I love a good boba (or bubble) smoothie after a big bowl of pho or a banh mi. There's something so fun about sucking up cold, sweet smoothie and finding those little tapioca pearls capriciously running up your straw. The best boba drinks, I've found, are all about the texture of those pearls. Sometimes the round globs of tapioca are too chewy and tough; those split apart into a mealy paste when you bite into them. What you want is a very soft, gummy pearl that is like a cross between flavorless chewing gum and mochi (pulverized rice gluten). When the pearls are done like that, they're fun to eat.
Some Vietnamese restaurants that sell boba smoothies and teas get their pearls just right, but a lot don't. The best I've found are at Pho Hoa (5435 State Road 7, Tamarac) and Green Papaya (8951 W. Altantic Ave., Coral Springs).
But boba pearls aren't really hard to make, nor are they hard to make
at home. In fact, you can purchase bags like the ones pictured above in
most Asian supermarkets.
I bought this bag from WuFuYuan at Oriental Square in Coral Springs
(2365 N. University Drive). The boba inside are basically hard pellets of
dehydrated tapioca. All you have to do is rehydrate them for five minutes
in boiling water. When they're completely squishy and gummy, they're
Be careful filling your pot up, though. Boba expand like crazy. The
package tells you to cook one cup of boba in ten cups of water. That's
sort of overkill, if you ask me. I cooked one cup in about four cups of
water, using an eight-quart pot. The boba expanded a lot, though, and came
about two inches from overflowing.
After they were done, I chilled the boba for a few minutes before
making my smoothie (do not overchill or they'll become hard again). I
used fresh mango, some ice, honey, and milk. I combined that all in a
blender and pureed it into a smooth drink. Just add about a third of
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the boba into a tall cup, pour in your smoothie, and you're done.
Want another good recipe for a tea smoothie? Check out this one.
This is important: Make sure you have wide-mouth straws that will suck up the boba. It defeats the purpose of the boba if you have to spoon them out.
If you can master making boba smoothies at home (and it's not really hard), you'll never have to eat overly chewy tapioca again.