Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Wasai--- Chewing your tea

Taiwan is famous for many things. Foreigners often laud Taiwan for its incredibly delicious cuisines. Food, no doubt is a cornerstone of life in Taiwan. All you have to do is flip through the channels to figure that out. It is common knowledge that 50% of basic cable channels in Taipei are dedicated to either news, cooking, or food related shows. One famous member of the Taiwanese pallet often gets left out of the stories foreigners often tell of their magical eating experiences in Taiwan, and I’m not talking about stinky tofu. I am referring to my favorite drink of all time, bubble milk tea (also known as pearl milk tea or tapioca milk tea.)

For those of you unfortunate enough to have tried this delicious concoction, it is sweet black tea, mixed with condensed milk, and waiting at the bottom are a handful of starch balls that look shockingly similar to frog’s eggs. The final little addition makes this delightful little beverage intimidating and/or unpleasant for many foreigners. “I don’t want to chew my tea,” many say. That’s exactly what I used to say too, my first 7 or 9 months in Taiwan, but I finally tried it, I mean really tried it. It takes getting used to, but once you do you’ll never go back to milk tea without it. For one, it slows you down, keeps you from drinking a sweet drink too fast. Also, it makes a drink into a little snack. So, if you have classes until 9pm, and you haven’t eaten since 11, it’s a nice little snack to carry you over until you can finally get some dinner.

The reason for starch balls in tea, or jellies, or coconut meat, or any of the other chewies “QQ” as the locals call it) that you find in your drinks in Taiwan is because of the Taiwanese love for texture in food. Texture is as much a part of the dish as its taste in Taiwan. In the US, we judge dishes on how well they taste, smell, maybe even look, but never on texture. We don’t want any strange textures in our food. Not the Taiwanese, they welcome new textures to their foods. Hence the obsession with shark fin, and other exotic sea foods like jelly fish and sea cucumber even though they don’t have any taste. So, don’t be surprised when you are offered a strange looking something and your host exclaims, “Good texture!”
Submitted to Wasai Taiwan by: Jason Brunken (Taipei)
Relatd Video:

2. magic show

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