Strawberry Bubble Tea and Sweet & Salty Popcorn

Relaxing Sunday afternoon, mostly overcast sky with lucky sunny breaks in between, I revisited Finn Slough, a place not so far away from where I live, a tiny community with distinct looking wooden houses built along a marshy river bank. Every time I go there, I can’t stop imagining how life would be like in the old days when it was still a robust fishing village. The Finnish fishermen may be long gone, but what’s left are the remnants that merged with the landscape to create a unique place. Here are some of the pictures taken.

After a joyful afternoon with some new photos to process, I’d like to have something fun and refreshing as snack. Got a box full of local strawberries the other day. They were so juicy but still a bit tart. I also have some tapioca balls that I wanted to try out. So, I make some strawberry bubble tea, with all natural ingredients, no artificial milk and fruit powder as in a lot of other recipes suggested.

Recipe: Strawberry Bubble Tea
Serve 2

Ingredients:
1 cup strawberries, washed and cut into halves or quarters
1 ripe banana, cup into 1″ pieces
1/4 cup cooked tapioca balls
1/2 cup low fat milk
1/2 cup strong tea, cool in the fridge if freshly brewed
3 Tbsp sugar syrup (mix 1/2 cup white, 1/2 cup brown sugar and 1 cup water, simmer until sugar melted)
2 Tbsp sugar or honey (optional)
ice cubes (optional)

Instructions:

Put all ingredients except tapioca balls in the blender. Process until smooth. Put tapioca balls in a glass first and then pour in the blended mixture. If prefer ice cold drink, put a few pieces of ice cubes in.

Easy enough, right? Just a few tips to make it right:
The strawberries I have are still quite tart. So, to reduce the sugar that I have to put in, I put in a banana. It increase the sweetness and also the creaminess of the drink.

There are a few different brands of tapioca balls in the Asian market. I bought the one that is vacuum sealed and made in Taiwan, where bubble tea originated. And cook it according to instruction on the package. The process usually involves cooking the balls in boiling water for 15 to 30 mins and then steep in the boiled water for another 30 mins. Adjust the timing to get the chewiness texture that you want.

As the sweetness of the berries varied, adjust the additional quantity of sugar or honey to suit your own taste

Last week I went to the farmers’ market and bought some kettle corns which were so good that me and N finished a big bag in no time. Of course, I will try to DIY so that we can have a continuous supply of it at home. We always use the Alton Brown method of making popcorn and season it with different spices after cooking. How to incorporate sugar is a different story because you want the sugar to melt. The Rachael Ray recipe solves the problem: to put in the sugar with the popcorn in the oil before it pops. The popcorn came out perfectly cooked and tasted just like the one in farmers’ market.

Recipe: Sweet and Salty Popcorn

Ingredients:

1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup popcorn kernels
2 Tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt

Utensil required:
A good quality big stainless steel bowl, around 10″ in diameter.
Aluminum foil to cover the stainless steel bowl, poke a few holes on it for ventilation
Oven mitts

Instruction:

Heat oil over medium heat in stainless steel bowl until just before smoke comes out. You can test the hotness by putting a piece of popcorn kernel in. When it pops, the oil is ready.
Add popcorn kernels and sugar in the oil all at once. Cover the bowl with the piece of holey foil.

Put your oven mitts on and start shaking the bowl continuously. After a 20 to 30 sec., the popping starts. Yes, there is a bit of exercise involved. It will take a few minutes to have the kernels all popped. But don’t stop shaking until the popping sound gradually dies down. Turn off the heat.
Season the popcorn with salt.