Thursday, January 27, 2011

Yogurt pop bubbles (Harmony Bakery)

Taro smoothie w/bubbles

Bubble tea is something that almost every Taiwanese person holds dear to their heart, myself included. Let's be honest, we're not exactly known for much else outside of Jay Chou, so boba is basically a thing of cultural pride, a national treasure of sorts. When I read about a Chinese bakery in Philly that was making yogurt pop boba drinks, I was both curious and livid. Put chewy tapioca balls in milk tea, smoothies, whatever, and I guarantee you it'll be awesome. It's a formula that works... you don't fuck with something that works. It's like insulting millions of Chinese people by telling them that their beloved national drink of choice isn't good enough. Them's fightin' words. But like I said, I was curious. If they actually keep this "yogurt pop" nonsense on their menu, then there must be some reason right?

Yogurt drink filled bubbles

Apologies for the picture of a partially finished smoothie. I get that some people don't like to see photos of things that are half-eaten, but I really didn't know how else to depict the bubbles without going to such extremes. The concept is simple, you take yogurt drink (think Yakult) and put it inside thin layers of what is most likely a gelatin based skin. These are your "new and improved bubbles." They look kind of like little cream colored pearls sitting in a bed of unnaturally purple crushed ice. I realize that sounds incredible... but really, they kind of suck. Sure, the idea of stuffing yogurt drink inside bubbles is admittedly very creative, but why? I tried drinking it with an open mind, but I honestly don't see the appeal. The tartness of yogurt isn't really something I want complementing a smoothie or milk tea, and the skins end up sticking to the top of your mouth (they actually feel kind of like dead burnt skin). I generally like most drinks that have sugar in them, but this one legitimately made me sad. Failtown.

Anyway, I want to apologize to anyone who actually likes these things. Sorry. I'm sorry you've never had truly fantastic bubble tea, because it puts this to shame. If you've ever tasted a batch of perfectly cooked tapioca pearls, you'd know that they needed no such improvement.


Robyn said...

You had me at "dead burnt skin." :(

So...yeah I guess I'd skip this. I like the yogurty slushy drinks you can sometimes get at bubble tea places, when they're mixed with jello-y bits, but that's different. Do not want skins sticking to the top of my mouth.

munchimonster said...

Ewww, well I've learned that bubble tea in Philly in general sucks...

Oh, but they do offer yogurt balls in Teariffic in NYC's Ctown too, which I think are actually complement the fruity green teas pretty well

Nicholas said...

Robyn - best description I could think of! It really is like the skin on the top of your mouth if you drink tea too fast or something. Not overly pleasant. I like yogurt slushie drinks too, and I can deal with the jelly bits (I like 'em coconut flavored). Definitely not the same.

munchimonster - I dunno, yogurt balls just don't work for me. Milk teas and slushies should follow a certain formulaic setup, any deviance from that is a recipe for disaster. Obviously it works for some people if it's still on the menu, it's just not for me.

Stephanie said...

Confession: I've been addicted to yogurt pop (and passion fruit, too) since Jamie's review on Midtown Lunch.

But on my commute home today, while fervently sucking the last remaining bubbles up my oversized straw, I got to wondering what the bubbles really were -- specifically, whence the "skin" originated. I mean, sure, a gelatin base is tolerable. But suppose it wasn't gelatin, but... some sort of pseudo plastic? I know it's all very conspiracy theorist of me, but with the recent increase in reports of counterfeit food products from China and Taiwan, I just couldn't help wondering.

And with that, I've been thrust back into my depraved state, forever trying to recreate the euphoria that may only be derived from the perfectly "QQ," tapioca bubble.

Sad face.

Nicholas said...

Stephanie - hahaha, sorry to add to your paranoia. I am fairly sure they're gelatin based as plastic wouldn't readily dissolve in your mouth. So if yogurt bubbles are your thing, go for it. NO NEED FOR SAD FACE.

I just feel like they're slightly off (and that's personal preference talking). A standard tapioca bubble cooked in a brown sugar syrup is pretty much the greatest thing I've ever had put into a drink.

Stephanie said...

An odd comparison, but the yogurt pop reminds me of ikura -- which may be why I like it so much. But like a true Taiwanese, nothing can ever replace my boba. Except maybe stinky tofu.

Nicholas said...

Stephanie - oh god... now I'll never have these again. I'll imagine them to be salmon roe haha.

Tosa said...

I think they are a molecular gastronomy food gone mainstream. Check out Ferran Adria's fruit caviar circa 2002.

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