Monday, February 8, 2010

Tapioca Pudding Wars

Tapioca is so simple to make, but you can do so much with it. I secretly like boxed instant tapioca, and I make it often -- especially when my sister and my niece are in town. We had it after the pho and bahn mi lunch TCV cooked in their honor on the day they headed back to the Northwest.

(Honestly, I disdained tapioca when I was growing up and even deemed it 'fish eyes'. Oh, how tastes can change over time!)

So, here's the key tapioca question: from the box or the real thing? Usually I am of the mind that from scratch always trumps a shortcut, but recently, I decided to put the two types of tapioca head to head and judge on taste alone.

The whole tapioca pearls from the cassava plant have to be babied. You will not be eating tapioca in 20 minutes if you use these needy granules. First, they require an overnight soak in water. Then you heat the soaked tapioca with milk, and you have to separate the eggs next. Finally, it's time to add the hot milk mixture to the yolks, and the yolks to the milk and cook it all together until it thickens. So my question this week all of this really worth it? Does all the extra labor and time make a difference?

No. I've decided that it really doesn't matter. The 'real' tapioca pudding I recently labored over for a day and a half sat in my fridge. I avoided it and finally threw most of it out. The texture was too heavy, too eggy, and too weird. The measure of a good dessert in our house is simple. If it is still around the next day, something's wrong with it.

You can have a simple vanilla tapioca with nutmeg on top or make a dark chocolate or citrus version. I like it slightly chilled and with a little nutmeg and sugar on top. I just made it using coconut milk, and that was a nice twist, too.

Grab a little red box of tapioca (it's in the pudding aisle, usually hiding in plain sight way up on the top shelf) and follow the recipe on the back. It's a surprising comfort to make something that tastes so good and takes such little effort.


Bianca said...

This post makes me want bubble tea!

Lindsey said...

Tapioca is now on my shopping list! Yesterday I ate vermicilli rice pudding for the first time. With cardamom, zest of orange, and dried cranberries. Lindsey

Katie said...

Hi! New blog admirer. Your photos are BEAUTIFUL ... and tapioca is one of my all time favorite foods, which I almost never see featured, so I think I might have to stick around here. :-)