Saturday, November 22, 2008

Happy Thoughts: Thick Sauces and Homemade Bubble Tea

Have you ever thought about the humble tapioca flour as almost an indispensable part of your life? Tapioca flour used to be 10 sen a kati? And it must be in a jar near the foochow stove? But if you are a stranger to tapioca, never mind. Just enjoy this article.

First of all I am happy to say that tapioca flour is a commercial product made in Sibu and many other tropical places. Unknown to many there is indeed a factory in Sibu producing this indispensable product for several decades.

Secondly tapioca flour is a very important ingredient in Foochow cuisine. It makes sauces thick and rich like sweet and sour sauce. Add a teaspoon of the powder to three tablespoons of water and you get a thickening sensation!

Thirdly tapioca flour is a helpful dusting powder for babies and even adults to make skin dry. It is a great alternative to store bought talcum powder. So if you suffer from chaffing of the skin between the legs and under the arms use some tapioca flour. This is a useful tip given to me many years ago by my cousin who is a very wise Foochow doctor. I have saved a lot of money by not buying commercial talc when I took care of my babies. And in fact some talcum powder indicate that they have tapioca as part of their contents.

And now tapioca flour is part of the world famous Taiwan Bubble Milk Tea . The pearls are in fact tapioca balls.This new age tea is a craze in South East Asia for the last 15 years or so. It has indeed changed the social attitude towards the traditional tea shop or coffee shop. Most of the bubble tea shops have nice names like Hong Char Dao or Tea Boat or just Taiwan Bubble Tea. The price of course is three or four times that of a normal cup of coffee shop tea. The innovation involved is the huge variety of flavours to try, depending on the tea house or stand you visit. The drink is usually a mix of tea, milk, sugar, and giant black tapioca balls. The "bubble" refers to the foam created by shaking the freshly brewed tea with ice (the drink must always be shaken and not stirred). And you really need a specially made straw to get those big marble like pearls into your mouth!!

After the first initial drink you may develop a liking for it especially on a hot tropical day and after a few long hours of shopping. I read somewhere that the whole idea came from a school canteen in Taiwan which served this tea to small kids after school many years ago.

Ever since I saw Anthony Bourdain drinking Taiwan Bubble milk tea with a gigantic straw I have been making my own milk tea at home.


All you need is a small packet of tapioca flour (make small balls with hands and add pink or green colouring)
One tine of Ideal Evaporated Milk
Some sugar
Some honey
Jasmine tea
hot boiling water to make your jasmine tea.
Lots of ice.

And large tall glasses
And of course gigantic straws of different colours which you can get in supermarkets. If you know some one in a Bubble tea outlet get some off him for a small fee. Don't let on you are making your own.

You can save hundreds of ringgits per year. Better still your children will be so happy to bring their own bubble tea to school. And furthermore if you make those tapioca balls with your children they would be so proud of themselves.

And for many of my friends who are gluten intolerant tapioca flour is a blessing. It is a great alternative. Smiles are all around when they can have their cakes too.

Come to think of it...tapioca flour in so many occasions has helped us through thick and thin!!

Make your own bubble tea?

6 memories:

Bengbeng said...

ask u a stupid question to expose my ignorance, ok? :) is tapioca flour the same powder use dby coffeee shops when cooking sauce for 'wet' kue tiaw' or the thick taufu soup?

all3cool said...

You are a true, faithful and typical Foo keep the tradition n info alive. I'm the worst of all the Chinese..haha..know nothing about Chinese stuff...just know about Chinese food. Eat, not cook.

sarawakiana said...

Dear Beng Beng

Su hoon is the Foochow term for tapioca flour. the Hokkiens call the flour Twa Chu Hoon.

Corn flour works the same as tapioca flour.

These two types of flour are used to thicken the sauce "wet kue tiaw" or the taufu soup.

However the restaurant chefs would use a special powder to thicken sharks' fin soup and definitely not corn flour or tapioca flour. At home most housewives would use corn flour or tapioca flour.

sarawakiana said...

Hi A.

Nice of you to visit. Eating is a blessing. It does not matter if you don't know much about food history etc...You are still young and there is always time for you to acquire more knowledge.

Be happy and feel blessed that you can eat !!

Bengbeng said...

i see . thanks :)

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