Growing up in Southern California with a Japanese best friend made for many trips to our local Japanese market. I always loved trying the different sodas, especially those most unlike Western soda—Ramune is one of my all-time favorites. It has Hello Kitty on the label and uses a marble-size ball that functions as the cork. On a recent trip to San Francisco’s Japantown with CHOW’s food team, I found myself drawn to the sodas at our local Nijiya. I grabbed Calpico, a milk-based soda. It comes in a variety of flavors, but I went with the sweet, tangy original version. It turns out my BFF had been drinking it for years. We’ve since had a tête-à-tête as to why she didn’t let me in on the greatness of Calpico during our preteen trips to Nijiya!

Calpico Original Soda, $1.47 a can

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