Tadpoles, the latest craze in seafood?
Awww....you don't think I would actually eat tadpoles, do ya? I draw the line at giant beetle larvae. Plus tadpoles are way too cute to eat!
So what's in the picture then?
You tell me - leave me a comment with your best guess!
When someone gets it right, I'll publish my real Weird Food Wednesdays post.
Well… looks like I’ll have to try harder next time to stump all you clever foodies!
YES - those are indeed the tapioca balls (a.k.a. “pearls” or “boba”) that you find in bubble tea or pearl milk tea. Bubble tea was invented in Taiwan in the '80s, but today you’ll find it all over Asia and in many North American cities. It’s easy to identify one of these drinks - just look for the giant colorful straw!
The tapioca balls aren’t the wimpy kind you find in tapioca pudding - these suckers are substantial, making this drink more like a meal replacement. The gelatinous balls are usually dark brown but I’ve come across gimmicky clear or colorful varieties before. I believe it takes some careful preparation to achieve the proper taste and texture (perfectly chewy with a hint of sweetness); otherwise, I would be cranking out a batch at home every day. And they need to be made fresh, or else the tapioca breaks down and loses texture.
The original pearl milk tea flavor is simply made with black tea, creamer or condensed milk, and sugar, but increased popularity has spawned fruit and other variations (Kris likes cookies ‘n’ cream and mocha flavor). I’m a purist – I only like the original flavor and I like it served cold (in some tea bars you can have it served hot).
Since I’ve moved to the New York metro area, I’ve had major issues with quality control. Sometimes the tapioca is hard in the center, meaning it wasn’t properly cooked. But I’m usually disappointed with the taste of the tea – poor quality or too “flowery/perfume-y” completely spoils the drink for me, and I’m not opposed to powdered mixes as long as they taste good. I’m ashamed to admit how many times I’ve tossed the entire drink in the garbage after one sip (Kris knows, it’s cost him a small fortune over the years). I never had this problem when I lived in Vancouver, the start of my addiction (thanks, Ginger!), where bubble tea tastes fairly consistent. Dragon Ball Tea House is my current go-to place in Vancouver, but I first became a fan at Oasis in Kerrisdale. I’ve also heard that San Francisco does bubble tea proud. And since bloggers Kenny (Hong Kong) and Connie (Hawaii) were the first to identify the tapioca balls, I’m pretty sure they’ve got great bubble tea cafes in their neck of the woods.
Meanwhile, I’m still looking for a reliable place in New York and New Jersey (suggestions please!) In Jersey, the only bubble tea that I’ve actually finished in the past year was from Tiger Noodles in Princeton. At least I have one local place to go in case of emergency. The bubble tea I picked up from the Quakerbridge Mall last week was a total disaster (perfumed tea, center hardness in the balls). My search continues…