Sunday, February 27, 2011

Almost everyone confesses to having a drinking addiction. The Dionysus dudes, Juice junkies and Cola chuggers—they’re all out there, easy to spot with their choice drink in hand. It’s nearly impossible to avoid the addiction with the barrage of colorful and fruity beverages unabashedly making their way in our TV screens and heads.

What’s so strange is that I’ve decided to join the bandwagon. Might as well have a pet drink—a much better conversation starter than “How’s the weather?”

“Pleased to meet you, Java Joe. I’m Groovin’ Green Tea. Want some?”

[caption id="attachment_193" align="alignleft" width="173" caption="My (incomplete) Tea Shrine"][/caption]

Well that was bloody pathetic, but you get the picture. Tea is such a remarkable drink of choice, and I often wonder why many people pass up this wonderful creation that is served for free in most Asian restaurants. What a waste.

I’m not going to preach on the benefits of tea, as there must be millions of sites and commercials that dwell on the said topic. Hence, this tea sage has decided to spill some bits of personal and novel insight (some of which you may already know) spawned from this love affair with Tea. I may not be British but I do keep a tea shrine (a glorified way of referring to the pantry), always prepared and well stocked for any spontaneous tea party.

Who knows when the Mad Hatter might be knocking any time?


Well then, enough with the name-calling and whatnot, let's proceed with the Top 10:


[caption id="attachment_201" align="alignright" width="210" caption="No, it's not what you think."][/caption]

The sugary, flavor-infused bottled tea drinks in the market aren’t necessarily Tea. Call them juice, fruity drinks but surely they cannot be classified as tea alone. Why, even iced tea is faux tea, with its composition of nearly 90% sugar. My point is that to qualify as tea, the drink better taste like one! You know, the grassy-herby flavor that is bland or mildly sweetened—now that’s tea. Sadly, the organic pungency is what most manufacturers try to mask with sweetener, juice and more sugar. Not only is the flavor tainted, even the health benefits are thrown down the drain as the calories and fat pile up. Just because it says “Made with green tea leaves” does not make it an authentic tea experience.

If you’re a true tea lover, ditch the plastic and dip in the tea bag! Go for the bottle, and settle for being a tea mistress.


Green tea (Matcha in Japanese) makes the best morning pick-me-up, as a healthier alternative to the traditional cup of joe and a great complement to pancakes. Not only does it contain reasonable amounts of caffeine, it also gets your digestive gears running early in the morning. Now that’s just the same effect as a fiber blast with 0 calories. A teabag of Lipton Green Tea goes a long way, and downing another cup after lunch ensures a post-meal perk without the caffeine OD.

[caption id="attachment_175" align="alignright" width="210" caption="Ditch the Java. Here are your new morning buddies."][/caption]


What better way to enjoy a fabulous cup of tea than to brew it yourself! Get a bag of Matcha (green tea) or Genmaicha (green tea with roasted brown rice) and enjoy authentic goodness in a ceramic cup. Let the leaves seep longer and savor a richer and fuller blend—an acquired taste but well worth the wait. Genmaicha is an all-time favorite; the brown rice creates such a splendid brew that goes best with Japanese cuisine, or anything for that matter!


Often overlooked, Oolong Tea can be a handy lifesaver especially after a major binge. It falls in between its famous cousins green and black tea in terms of caffeine content, flavor and oxidation level. Not to be dissed as merely so-so, oolong is regarded highly in China because of its fat burning potential among its other health benefits. Too bad in the Philippines only Gold Leaf produces this flavorful tea. A rare brand, Jin Ling, is spotted on occasion, but with green tea’s mass campaign, oolong is left to be enjoyed in the Chinese restaurants. Not a bad proposition, since it goes well with buchi!


[caption id="attachment_199" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Need sleep?"][/caption]

While green tea works best during the day, simmer down your hefty dinner with Chamomile Tea. Not only does it aid in digestion, it also calms down your nerves and enables a good night’s sleep. Take it solo or with a peppermint fusion and feel yourself getting lulled to sleep after a killer meal.

Forget green tea after 3pm; go for Chamomile’s flowery brew to let your day end with a does of tranquility, not hyperactivity. Best finds in the country are Marks and Spencer and Twinings.  Insomnia plaguing you as well? Have a cup of Celestial Seasonings’ Sleepytime Herbal Tea and you’ll be snoozing in no time.


White Tea is a rather exceptional find but with very exceptional qualities. It trumps green tea in the health aspects and tones down on the caffeine level. Perfect for this insomniac! Last I checked, only Celestial Seasonings offers White Tea in the market. Will mass market producer Lipton come up with such? Pretty please, with steam on the top!

Note: Lipton in the US has Tea To Go, artificially sweetened and flavored green or white tea in powdered form, which could perhaps be my holy grail in sinfully flavored faux tea. In the Philippines, nothing has come close to this tea-riffic variant, yet.


[caption id="attachment_194" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="When will we ever find these in the Philippines?"][/caption]

Green tea’s spill-over in the food and cosmetics industries is so immense it’s created a niche on its own. Consider the following curious concoctions, some of which have become mainstream favorites: ice cream (FIC, Arce, Haagen Dazs), Frozen Yogurt (Red Mango and Tutti Frutti), frappuccino and latte (Starbucks, Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf and Bo's Coffee, to name a few), soba noodles (typical in Japan but about to be in the Philippines), perfume (Green Tea by Elizabeth Arden), soymilk (Lactasoy), soaps, toners and creams (Etude House and Watsons, among others), supplements (Fitrum, etc.), candies, chocolates (Meiji and Kitkat), mochi and cakes (Dezato and Bread Talk).

Can’t wait for the next roll out of green tea-based goodies! I do hope it’s pasta noodles, cookies or granola bars!

[caption id="attachment_196" align="alignright" width="180" caption="Best. Chocolate. Ever."][/caption]


Of course not all green tea derived products are to die for. Some project a healthy and “going green” image but forego all the health benefits, and I’m not a sucker for those fakers.

Here are my Top 3 faves, the green tea goods that will make you go googly-eyed:

  • Frappuccino – I’m not a coffee person, so flavors like Mocha, Espresso or even Hazelnut have no appeal to me. Bring in the Matcha Frap and no diet is spared. Sure it can be fattening if taken everyday, but the pleasure factor beats every pragmatic thought being sent by the brain. Just think about it: It’s got green tea, it’s creamy and yes, we won’t be getting brown stains on our teeth after a grande sized serving.

  • Chocolate – I love Green Tea flavored Kit Kat so match-a it gives dark chocolate major competition in the comfort food department. Sadly enough, my stash from Japan is nearing the red line. Anyone visiting Japan soon? Hint, hint.

  • Ice Cream/Mochi – Ice cream already is the ultimate dessert, by default. Bring on the green tea flavor, and it becomes the undisputed choice. Go the extra mile by reaching for the ice cream-mochi medley and you’re set for life. No kidding. Green tea ice cream of FIC is already a wonderful freezer staple, and Mercato Centrale’s green tea ice cream mochi is well worth the travel to Bonifacio High Street on an early weekend.


Not even green tea’s perfect. Even the world’s favorite tea has its share of disappointing derivatives. I’ve listed 3:

  • Iced Tea – Iced Tea (aka sugar with a wee bit of tea) veers away from the healthy drink segment by dishing out more sugar than a slice of cake. With novel add-ons including lemon or apple flavor, sugar, aspartame or even sparkling water, the tea has evolved into something monstrously unhealthy and is fast approaching the nutritional content of a can of cola.

  • Eye Roll-on – A world-renowned cosmetics brand decided to infuse green tea into the formulation of their eye roll-on. Like most eye therapy thingamajigs, it fails to perform as promised. But unlike those other eye thingamajigs, the blame here goes to green tea. Next time, why don’t we just sleep early?

  • Cake – Ah yes, if there’s anything that would be a splendid match for tea, it would be a green tea cake (obviously). Sprinkled with matcha powder and infused with the same grassy essence, this should be every tea drinker’s dream. Unfortunately, Dezato’s and Bread Talk’s Green Tea Cakes are a letdown for this cake lover. Not only do they taint the integrity of the tea, the cakes are uninspired and scream mediocrity that we’d rather pass on these well-packaged pastries. Next!


Black Tea is the most common tea in the world and is basically the composition of every glass of iced tea, unless otherwise stated. Lipton lives by this tea, as well as most local brands. Black is actually similar to Green Tea, with the exception of some technical terms that we can do without.

If you want a conversation starter though, you can go with: Hey, did you know that black tea has the most caffeine content in the tea family? Which is the very reason why iced tea is every insomniac’s nemesis especially if taken during dinner—yours truly a constant victim.

While I am not entirely against black tea—which has fueled the economy with its mass market goods, bravo—it has become a cliché drink that needs a serious makeover. With innovation and competition abound in the business arena, when will I ever hear something like, “One sugar free, iced white tea with natural raspberry flavor for the Lazy Black Cat?” Hope to hear that in the next 9 lives.


Saturday, February 26, 2011

[caption id="attachment_169" align="alignright" width="300" caption="So, what's in your stash?"][/caption]

With so many corn-tortilla chips and snacks out there, it's hard to keep track of what to toss in your grocery cart and what to leave behind. Rather than to look silly comparing nutritional facts, bag after bag (I know because I do that all the time!) here's a summary of what's worth keeping and ditching from my stash:

[caption id="attachment_182" align="aligncenter" width="650" caption="Click to enlarge"][/caption]

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Learn the Math

We've decided to list the acceptable threshold (synonym for limit, maximum) for every unit or nutrient, to filter the bad blood from the junkie universe and to commend the nutrition keepers. Stay within the radar and get to enjoy your snacks, guilt-free! Go overboard and get ready to roll down the hill of nutrition and healthy arteries.

Time to dish out the verdict in the junk food justice system. Find the top honors and horrors, so that we enjoy our snacks minus the bulge, the fat and the guilt!

Keep in the Pantry

1. Doritos – Baked Nacho Cheese

All the cheesy goodness of Doritos with less oil. It’s delightfully crisp, nacho cheesy and low in calorie and fat. What more can we ask for?

2. Tostitos – Restaurant Style

Made with whole grain and all-natural corn chip, we can almost call it “organic”. Go plain or with salsa and celebrate a Mexican fiesta with every bite!

3. Tostillas – Cheese

Tostillas combines a cheesy treat and killer crunch sans the lethal amount of calories and fat of its local competition. Craving for a different tang? Go for sour cream.

4Cheetos – Baked

Best Cheetos in the cheesy clan, and with 130 calories to boot! Fab thing about it is that it tastes just like its original Cheetos, no kidding!

5. Tortillos – Barbecue

Want a zesty kick? Go for Tortillos and save up to 80 mg of sodium than if you were to munch on Chippy.

Down the Drain

1. Chiz Curls

Failing almost every threshold set by the Lazy Black Cat, it’s time for Chiz Curls to start being straight. We cannot let the future kids reach obesity because the “Powerpuff Girls said so.”

2. Cheetos – Cheese Puffs

Unhealthiest member of the Cheetos family with the salt content that surpasses 300mg. Why bother with the bloat when you can trim down with the baked counterpart?

3. Chippy – Barbecue

Loaded with calories and fat, the original barbecue Chippy may be sappy but also cheap-y! Good thing Jack ‘n Jill came up with Chippy O’s to save brand from nutritional destruction.

4. Chumbos Twirls

Chumbos makes Dumbo seem small in comparison. Don’t let the twirls fool you—180 calories per cup is certainly not peanuts!

5. Humpy Dumpy

Highest in total fat and ranks among top calorie players. Don’t even let us get started on the aroma.

So, what's in your pantry? Don't you think it's time for a bit of  spring cleaning and junk tossing?

The Corn Identity

It’s just fitting to inaugurate this junk food fest by starting with the world’s widely produced grain, CORN (scientific name: maize). From corn snacks to corn-on-the-cob to cornflakes, corn is undeniably the most recognized carbohydrate with gastronomic significance across all nations and demographics. The junk food empire is not spared by the maize’s proliferation and has in fact become its ally in spreading the goodness of corn chips to the snack market.

Frito Lay may be the undisputed king of corn chips, but local varieties are popping up and charming the taste buds of the Filipino snacker. Find everything that’s got corn in this section—from corn to tortilla chips to those puffy snacks that always give us the orange touch.

We’ll weed out the natural corn killers, so that you can slash them off your eating list and replace them with the worthy junk. Now isn’t that much better than snacking on oatmeal everyday?



The corn-tortilla-chip epitome, Doritos has surpassed every brand made known to man and continues to expand its flavors and cater to every local taste. What’s more, it launched the Baked! Doritos version (Nacho Cheese) which can be considered the holy grail for every calorie-counting snacker. One serving (1 oz) consists of 120 calories (80% of the original) and 0.5g saturated fat (1/4 of the original).

Keep to the serving size though, since we wouldn’t want you to become bloated with the excess salt (220 mg or 20% more than the original).

Doritos continues to be the unsurpassed tortilla chip and top-of-mind brand because its blends in the perfect nacho cheese goodness with the right crisp. Most will surely agree that it’s the ultimate comfort food of this generation.

Country check. To date, the following have been listed as flavors available in the Philippines market: Nacho Cheese, Barbecue, Ranch, Taco and Baked Nacho Cheese. Flavors we wish were made available: Salsa Verde, Seaweed (Nori), Cheese Enchilada and Sour Cream and of course, Reduced Fat Nacho Cheese!


Next-in-line in the corn chip kingdom, Tostitos expands its reign not by its flavorful variety but by its monochromatic contours. Here we have Restaurant Style, Crispy Rounds, Multigrain, SCOOPS! and Restaurant Style with a Hint of Lime. Calorie-wise, munching on mediocrity poses no fatal risk, but binge on 2x the serving size and make sure that you have a cup of tea to resuscitate your arteries before they decide to take a break from this world.

Salt threats aside, what’s terrific about Tostitos is its mildly delectable taste that goes just right with every dip! There’s also that hint of Mexican authenticity that makes every experience feel like a salsa-riffic fiesta! The Restaurant Style, with 140 calories and 1g of saturated fat, can really give Baked Doritos a run for its corn silk. Go easy on the cheese dip or reach for salsa and have a delightfully whole grain snack sans the orange fingers.

In a snack world where long sounding ingredients flood every packaging, here’s another reason to hail Tostitos—only 3 ingredients! Now that’s all-natural!

What we want to sample in the Philippines: SCOOPS! Hint of Jalapeno and Roasted Garlic and Black Bean.


Tortillos has got to be the staple in every person’s pantry, field trip, drawer and study group. There’s something about the salt-laden chip that screams zest and vigor, fun and friends. If Doritos is the universal comfort food, then Tortillos is the Pinoy comfort chichirya (snack). Amazingly, its nutritional information falls within safe levels, despite its flavorsome thin rolled chip. Keep within the right serving and get your daily dose of junk food high form Tortillos.

While barbecue is the popular choice, the cheese and sour cream varieties offer a bit of novelty for adventure-seekers.


Doritos’ petite half-sibling sans the cheese explosion and the enjoyable munch. This is the localized version of Doritos that can actually satisfy the taste buds of the less discriminating folk. But for the rest of the elitist populace, nothing can replace Doritos. If we’re going to while away on empty calories, make it count! After all Tostillas just has the same calories as its Frito Lay counterpart, with twice the saturated fat content!


Mr. Chips veers from the Doritos wannabe segment by adding the extra crunch that it is known for. But with a cheesy flavor that screams “artificial” we’re better off munching on other cheesy alternatives. With its 5g saturated fat content per serving, that’s already 25% of our day’s needs. Calling Mr. Obesity!


Ah yes, the aroma of a freshly opened bag of Humpy Dumpy is enough to send us running for the nearest gas mask. However it isn’t actually the smell that should bother us but rather what’s in it.

More than 170 calories per bag and with 6g saturated fat. That’s like saying, eat 2 bags of Humpy Dumpy is all you need to get your day’s quota of sat fat. Time to dump this killer Hump.



In every 80s kid’s stash was the ubiquitous Chippy. Every teen or adult who sees a bag orhears the Eraserheads commercial (Bogchi: a moniker of "snack/food") would probably reminisce on recess time and the patintero sessions of his childhood days. But that is so 90s. Today, Chippy is like munching on peppercorn—hard and peppery and no imagination whatsoever. Perhaps it’s the spirit of barkada that keeps Chippy alive, definitely not its 7g saturated fat content.

Kudos for the newly launched Chippy O’s – Garlic Flavor for nearly halving this lethal saturated fat amount to 4g. Still considered hefty, but a large improvement from its big barbecue momma.


Like Chippy, there’s something very plain and unimaginative about this product that screams “recycle bin!” If you’re looking for the standard corn snack, go for Tostitos—whole grain goodness for 20 less calories and just the same list of ingredients.

If you're one boring bloke, then indulge. After all, Fritos' fat content is one of the lowest in this list.


In Mexico, taquito is popularly known as flauta, a lightly fried rolled-up tortilla with filling. Funny how Taquitos became more of a Tortillos copycat than a replica of its namesake (which would’ve been loads better). With more calories, salt and fat content, let us welcome Tortillos’ evil twin—the one we hide in the closet and forget ever existed.


Even the Powerpuff girls on its packaging cannot hide the fact that Chiz Curls is one puffy disaster. Calories, fat and sodium content zoom higher than Buttercup can fly. With 10g saturated fat, you’ll certainly get pudgy before you can spell “partially hydrogenated.” That’s right, Chiz Curls is dangerously smothered with partially hydrogenated vegetable oil—that’s the bad oil they use in fast food. Might as well kill yourselves with French fries; at least they won’t give you orange fingers. Chiz Curls gets an F in all accounts—a junkie food catastrophe that deserves a major makeover!


The tagline “Dangerously Cheesy!” does not seem to scare us one bit, but read between the lines.

Cheetos is hazardously fattening and wins the horrorific award for servings us cholesterol laden corn. The sodium content is sky-high and the saturated fat, well, it surely isn’t that pleasant. If you insist on snacking on the cheese puff kind, go for Baked Cheetos—the lowest calorie content (130 calories) after Baked Doritos (120 calories) and stays within the 1g level of saturated fat. Now that’s one danger we can face!


We never understood what a four leaf clover has got to do with a tapioca-flour-cum-corn snack, but we are fortunate enough that it has outlived much of its competitors. Clover Chips is one of the rare kinds in the market that is salt mine disguised as a vitamin-packed chip. Enriched with vitamins, Clover Chips goes a long way by fortifying itself with fat and salt too. Had Leslie’s toned down the bad stuff, Clover Chips would’ve been one of the best local snacks. Tough luck for now.

As a side note, the last Clover Chips we ate only listed the CALORIE CONTENT in the nutritional facts portion. Where on earth are the others? Are you hiding them from the curious eaters? I'm one curious cat, beware.


Cheezy’s tagline “Outrageously cheesy” is so outrageously crafted, even a five-year old can tell which snack it was copied from. Why, even the syllables are a perfect match—well done! The calories are at par, but wait, the saturated fat content is at a whopping 7g (vs Cheetos at 2g). That’s 33% —how horrible! Uh-oh, guess Chester Cheetah wouldn’t be too happy to hear about this outrageously calorific copycat that’s about to get crunched.


Nacho promotes the loud crunching sound that its spicy corn chips could possibly offer. Aside from sore jaws, expect a swelling sensation as well, after ingesting 1/3 of your day’s saturated fat quota. It also doesn’t help that for a simplistic corn chip, it has 5 lines in the ingredient list—and that doesn’t even include the vitamins yet. Craving for that cracking experience? Go for peanuts instead.



Next to Cheezy, newly introduced Chumbos is Jack ‘n Jill’s answer to the Cheetos phenomenon. The overall lookscreams Cheetos, but with a name like Chumbos, is it a nutritional mumbo jumbo? With 20 more calories but less than 2g saturated fat than Cheezy, this makes Chumbos a cheesier choice than its Leslie’s counterpart. Still, with a host of flavoring, MSG and partially hydrogenated oil in every spiral, go easy on the twirls and promise not to finish the giant bag in one go or you’ll certainly end up like Dumbo.

Sorry for not having posted a picture of Chumbos yet. I will, soon, but in the meantime, you'll surely spot this giant orange bag a mile away in the grocery should you decide to go junk food shopping.


Ring shaped chips can be a real attraction. Eat it with all fingers and pray that you can still wash those orange-tinged fingers by the time you shake hands with your boss. Hygiene aside, the Cheese Ring package may be minute in size but massive in fat. Imagine this little bugger lugging around 6g of saturated fat—already 32% of your day’s needs. It also carries with it 3g of sugar. No wonder kids get hyper just looking at the shiny blue wrapper. Next time you get a ring craving, grab a bag of Roller Coaster (review to come) and get that cheese fix.


Kornets reigns as the uniqueness champion with its conical shape and semi sweet taste—but that’s not the only distinct thing about it. This corn snack also contains 2 strange ingredients for a kiddie concoction: non-dairy creamer and aspartame. If you worry about the coffee component, well you’re safe as only the creamer is present to provide the creamy texture that makes Kornets delectable. As for aspartame—the sweetness aspect. The big question is: why does Kornets still contain 2g of sugar? That’s a hefty dose for a small package. At this rate, we might as well be eating corn ice cream.

Well, that was quite a mouthful. Need some time to digest all these? I certainly do. This calls for tea.

However, do check out the nutritional facts portion for a more in-depth approach to the science of food, while those looking for a smashing summary can inspect What's in Your Pantry/Bin.

Eat well!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Who let the cat out of the bag?

I did. Well, to be more specific: We will.

“Stop being so cryptic,” you might think, so let me go straight to the point. The Lazy Black Cat’s going to strip these snack-time favorites we call “junk foods” bare and spill the beans on their horrendous nutritional labels and chemical-infested chips and pieces.

We need to bring back justice in the junk food universe (which has been harshly contaminated by bad fats and excessive sugar and salt), or else everyone will be flabby and bald by the end of the decade. Calendar check—that’s right—2011 just started. On the off-chance this decade has been christened with an –ing nickname, it sure isn’t synonymous to nutrition.

Anyway, with the nutritional assessment and catty remarks of this self-proclaimed food savant, let’s all hope that we can survive the Terrible 10’s (plausible, right?) and welcome the Roaring 20’s with both legs and kidneys functional. If we do, then consider this blog as having succeeded in its gastronomic mission.

Stay tuned, as this blog will be brewing in no time.


I counted 4 clichés—my bad. I confess to being a cliché-holic out of verbal enjoyment. However I will steer clear from these literary embarrassments as much as possible, not to mention suppress the temptation of dishing out cat-related idioms and expressions. In case I do fall for the truism trap, feel free to point them out, so that I can acknowledge your benevolence.