Saturday, September 18, 2010

Bubble Tea

As humans we like to think our intellect has taken us above and beyond our humble beginnings, but when it comes down to it, we’re guided more by biology than we’d like to admit.

I mean what else would explain how our genes influence which stinky men we find attractive?!

It’s amazing really how our biology has synched itself with our surroundings- from something as close to us as sweaty (aka sexy) men to something as far away as the sun’s rise and fall.

Synching to our environment activates our circadian rhythm, or internal 24-hour clock that tells our body to rest or wake. But I think my body has an additional quarter-annual circadian rhythm.

It’s when my body tells me I need to go back home to Chicago.

For 5 years during graduate school I basically went home every 3-4 months. But now I’m all growns up with a real job. Which means going home 4 times a year has turned into going home twice a year- and for much shorter periods of time.

But my body isn’t cooperating with my new schedule. Four months ago I took a trip home, and last week homesickness hit me like a ton of bricks. The damn quarter-annual cycle- kicks in like freaking clockwork!!

To cope I like to make foods that remind me of home. In the past it’s been Assyrian dishes. But today I’m making something that reminds me specifically of Chicago, and my days at The University of Chicago (and our trips to Chinatown).

Bubble "Tea" inspired by Joy Yees in Chicago.

Bubble Tea, or boba drink is a Taiwanese beverage with chewy tapioca balls (or various kinds of jellies). The drink can range from milk tea to smoothie-based drinks. I like the tea drinks but my sensitivity to caffeine means I can’t actually drink them after 1 pm or else I’ll be up all night. So fruit smoothies are typically my go-to boba drink.

The thing is, I have not found ONE PLACE in northern California that makes their smoothie with real fruit. (Ironic, to say the least.) They use this nasty powdered “fruit” drink mix that I find absolutely disgusting.

Joy Yees though… mmmmm… they’re a totally different type of place. You walk into the restaurant and they’ve got an entire wall covered in fruit. You definitely get the real deal at Joy Yees. And with a bagillion over 50 options (honeydew, durian, strawberry, papaya, taro, kiwi, canteloupe, etc), its hard to chose just one.

So a few months ago, when I spied tapioca balls at a local Asian market I jumped at the chance to make my own boba drink. And I knew right away which flavor I would make: watermelon lychee, one of my favorites at Joy Yees.

Turns out the tapioca that I bought wasn’t the chewy black kind but a smaller
and softer variety. A little different than what I love, but delicious none the less.

And when I finally bought those fat straws required to suck up all the tapioca goodness (I used them as supports in the wedding cake I made) I knew this was the week to make boba!

The only thing I was bummed about after making this drink was that I hadn't made it sooner. A full 3 seconds after I sucked down this glass I was ready for another. It was sooooooo refreshing and delicious!

So even if you never try the smoothie with tapioca, I highly recommend the watermelon-lychee mix. Every sip literally tastes like summer.

Yours in culinary comfort,

Cooking tapioca is a 2 day process that turns opaque little balls into translucent gummy ones.

Straight from the package

After boiling for 15 minutes

After soaking overnight + another quick boil + an additional 
3 (or more) hour soaking

Watermelon lychee "smoothie" with tapioca balls
(serves one large glass)

2 cups watermelon
3-4 lychees (canned or fresh), more/less to taste
5 cubes of ice
pearl tapioca* (optional), I used a little less than the recommended serving size.

1. Cook tapioca according to package instructions.  This is a 2 day process to plan accordingly.
2. Combine watermelon, lychees and ice cubes in blender and blend until blended.
3. Add tapioca to bottom of glass. Top with fruit smoothie.
4. Stick in a big fat straw and enjoy.

*tapioca can be found at Asian markets. Fat bubble tea straws can also sometimes be found at Asian markets (like Ranch 99) or online at Amazon.

Tapioca halfway through cooking process. They look almost like caviar...


Tamara Marnell said...

I attempted to cook with tapioca once when I was a teenager, and it did not end well. This looks gorgeous and delicious, but I think I should try authentic bubble tea before I go destroying another batch of expensive root starches!

Suzanne M. Ferrara-Harris said...

Tawny said...

your drink looks so good! i think i would definitely have to make a couple batches due to the process!
-Tawny @ The Year of The Cookie

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