My fascination with bubble tea began towards the end of my time as an undergraduate at Purdue. Tucked in the corner, among the shops on Chauncey Hill, a new shop opened. For a while we wondered what this little place was which other students – mostly Asian – were flocking to.
At this point in time, although I was up to my forehead in food and nutrition from an academic perspective, I have to admit I knew nothing of food culture. My husband – then fiancée – convinced me to give it a try and my knowledge of beverages hasn’t been the same since.
I loved the texture and consistency; the almond, coconut and fruit flavors. I loved everything down to the big straws and the chewy bubbles. Simply put, it’s unique; I can’t think of anything like it in the U.S. In fact, most people I know would be turned off by chewing their beverages.
Bubble tea has been difficult to find since then. We were exposed to many more bubble drinks when we traveled around Southeast Asia a few years ago, but I’ve been interested in making my own to compensate for the lack of access here.
So when I was flipping through the cookbook Cooking WithoutBorders by Anita Lo with Charlotte Druckman, the Green Tea Bubble Tea caught my eye. Not only was this my chance to make it, but this version just happens to be a cocktail. And what better time for a cocktail than while ringing in the New Year?
Regardless of whether or not you like bubble tea – or even cocktails – this cookbook deserves some exploring. The fusion Lo creates in her recipes is remarkable. Take, for example, the Barbecued Squid with Edamame and Boiled Peanuts, Chilled Grapefruit and Ginger Soup with Sweet Avocado Mousse or Turkey with Spicy Black Beans in Tofu Dumplings.
The cookbook includes all types of meats from pork to rabbit, but it is the seafood dishes that stand out to me. You’ll find several varieties of ceviche, soft shell crab and halibut. The cocktail section is small, but unexpected and original, from the Celery-Dill Martini to this bubble tea.
In the book, Lo describes the drink as an Asian White Russian. I couldn’t agree more, and White and Black Russians just happen to be some of my favorite cocktails. I searched for green tea powder here with no success. Therefore, I brewed strong green tea and made that into the green tea syrup.
This is a strong, but sweet drink ending with the chewy bubbles. If nothing else, the black bubbles in the bottom of your cocktail will serve as a conversation starter.
Happy New Year!
Green Tea Bubble Tea
From Cooking Without Borders by Anita Lo, reprinted with permission from Abrams Books
For the green-tea simple syrup:
1 cup sugar
¼ cup green-tea powder
Pinch of salt
1 cup boiling water
For each drink:
2 tablespoons black bubble-tea
bubbles, cooked, strained, and
rinsed according to package
Splash of amaretto
2 ounces vodka
1½ ounces green-tea simple syrup, or
2 ounces milk
Make the green-tea simple syrup: Whisk the sugar with the green-tea
powder and salt until no clumps remain. Slowly add the boiling water,
whisking constantly until dissolved. Strain if necessary to remove clumps.
Make the drink: Combine the cooked “bubbles” with the amaretto in a
rocks glass and fill with ice. Put the vodka, green-tea simple syrup, and
milk in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake and strain into the rocks glass.
Lori Rice is a freelance writer, recipe developer, food photographer and nutritional scientist. Fake Food Free is a creative outlet that allows her to connect with people from around the world who share a love of travel, food culture and cooking.