As part of a continuing series where I talk about strange-looking things that can be found in my fridge/freezer/pantry, I offer this image — one that surely perplexed my roommates when they saw it on my shelf last week.
Eyeballs? Frog eggs? What is this and why was it in my fridge?
Actually, those are tapioca pearls in a brown sugar syrup. And the reason, I later learned, that they are dark in the center is that the tapioca was not fully cooked. They should have been translucent throughout.
Once I boiled them in water a little longer, I put the tapioca pearls in some homemade Thai iced tea.
I’ve always loved the tea at Thai restaurants. It’s also a common flavor at boba (or bubble tea) shops. But as I’ve learned with many other things, the drink can be recreated at home. Once we found an Asian market that sold Thai tea leaves and tapioca pearls, we were good to go.
I cooked the tapioca in a large covered pot of boiling water (at least 6:1 ratio of water to tapioca) for about 30 minutes. Then let them sit in the water uncovered for another 30 minutes. (Some recipes say less time, but clearly it wasn’t enough. Make sure they are translucent.) I rinsed the pearls in cold water and stored them in a simple syrup made of brown sugar (1:1 ratio of brown sugar to water stirred over medium heat until dissolved).
If you find Thai tea, make according to the directions on the package. If there aren’t directions, or they aren’t in English, steep at least two heaping tablespoons of tea for each cup of water you boil. (If you’re adding ice later, it helps to brew extra strong tea.) Chill completely.
In a large glass, add a few spoonfuls of tapioca. Add a few spoonfuls of sweetened condensed milk (to your taste). Top with iced tea. Stir and enjoy with an extra-wide straw.
Yes, there are a good number of steps involved, and the process involves a lot of waiting for things to boil and then cool, so make sure you make enough for several drinks so it’s not a waste of time. As far as cost, it’s definitely worth it. Asian markets will have all the ingredients for cheap. Without doing explicit math, I’d guess you’d probably be able to make 10 drinks for the cost of one at a boba tea shop.