Tapioca balls, also known as boba, have taken Japan by storm this summer, with hundreds of bubble tea shops opening across the country to satisfy the new obsession. In Tokyo, investors even built a boba tea theme park – Tapioca Land. Tapioca balls, also known as boba, have taken Japan by storm this summer, with hundreds of bubble tea shops opening across the country to satisfy the new obsession. In Tokyo, investors even built a boba tea theme park – Tapioca Land.
The Japanese love boba so much that they have added boba into traditional Japanese cuisines, such as in nigiri, curry, soba, and even in beer. It seems that Taiwan people finally understand the mixed feelings Italians feel when pineapples are added on pizza.
It is said that, during the Qing dynasty, Taiwan people had these Tapioca balls sent as a tribute to Empress Dowager Cixi. People then made “sweet potage soup” with Tapioca balls replacing the traditional recipe with balls made of glutinous rice. High praise from Cixi made this Taiwan dessert shoot to fame, and boba became the representative of local dessert.
Not only the Japanese people, but Italian chef finds boba irresistible too. From the empire of culinary, the Regent Hotel’s Italian chef Andrea Bonaffini has fallen in love with the chewy textile of boba at the first taste.
Thus, he worked his creative muscle for the invention of special bubble dishes. For instance, boba can be found in Bonaffini’s croissants, in tiramisu, in the Italian folded pizza calzone and even in custard tart. These fusions of European and Taiwanese boba create a totally new food experience for epicure’s taste buds.
Chef Andrea Bonaffini, the new Regent Taipei executive pastry chef, is also the main leading figure behind the Regent Bubble Tea Festival. Chef Bonaffini has worked at several Michelin-awarded restaurants such as Flipot and Sadler. He is quite literally the “Marco Polo” of desserts as he traveled from Europe to Asia in 2005, discovering different local ingredients through his journey and promoting boba to the world.
Discover Taiwan’s host, Julian, was lucky to have an opportunity for tasting these tapioca ball desserts. One of his favorite snacks is the Taiwan-version of traditional Italian dessert tiramisu. “Light Bubble Milk Tea Tiramisu,” name of the snack, is made from a unique blend of Mascarpone cheese cream, coffee pudding, and bubbles. Julian definitely loves the tasty tiramisu with chewy bubbles. After he ate up three of them, he even asked more so that he could enjoy it back to the room at night.
“Bubble Milk Tea Croissant” is another masterpiece from Chef Bonaffini. Made from French Lescure cream and slow-cooked milk tea ganache with bubbles, the crispy croissant yet thick and moist milk-tea flavor stuffing and chewy bubbles together create multiple layers of taste for each bite.
Moreover, “Bubble Ice Pot” astonished the whole restaurant right away when it was served. The pot is actually a prime version of shaved ice. The pot features a traditional brass hot pot with beloved summer snack ingredients such as bubble, red beans, taro, peanuts and Thai ice tea complete with smoky dry ice visuals.
The Italian chef’s creativity has no limit. Something that other Italian comrade might feel unacceptable is the “Boba Pizza” featuring Grana Padano, mozzarella and Gruyère cheese with salami and bubbles. Even Julian doubted what this Italian-Taiwanese pizza tastes would like. The boba was baked with the entire pizza; thus, it had a crispy surface but still chewy inside. Plus a rich taste of savory salami and cheese, this pizza amazed Julian so much that he even said he would like to package it and bring it back to Europe! ●