One of the best respites from the 100-degree heat we've been experiencing lately has to be bubble tea. Southeast Asians would know, since they have to cope with temperatues far worse than this. My favorite bubble tea in Memphis is what they serve at Pho Saigon (at Poplar and Tillman), particularly the fruity flavors. Though I am less than enthusiastic about Pho Saigon's food (tofu needs to be given a flavor, not left to its own bland devices), they know their bubble tea. I prefer the less tea-like options in weather this intense (heresy, I know), like the strawberry I ordered last night. It is like the perfect combination of a smoothie (usually too chalky at smoothie shops) and a milkshake (a vice I like to only give into rarely); not too light, not too heavy. And while, like a good American, I like my desserts sweeter than most people can handle, Southeast Asian cuisine (most Asian cuisine, for that matter) does not have a tradition of sweet foods. This is where the tapioca comes in. Besides giving the drink texture and visual interest, the pearls (from the starch of the half-toxic cassava root) help to counterbalance a sweetness the Asian palate is not accustomed to. They also make the thing a novelty, which always sells (for a while). Apparently bubble tea wasn't invented until the 1980s in Taiwan. Thanks, Wikipedia.
I promise this is the last food ramble!