Unusually for someone who didn’t grow up eating them (so I’m told) I love the big black tapioca pearls often served at the bottom of ice cold drinks in Chinese cafes. (Yes, I like grass jelly too!)
In China Town for dim sum last week, but arriving earlier than my friend, I stopped for a refreshing drink in Jen Cafe. I usually choose a pearl iced coffee or a fruit juice, such as Watermelon, over pearls. But this time I chose a pearl peanut drink. It tasted like a milkshake made with peanut butter. I loved it!
I still had some time to kill after slurping up the last of the silky, chewy spheres so I popped into to a few of the Chinese supermarkets to see what interesting ingredients I could find. As you can guess, I went for a packet of black tapioca pearls. I could also have chosen a packet of mixed pastel colours. For those of you familiar with the tapioca pearls used in tapioca pudding, these are much, much larger – nearer to a centimetre in diameter rather than 2-3 mm.
We spent the weekend at a friend’s house, attending a BBQ party for his birthday. It seemed to be as good a time as any to experiment with my pearls!
Following the instructions on the packet, I put them into boiling water until they were soft, shiny and squishy.
After draining them I dropped them briefly into iced water to cool them down.
I divided them between a few glasses.
Whilst they were boiling I’d thrown a tin of coconut milk, half a small jar of peanut butter, some brown sugar and a little regular milk (to thin it down) into a processor and whizzed it together. I poured that over the tapioca pearls. As I’d not thought to buy any of the extra-wide straws usually served with pearl drinks I served mine with regular straws plus teaspoons.
The reaction to the “giant frogspawn” was amusing, though most of the assembled party did, somewhat gamely, try them. They didn’t go down too well! The peanut coconut drink had a more mixed reaction with two of the drinkers finding it very strange but surprisingly moreish!
I wasn’t too surprised at the reaction, since I’ve been told that pearl drinks aren’t generally enjoyed by Western palates but I had a lot of fun and will definitely make some more pearl drinks with the rest of my packet.