tapioca

Bubble Tea

Sipping what was then a novelty in New York City’s Chinatown, my first impression of bubble tea was its resemblance to an ingredient from my childhood. The jelly-like bubbles, resembling frog eggs, came up through the straw along with the perfect amount of sweetened tea. In the Indian drink, falooda, the taste of the black pearl-shaped bubbles is camouflaged by ice cream and rose syrup, but in bubble tea, the texture and taste of larger tapioca pearls are up-front and center.

Tapioca pearls are made from cassava root, and swell up when boiled in water. The swollen pearl has a firm core, and they look very similar to bubbles of eggs in ponds, tucked under leaves and algae. Used in both sweet and savory dishes, tapioca pearls have a teeny bite to the otherwise smooth jelly-like consistency.

Bubble tea, often called pearl tea or Boba tea, started out as a simple concoction of black tea, sweetened milk, and small tapioca pearls. However, it is now available with flavorings of honey, fruit juice, and bigger “boba’ pearls. As A. and N. are more familiar with the modern version of bubble tea, I wanted them to experience the less sweet version.

Bubble Tea

Boba (dried tapioca pearls) – ¼ cup

Tea bags –1-2 (depending on strength)

Sugar – ¼ cup

Condensed Milk – ¼ cup

Regular Milk – ¼ cup

Fruit juice or honey – optional

  • Boil 2 cups of water
  • Add the dried tapioca pearls. Cook until soft (from 5-15 minutes depending on their size).
  • Drain using a fine colander, so that the pearls don’t drain through. Let the softened tapioca pearls cool.
  • Boil ¼ cup water. Add sugar and mix until you have a simple syrup or sugar solution.
  • Pour the syrup over the cooked pearls. Refrigerate.
  • Bring 1 cup of water to boil. Add the tea bag (s) to make a strong tea. Let the bags steep for 5 minutes. Discard the tea bags. Refrigerate the tea.
  • When ready to serve, add boba pearls to the cold tea.
  • Add milk, condensed milk, and simple syrup. Adjust according to your sweet tooth.
  • Shake the entire mixture so that the bubbles distribute uniformly through the tea.

Note: I used Indian tapioca pearls that are smaller, but the larger dried tapioca pearls are readily available at Chinese supermarkets.

The next few weeks will be busy, but I look forward to catching up with you in June! If you have any suggestions on what you would like to see covered, please let me know

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A Gluten-Free Carbohydrate: Cassava Flour and Tapioca Pearls. Part 2

Last week while cooking my favorite root tuber, cassava, I learned that cassava flour (made from cassava starch) is gluten-free. The starch that is extracted from the cassava root is available in two forms – fine white flour or opaque tapioca pearls. When American families and friends with disparate tastes and food allergies gather around the Thanksgiving table, cassava flour and pearls can be incorporated in the meal to include those with gluten sensitivity to the table. The flour and pearls can be used to make cheese bread and dessert (tapioca pudding and falooda), offering simple substitutions to long-established menus.

Gluten is a protein found in grains that give dough its elasticity and bread its texture. Sensitivity to gluten or celiac disease prohibits foods made with many of the traditional grains, such as wheat and rye. Cassava flour is a good alternate for making bread, pancakes, or to thicken gravy. South Americans use cassava flour to make a cheese bread called Pao de Queijo and Chipa – deliciously cheesy with a pleasant chewy bite.

 

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Cheese Bread (Brazil)

Cassava flour – 2 cups

Whole milk – 1 cup

Vegetable oil – ½ cup

Salt – ¾ tsp

Egg – 2, beaten

Parmesan cheese – 1 ½ cup

  • Set the oven to 400°F.
  • Add all the ingredients, except for the cheese, in a large bowl.
  • Mix them together to form dough.
  • Fold in the cheese to the dough mixture.
  • Drop a tablespoon of the dough at a time on to a nonstick pan.
  • Cook the dough balls for 15-20 minutes.

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Tapioca Pudding and Falooda are two easy desserts that use tapioca pearls, the starch made from the cassava root. The pearls are available in a range of diameters (1mm to 6mm) and colors (brown, white, and black). Tapioca pearls need to be soaked in water or cooked in milk to rehydrate them. When cooked in milk, they give tapioca pudding a comforting creamy consistency. The water-soaked tapioca pearls in falooda add a chewy morsel in an otherwise rich and milky South Asian dessert.

 

Tapioca Pudding

Whole milk – 3 cups

Eggs – 2, beaten

Tapioca Pearls (white) – ½ cup

Sugar – ½ cup

Salt – ¼ tsp

Vanilla/rose/cinnamon essence – 1 tsp

  • Mix the whole milk, tapioca pearls and salt in a saucepan and bring it slowly to a boil. Stir continuously so tapioca mixes and thickens as it cooks.
  • When the milk starts to boil, turn the heat down. Add sugar slowly, while stirring continuously so it dissolves.
  • Remove from heat and let the thickened mixture cool for a minute.
  • Add the beaten egg into the mixture (watch it doesn’t curdle).
  • Bring the mixture back to a simmer and let it thicken, about five minutes.
  • Add the essence.
  • Dessert can be eaten warm or cold. Top with berries.

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Falooda

Milk – 1 cup

Translucent noodles (vermicelli) – 1 oz.

Tapioca pearls (black) – 2 tbsp.

Strawberry or raspberry jelly – 1 packet

Rose syrup – 1 tbsp

Vanilla ice cream –1 small tub

  • Make the jelly according to the instructions on the packet
  • Soak the tapioca pearls in water for half-hour to rehydrate them.
  • Cook the noodles according to the instructions on the packet or until soft.
  • Add the drained noodles to half a cup of milk and simmer for five minutes.
  • Have all the ingredients near at hand to assemble the dessert. Keep layers separate for a colorful display. In a tall glass, start with a layer of jelly, followed by the noodles and a tablespoon of milk, 1 tablespoon of tapioca pearls, and two scoops of ice cream. Finally, drizzle  the rose syrup over the ice cream. Serve immediately.

 

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