A Cooler Coke: Pakola

Each Tuesday and Thursday for the next few weeks, we'll be taking a look at alternatives to cokes for the sticky Houston summer that lies ahead.

Last night, one of my fellow Eating Our Words bloggers -- Jason Kerr -- brought over a special treat to my house. No, not the six-pack of Miller High Life. That was for him. Jason had brought me an ice-cold can of Pakola.

"Where on earth did you find this?" I asked excitedly.

"You know, that Indian restaurant," he answered with a smile. He was referring, of course, to Royal Restaurant, the outstanding Indian and Pakistani restaurant that was reviewed in this week's print version of the Press.

Pakola has the meritorious distinction of being exactly what its portmanteau sounds like: Pakistani cola. Finally! Something I can quickly and easily absorb! Even better? The can is orange, and you know what that means: orange-flavored soda lies in wait inside.

Sadly, the can isn't quite as festive as the Uludağ Portakal can was, but the unassuming little can of Pakola has its own magic: a pull-tab that's entirely different from the ones we're used to here in the States. There's something transporting -- even for the millisecond it takes pull the tab up and off -- about opening a can of soda in a different way from the one you're used to. A vacation in two seconds. It's the little things in life, folks.

Orange is not the original flavor of Pakola. From what I understand, the lime green can containing a flavor ambiguously referred to as "ice cream soda" that was first bottled in Pakistan in 1950 is the first and still the most popular flavor. Several other fruit flavors came along over the years, including lychee and raspberry, both of which sound delicious.

And I'm imagining that they taste just as good as they sound after drinking the can of Pakola Orange in one fell swoop. This much soda can't possibly be good for me -- I rarely drink soft drinks outside of the research for these posts -- but when they taste this good, I stop caring. The Pakola Orange tastes like a sweeter version of Uludağ Portakal, with less carbonation. In other words, it tastes a lot like Sunkist.

But why drink Sunkist when you get a can of Pakola? Sure, it might cost a few pennies more. But remember the sensation of being momentarily transported when you open a can of exotic soda? It's worth those few extra cents, especially when all the days of summer begin to blur together in an endless haze of swampy heat.

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