Tapioca is a big enough social phenomenon at this juncture to both have its own verb form — tapiru, to go out for tapioca drinks — and for that verb to then be nominated as one of the definitive buzzwords for 2019.
However, tapioca isn’t just enjoyed as a trendy texture boost for sweet milk teas. Restaurants have created their own takes with tapioca, like the salmon-roe style tapioca rice bowl or bubble tea ramen.
And now, our reporter Mai decided that it was high time we brought tapioca into the wintry seasons, and what’s more wintry than a steaming serving of tapioca nabe hotpot?
First, Mai prepared her star ingredient: the tapioca itself.
▼ The package encourages you use this wealth of tapioca in desserts, Chinese soups, anything.
But tapioca was just one part of the puzzle. Mai had to decide what flavor profile her hotpot would use as its base, and ultimately ruled out strong flavors like kimchi and miso so as to better highlight the mild tapioca.
Then it hit her! She could pair tapioca with its greatest partner in the blogosphere: black tea. Since she was making a savory dish, Mai opted for sugarless plain black tea rather than the usual sweet and milky mixtures that pair with tapioca.
With the base chosen, she could pick the rest of her ingredients.
Ingredients (for one to two servings)
- Pre-cut vegetables for hot pot (one pack, cut into blocks)
- Tofu (one block)
- Cuts of pork (your preferred amount)
- Dried or frozen tapioca pearls (your preferred amount)
- Gogo no Kocha sugar-free tea (500 milliliters, or 2 cups)
- White dashi soup stock (about a spoonful)
- Water (300 milliliters, or 1.25 cups)
▼ Here are all the ingredients except the water and dashi. Mai’s vegetables are lots of leafy greens and buna shimeji mushrooms.
Hotpot is practically defined by its freedom, so don’t feel beholden to this vague list! The tapioca you use in the mix can differ, too. Mai’s only recommendation is that you steer clear of pre-sweetened tapioca, as those will make your broth taste peculiar.
So with the ingredients prepared and belly growling, it’s high time to get to the recipe itself.
Follow these steps to enjoy a tasty tapioca and tea hotpot
First, put the pre-cut vegetables into your pot or skillet. Then add the water, dashi and sugar-free tea, and simmer the vegetables in the liquid.
Once the liquid reaches a boil, add in your sliced tofu and tapioca.
Check the tapioca as it boils. Once it seems ready to eat, add in the pork cuts.
Let the meat cook through… and you’re ready to serve your hotpot.
Once your hotpot is plated up, you might notice something… or rather not notice it: the small, clear pearls of tapioca that Mai used blended perfectly into the broth, though they were obvious enough once she lifted up a spoonful to check.
This, she acknowledged, was probably for the best: having large, dark blobs of boba floating around in the broth might have made her lose her appetite.
▼ You can see the tiny chewy pearls in the broth, but only if you look close.
So what was Mai’s verdict?
“From eating this, and experiencing the soup and the tapioca and all the other ingredients, I have to tell you… the tea and white dashi broth was delicious enough to start a revolution. I honestly could take or leave the tapioca!”
She then apologized for not emphasizing the tapioca more in her review, but then stressed that the broth for this hotpot is really good. Like, really good. It had a healing, almost medicinal tang to its taste, and the gentle dashi flavor warmed her from the inside out. Considering tapioca is what spurred her to make this incredible broth, we’ll count that as a victory.
She did say that the texture of the tapioca was a delight to eat, and it was very fun to enjoy tapioca’s typical squishiness alongside a host of savory ingredients. Sadly, tapioca itself doesn’t have a strong flavor, so it lacked the intense impact of other last-minute hotpot improvisations.
Mai still insists that if you’re obsessed with the chewy texture of tapioca, you should definitely try this recipe out for yourself. Cook a batch up when the weather gets cold.
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