Thursday, February 19, 2009

Posts From the Way Back Machine #5: The Devil's Brew

Editors note: Ian continues his belated Hong Kong posts with a description of his most traumatic Hong Kong culinary experience.

Hong Kong is known for its unique and exceptional cuisine. Its most famous drink is Milk Tea (港式奶茶, lit: "brown lactation of Qu-Jiang-Wang"), an ubiquitous beverage available at any restaurant on the island. Wikipedia describes this drink as "black tea sweetened with evaporated milk," a description I find so sufficiently lacking in cautionary horror as to be downright irresponsible.

Vignette: The Milk Tea Experience
As background, I have tasted a few strange and repulsive things on this trip, yet many of my best experiences have involved indulging in regional specialties. As such, it was with a cautious optimism that I ordered my first cup of milk tea. My hope quickly turned to trepidation when the server set a metal cup filled with steaming brown goo in front of me. Hesitantly, I lifted the cup to my mouth, and my trepidation gave way to abject terror. The milk tea lurched forward against my lips, releasing a barrage of potent volatile organic compounds that overloaded my olfactory bulb and left me momentarily stunned. Slimy tendrils snaked under my incisors, then braced against my molars and forced my jaw wide, permitting the rest of the sludge entrance to my once guarded mouth. Now inside, this noisome substance skittered about, coating my tongue, lips, and palate with a thick, greasy paste. Having thus marked the bounds of its new territory, the milk tea settled down in the back of my throat, where it invoked squatter's rights. After two months of continued horror and countless legal battles, I am still trying to get the taste out of my mouth.

DIY Hong Kong Milk Tea
Despite my having devoted 200 words to the subject, the milk tea experience is impossible to fully relate without resorting to neologisms or fancy poetry. For the sake of you, dear reader, I offer the following instructions detailing how I assume this beverage is produced, such that the courageous and foolhardy among you might experience it for yourself:
1) Visit into the bulk-tea section of your local whole foods or equivalent. Fill a bag with a mixture of the darkest, smelliest black tea leaves available.
2) Dump the tea leaves into an old gym sock, then stuff the sock into a teapot and fill with boiling water. Let the sock steep for three days.
3) Empty the teapot into a rusty, unseasoned cast iron pan. Reduce the liquid by two thirds.
4) Fill a cup one-half full with syrupy, tongue-coating condensed milk. Slowly add the tea-reduction, stirring as you do so. Add sugar to taste.
5) Enjoy(?)

If you followed the directions correctly, the resulting cup of "tea" should look like the one below:

Repugnaodiurancivomitudinal (adj): Of or relating to the gustatory experience of milk tea.


Barbara said...


Be careful at the next full moon...this potion looks like something Snape may have given to Remus Lupin at certain critical times...

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed the commentary about the milk tea very much. I almost want to try it. You certainly have a career waiting in comedy, probably as the new Bennett Cerf. Although you probably will venture into more erudite and possible lucrative fields, give the Bennett Cerf thing some thought. He's still famous and well-loved even though he died years ago.