Friday, May 30, 2008

Bubble Tea at Zen Garden

We've recently discovered Zen Garden, definitely one of the best Asian food restaurants in Moncton. Though the building is really not much to look at, the food is excellent. In our small Canadian towns, it's rare that you'll find real Asian food unless you know the local Chinese family who owns the Chinese restaurant and place a special request to sample something authentic. The alternative is Chinese-Canadian food which I would really say is just Canadian food with soy and oyster sauce.

Now in medium sized towns like Moncton, you've got more chances of finding the real stuff. You've got Vietnamese, Thai, Indian, Korean, Chinese, etc. I don't know exactly which Chinese cuisine we're talking about here at Zen Garden but that's sort of secondary to the topic at hand. All you need to know is that it's good. Really good.

This little exotic gem also has a wide selection of teas. You can buy them dried for home use or you can take tea with your meal. Actually, you should take tea with your meal. I mean, I hate when people go to a restaurant with a particular cuisine and order a Coke. You're ruining the whole experience. Rants aside, we tasted the Zen Garden's Bubble Tea. Turns out this is a fairly popular Asian sweet milky tea but it was new to us. So being the foodie that I am, I thought I'd be a bright little boy and make the Bubble Tea myself.

Find any recipe online and one thing is clear: tapioca is a bitch to cook. We find the little dry balls at our local Asian product market and followed the online recipe. Boil for half an hour andd let sit covered another half hour. ONE HOUR!!! For little gelatinous balls! This is the kind of thing that it's worth waiting to buy it at the restaurant. But regardless we did make it. It was more of an event than a recipe.

For the combination of the drink (which I think I read somewhere is famously presented by Tom Cruise's flairy bartendermanship in Cocktail) you simply incorporate 1 cup of black tea (we used Satsuma black tea) with 1 cup of soy or regular milk. Pour in a tonne of simple syrup (water, brown and white sugar) till it's almost too sweet and then drop the tapioca balls in the bottom. Best to drink with a wide straw and a moderate portion of tapioca. Those little gelatine balls can get to be much pretty quickly.

We served the Bubble Tea with California rolls bought from two Korean women at the farmer's market, quality soy sauce (not the salt-only HP kind) and a dollop of wasabi. It was good but I think we'll leave the Bubble Tea making to the experts.

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