topped with crunchy MILO powder –the MILO Dinosaur, a devilishly decadent beverage that puts milk shakes and ice cream floats to shame. And what’s more, MILO boasts health benefits.  That’s right, MILO is a fudgy, calcium packer. The name actually comes from the Greek athlete “Milo” who was known for his strength. But the only thing MILO ever gave me was a stomach ache.

There’s no O.D. warning on the label, so when there’s an unlimited supply of MILO at work, the only thing stopping you is the sudden sour stomach.

I’ll miss my MILO come August, and think I need to start weaning myself away for fear of experiencing serious withdraw symptoms when I return to the U.S.

Aloe Vera +any fruit juice drink: One thing about “fruit juice drinks” in Singapore: There is no trace of fruit, except for the artificial sugar flavoring that tricks you into believing you’re drinking the real stuff.  Now, with some fruit juices and definitely those that contain Aloe Vera, there is an added surprise in the can…“pulp.” No, not the OJ pulp that has been perfected by Tropicana. This pulp is more like a very soft gummy bear…floating around in your drink. Sometimes these gummies get clogged in the opening of your juice can, but what’s really frustrating is when you want to chug your juice, but are slowed down by the pulp chunks of Aloe Vera or pulp “beads” of Oranges that will cause you to asphyxiate if swallowed whole.

Other than the initial chunky surprise, these pulpy fruit juices make for a nice, sweet refreshment. When I need something other than water, I usually go for the Pear Aloe Vera from the vending machine.

Grass Jelly Drink

Grass Jelly Drink: This just may top the list of the oddest drinks around. I was so curious about this grass jelly stuff that I had to try. As you might guess by the name, this juice has little cubes of grass jelly gummy pulps floating around. Unlike the sweet fruit juices, I do not like grass jelly. At all. I don’t know what exactly the stuff is made of, but Wikipedia does a good job of explaining: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grass_jelly

It’s very popular among Singaporeans and other SE Asians for its refreshing taste in the paralyzing tropical heat. It has a medicinal taste that is a mixture of licorice and what resembles a strong alcohol. Needless to say, I didn’t find it pleasing; rinsed my mouth out and threw the can away after 2 sips.  I think grass jelly is actually an herb or plant and supposedly has health benefits. Whatever it is, I tried it, didn’t like it and won’t be going back for more.

But the jelly doesn’t stop with drinks. Grass Jelly can be eaten plain as in just a gummy cube of glass jelly (a popular dessert enjoyed by my co-workers) or it can be found mixed in with other drinks, such as milk. Ewww.

Soya Bean Milk

Soya Bean Milk: The furthest thing from the Soy milk I’m used to in the U.S. This is basically sugar water. Much thinner than milk and sans pulp; it’s very smooth with a sweet milky taste.  At first I wasn’t too fond of it because of the hint of a nutty aftertaste, but I’ve since acquired a taste for it. I’ll pick it up if I’m in the mood for something cool and creamy.

Chrysanthemum Tea: A sweetened herbal tea that can be enjoyed cold or hot. It has a light and refreshing taste. Chrysanthemum is a flower that reminds me of Chamomile; probably because of the soothing yellow floral design on the label.

Real Fruit Juice: Can NOT be found in a vending machine. Instead, make your way to any Hawker Center or Food Court “Drinks Stand” and you can watch the vendor make the freshest juices from just 3 ingredients: whole fruit, ice and water… all blended into a deliciously healthy shake. It’s the perfect beverage any time of day.

2 in1 / 3 in 1 Instant Coffee Mixers: Quite good, very efficient, but so bad for you. 2 in 1 combines instant coffee with powdered creamer and 3 in 1 is powdered creamer, sugar and instant coffee. They come in little convenient tube-shaped packets. Just add hot water and you’ve got a nice mild cup of morning Joe. I was drinking 2 cups of the 2 in 1 a day, before the ladies at work introduced me to the “Espresso” machine. It’s like one of those Tassimo contraptions. You put the packet in, push a button and the result is a heavenly cup of strong frothy Italian coffee (might not be Italian, but the packaging looks European). I prefer the real stuff, but don’t mind the 2 in 1 if it’s the only option.

Singapore Sling

And of Course, The Famous…. Singapore Sling. Way, way too sweet for my liking. But then again, I am not a cocktail drinker—I prefer wine or beer… if you’re thinking of sending a care package.

The Sling is quite a concoction, with Gin, pineapple juice, sugar and some other unpronounceable mixers, all blended together and topped with a pineapple slice and maraschino cherry—a B*t@# drink at its finest.

At Raffles hotel, where the Sling was developed, it comes with an astronomical price tag of SGD $23. Unless you like your cocktails sweet and in a glass that should only be allowed for Caribbean vacation imbibing, I wouldn’t waste my liver or my money on it. But then again, when you’re in Singapore it’d be a shame not to try the famous Sling—so go for it, but split one amongst a few friends.

I foresee a follow up to this post as there are several other drinks (not to mention foods) that are unique to SE Asia. I just haven’t built up the courage or the stomach to try them yet.


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