Previously I mentioned going to the Asian grocery store and picking up a few things. I recommend that anyone who lives near a specialty grocery store should visit that store, because there’s usually something new to try that has familiar ingredients. It’s the reason why I decided to try this treat of banana and tapioca pearls in coconut milk.
I love tapioca pudding. When I was younger, like any child in the single digits age-wise, tapioca pudding wasn’t something I wanted to eat. My grandpa called it “frog eyes,” although it could have been called “fish eggs” just as easily despite it bearing little resemblance to caviar. Giving the pudding a silly name didn’t make it any more appetizing, but over the years I learned to enjoy the consistency of the thick, vanilla-flavored cream mixed with tiny white spheres that were a bit more firm than pasta.
When I saw the cans of tapioca treats in the Asian grocery store, I raised an eyebrow. Tapioca in coconut milk would be a different flavor from what I’m used to, and I wondered if it would be too weird or if I’d regret trying it at all. The combination of flavors sounded simple enough, even a bit tropical and exotic. With snow on the ground, I figured it was a good time to send my taste buds on a paradise vacation and hoped the rest of me would follow. I picked up a can of banana and tapioca, one can of coconut pieces and tapioca, and I started to pick up a can of sweetened bean paste and tapioca but put it back. After all, I didn’t want to go too far out of my comfort zone.
Today I tried the banana and tapioca can. I pulled off the soft plastic lid to find a spoon, so already it’s convenient to toss in with a lunch or just eat as soon as possible. The spoon folds apart and snaps together, and it’s long enough to reach the bottom of the can without having to stick any fingers inside the can as well.
After pulling back the metal pull tab and opening the can, I was greeted to a less-than-appetizing brownish-purple opaque liquid. Was it still safe to eat? The picture on the can shows pale yellow banana pieces in a white milky liquid surrounded by clear tapioca pearls. I used the spoon to stir around in the liquid, pulling the spoon out to see what kinds of bits were inside of the can. There were tapioca pearls, no doubt about that, and they were the larger pearls that are sometimes used for tapioca pudding. There were a few pieces of what looked like sliced banana, however the pieces seemed to be tinted purple and left out to turn brown and sugary. I wasn’t sure if the banana was safe to eat, but I ate it anyway and lived to write about it, so it was just oddly colored. The texture of the banana was as if it was slightly dehydrated, then rehydrated from the moisture in the coconut milk.
Overall, the consistency was about as thick as egg nog or a melted milkshake. It wasn’t thick like tapioca pudding, but this wasn’t supposed to be pudding. The pairing of coconut milk and banana was delicious, with enough sugar to balance the flavors and not be overly sweetened. The tapioca pearls added a little something to the mix, which is backwards to say because there was more tapioca than banana. By itself, tapioca in coconut milk is an interesting change from the normal flavors of tapioca pudding, but then I wouldn’t think of using banana as a topping. Together, everything tasted quite nicely, with a bit of the tropical flavor that I expected.
According to the side of the can, the treat was a product of Thailand. I haven’t had much experience with Thai food other than pad thai and curry. I don’t know of anything in Thailand that would interest me enough to visit, except if I spent a night in a hotel in Bangkok so I could make a song reference. At least I know of a few things I would be willing to eat.
Again, it’s all about familiar ingredients when it comes to food, because that’s going to be the difference between wishing you were home and wishing you could stay abroad.