Thursday, February 26, 2015

Drink Post 3: 愛玉 ai yu (lit. love jade)

Oh another Asian jelly-ish thing!  While 燒仙草 was made from a variety of mint that has been dried and cooked, 愛玉 is made from a variety of fig that is only found in Singapore and Taiwan.  Here is how 愛玉 was discovered (courtesy wikipedia):
"According to oral history, the plant and the jelly were named after the daughter of a Taiwanese tea businessman in the 1800s. The jelling property of the seeds was discovered by the businessman as he drank from a river in Chiayi. He found a clear yellowish jelly in the water he was drinking and was refreshed upon trying it. Looking above the river he noticed fruits on hanging vines. The fruits contained seeds that exuded a sticky gel when rubbed.
Upon this discovery, he gathered some of the fruits and served them at home with honeyed lemon juice or sweetened beverages. Finding the jelly-containing beverage delicious and thirst-quenching, the enterprising businessman delegated the task of selling it to his beautiful 15-year-old daughter, Aiyu. The snack was very well received and became highly popular. So, the businessman eventually named the jelly and the vines after his daughter."
This story makes me chuckle a little bit.  Asian people have a reputation for eating just about anything and this story seems to confirm.  Personally, if I saw "a clear yellowish jelly" that was floating in the water I was drinking, I wouldn't try it!  Thankful, he did though.  愛玉 is a wonderful drink.  Just like 燒仙草 it cools you down.  The texture, as a jelly, is a little less clingy.  It can be sucked easily up a straw and once in the mouth it dissolves.  Below you can see what the ripe fruit looks like, and then what it looks like after it's been rubbed and dried.  All that's left are the seeds.

Now when you order 愛玉 you can get it in a variety of ways, but the classic and best was is with lemon.  Above in the video you can see the lady ladle out the 愛玉 then put in some ice, then she puts some black syrup in the drink and then the lemon juice. The black stuff is 黑糖 hei tang (black sugar) which we've seen before with 黑糖饅頭 hei tang man tou (black sugar steamed bun).  It's a type of cooked sugar, like molasses, though it's most often sold in a granulated form.  Here is the menu for 愛玉.  See if you can find what I got: "黑糖檸檬愛玉" hei tang ning-mung ai-yu (lit. black sugar lemon Ai-Yu).

Also not that the drink sizes run across the bottom.  You can get 大 da "big" or 中 zhong "middle".  

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