Friday, October 29, 2010

Pretzels in Madagascar!

After my succesful pinhata story two weeks ago, I thought I'd continue with my mission to introduce foreign objects in Madagascar. The American Marines were organizing an October Fest last week, and you know - we're always in for beer drinking parties. So I was going to contribute by making pretzels. Can't get more German than that!

What you may not know, is that Pretzels have a secret ingredient that is very hard to come by. It's called caustic soda, it's a chemical also used for unclogging toilets and killing insects. Before baking the pretzels, you have to dip them into caustic soda to make them brown, shiny and crispy. Believe me, egg yolk won't do!!

So I am asking around for this stuff at a pharmacy in Tana, not knowing even what it is in French. The pharmacist doesn't understand anything of my story -can't blame him, - and I am about to step out until an old man asks me if I am looking for Soude Castique. And then he popped the question that almost made me faint with surprise: "Are you going to make pretzels??"  How the #$%$% did he know? Nobody knows this stuff even exists, let alone that it's used for pretzels.

As it turns out, he's German who ran a German restaurants for many years in Tana. He kindly explained to me that caustic soda is really hard to find here, but why don't I come by his house to get some. I couldn't believe my luck!

When you read the instruction on how to use this stuff, you'll get scared. It's a poison, and it's recommended to use gloves and even goggles when dipping the pretzels in it. Seriously!

Dipping pretzels in their poison - scary stuff

The German man, his name his Horst, tells me to dilute the powder in hot water before dipping the unbaked pretzels. But the recipe I am following on internet mentions cold water. I choose the latter. Very very bad choice! After two hours of hard work, I dip them and put them in the oven, but they come out as bread sticks. Not crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. Just hard pieces of  baked dough.

I should have listened better to Horst. Not to the internet!

Two valuable lessons I learned that day:

1. Never think you know better than the locals

2. People will eat anything after a few beers!



  1. Dear Susanne,

    I just had a look at your blog and I found it very interesting.
    My name is Salome and I work on a hit American television show called House Hunters International.
    The show is a half-hour program currently airing on the Home and Garden Television Network (HGTV) about people relocating to another country and buying a property.

    I would love to film an episode in Madagascar and I’m looking for people that have moved there and bought a property.
    From looking at your blog, I couldn’t figure out whether you had bought a house or not but if you have and if you are interested in being on our show, please let me know at and I’ll be happy to send you more information.

    I look forward to hearing from you.

    Best wishes,


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  3. I have enjoyed reading about the different places you've lived and worked. That is a dream of mine which I hope I can fulfill. Would love to work for the UN, I know it might be hard but I hope. I was reading your story on making Pretzels and I am curious as to why you have to use caustic soda, which you say is a posion, to make these pretzels? Just so they look "brown, shiny, and crispy". It's poison!... in your body. Why? Love your blog though. Thanks for sharing.