From Medicine To Bubble Tea: What Does Taro Taste Like?
“Okay, okay. You know what’s gonna make you feel instantly better?”
“No. It’s taro bubble tea. Let’s go get some.”
Any boba-holic would remember this conversation from Netflix’s huge hit “Ginny & Georgia”. Fine, maybe it’s not exactly what Abby told Maxime after her breakup, but you have to agree, it is super relatable. Taro bubble tea is usually one of the bestsellers at café thanks to the Instagram-able purple shade, creamy texture, and sweet taste. We can write an essay about how this drink is a blessing from God, but say, do you even know what does taro taste like?
Not everyone has had the privilege of tasting or even knowing about taro aside from being a boba flavor. As a matter of fact, most people doing their weekly grocery runs tend to walk right past this root crop. In this article, I want to share with you everything about taro so that you will love it as much as I do. If you were curious about what exactly you might be drinking, you are in for a treat!
A Concise Introduction To Taro
Just like rice, the taro plant was first grown in Asia and is considered a very ancient cultivar. Though some speculate that taro originally came from India or Malaysia, the exact country is yet to know. It was widely used as a medicine before becoming a staple food. Nowadays, you will mostly find it in the tropical and subtropical parts of the world, such as China, the Philippines, Hawaii, Caribbeans, and New Zealand, among others.
Here in the US, taro is often associated with sweet drinks such as boba, but in other countries (especially Asian), taro is found in many savory dishes, such as Japanese croquettes or steamed fork ribs. That might make you confused about whether taro is a fruit or vegetable. Well, from a botanical point of view, taro is a kind of vegetable. To be more precise, it is a root crop, meaning we only consume the edible root of the plant rather than the fruit.
Read more: Is Pickle A Fruit Or Vegetable?
Once you have known about it, it is not hard to spot taro at your local grocery store. On the outside, it is brown-grey with rough, scaly skin. You will find it a bit hairy, too. Doesn’t look like it will make a delicious treat, you say? As you cut taro open, though, you will have to change your mind: The flesh inside has a completely different texture. It is smooth, creamy, has a beautiful white color plus some purple dots. Taro flesh can be pink, white, or purple, depending on the ripeness and variety.
There are nearly 100 types of taro out there, each of them is slightly different from others in shape, size, texture, and growing condition.
What Does Taro Taste Like?
So what does taro taste like? Many compare it to other root veggies like white potatoes or sweet potatoes. This is because they share the same sweet, nutty, creamy taste and a starchy texture.
However, as harmless as it seems, I wouldn’t recommend trying taro raw. The plant is considered toxic to consume raw, including the root and its leave. This is due to the high levels of calcium oxalate; a crystal-like poison that can cause kidney stones and mouth irritation in the form of numbing, burning, or an itching sensation.
To consume the plant safely, you must cook the purple-hued crop. Even the methods of preparing this particular ingredient are the same as that of potatoes – from boiling, mashing, frying, baking – the options are, indeed, endless.
Taro’s taste is slightly stronger than other root vegetables, yet it is very versatile. While the sweet and vanilla-like flavor makes it the perfect ingredient for sweet treats, taro’s nuttiness goes very well with savory dishes. Below is a glimpse at what does taro taste like depending on each cooking method!
Boiling And Steaming
Boiling and steaming are undoubtedly the most popular ways to prepare taro. They also make vital steps in making sweet desserts, such as milk tea and cakes. After being boiled, taro retains its natural sweetness, softness, and creamy texture.
Its taste will remind you of potatoes, yet slightly stronger, sweeter, and nuttier. Boiled taro can absorb the flavor of other ingredients, making it the perfect addition to Malaysian well-loved snack, Bubur Cha Cha. This colorful and sweet dessert is a mixture of sweet potatoes, taro, and black-eyed peas, cooked in a sweet coconut milk base.
Roasting And Baking
Well, I can see your confused expression right now, but hear me out: Taro can be roasted and baked! This method works brilliantly and tastes great, but there is one issue: Just like most starchy vegetables, taro guzzles oil. Hence, it might take you longer until it can turn into a beautiful golden brown.
While the heat will make taro’s outside texture become more crispy, its inside never goes crispy unless deep-fried. Instead, it retains its starchiness and softness. If you don’t like it, oven-roasting can solve the problem: Just cut it into thin slices and roast them at a high temperature, you will get some good crunch.
The taste of roasted taro is quite similar to roasted parsnip, which is slightly dry and chewy.
What Does Taro Taste Like – Frying
With its potato-like texture, taro root suits deep frying in oil. In fact, fried taro root was my favorite dish as a child. One of the many beauties of taro fries is that they can be spiced up and adapted to fit any meal. It offers a perfect balance of sweetness and saltiness, which is ideal to serve as an appetizer.
Another less-oily method is to stir-fry it. Stir-fried taro tastes much like the fried ones, but the outside is not as crispy since it uses less oil. The inside is soft and sweet as always.
What Does Taro Taste Like – Stewing And Braising
Because they are cooked for a longer period, braised or stewed taro is more tender. While the original taste of taro remains, the outer layer absorbs other ingredients’ flavors.
To many Chinese, braised pork belly with taro (芋头扣肉) serves as comfort food for their families during the colder months. This is an exceptional dish because the pork belly is served up-ended. The pork and taro are cooked in a braising broth in a deep bowl and inverted on a plate to serve. This action is called 扣 (means turn upside down, pronounced as ‘kao’), and meat is called 肉 (pronounce as ‘yuk’). Hence, by combining these two Chinese characters, we get “扣肉” means to “invert the pork onto a plate to serve up-ended”.
Chinese braised pork belly with taro
But it’s not everything about Chinese braised pork belly. The dish has an exceptional dish as well, partly thanks to the use of taro. One thing is that you have to use the larger variety of taro, rather than the smaller roots, which are the size of a kiwi or small potato. The large taro root has a wonderfully flaky texture and a distinct flavor. When you pair it with the sauce from the braised pork ribs, it offers a wonderful taste that immediately reminds the Chinese of home.
What Does Taro Taste Like – Fermenting
Taro can be fermented to make “poi”, a well-known condiment in Hawaii. To prepare this dish, you can first boil and mash your taro, then ferment it to create an acidic flavor. If you take a bite, you will realize its distinctive sweet and tangy taste.
The tradition of poi making
Despite being a prominent dish in Hawaiian culture, most tourists say that poi tastes like…wallpaper paste. Its texture reminds us of a thick pudding: Wet and sticky thanks to the gelatin in the mix.
For native Hawaiians, though, it is not the problem: What matters to them is that poi settles well in the stomach. They don’t care about visual appeal, alkalinity, or good bacteria. When babies are born, it’s the first food they get to taste. Many people grow taro in small plots, buy fresh poi from grocery stores or farmers, and ferment it at home.
Taro Boba Tea
What does taro boba taste like, you ask? Well, you are…a bit late to the party. As mentioned, it is one of the most popular flavors in the milk tea craze, and people come up with many different ways to describe its flavor. Redditor “The_Incredible_Thulk” says its sweet and nutty flavor reminds him of a mild cookie n’ cream, while user “topicmay” compares it to cereal milk after you have finished all the cereal.
Considering the fact that taro boba is fresh taro or taro powder combined with milk and tea leaves, you can say that it has a creamy and sweet flavor. There is, of course, a hint of bitterness due to the tea. A fun fact is that a 16-ounce taro milk tea’s calories are 278, making it a lower-calorie alternative than a sweetened coffee drink of the same size.
Still, this number is quite high, so watch out for your diet as you consume this wonderful beverage!
What Does Taro Taste Like – Taro Ice Cream
Aside from boba tea, another well-loved taro sweet is ice cream. This dessert has a beautiful violet-grey shade, which is very Instagramable, and retains the sweet and nutty flavor of taro. You can taste floral vanilla notes too, and when you combine this with taro’s delightful nuttiness, the taste will remind you of cookies and cream. The texture is no different from other ice creams, which is smooth and creamy.
We all know that Thailand is the heaven of tasty desserts, and one of them is the coconut-taro ice cream. You might want to try it at home since this classic sweet treat is very simple and can be made at serious ease. But be warned, once you go down this road of Asian tuber appreciation…there’s no going back!
How coconut – taro ice cream is made
4 Surprising Benefits Of Taro
As the previous part mentioned, taro was widely used as a medicinal plant in ancient Asia. Exactly how they used it to cure illnesses remains a mystery, but the ancestors did have a point: There are many health benefits packed in that humble root crop. The fact that taro holds almost 3 times more fibers than its counterparts makes it one of the superfoods out there. Besides this, the plant is also a rich source of nutrients such as potassium, iron, vitamins A, vitamin C, and so on.
If you are not yet familiar with taro, here are 4 health benefits it offers that will make you want to stuff your fridge with these veggies:
Taro Helps Control Blood Sugar
Though being a starchy vegetable, taro contains 2 types of carbohydrates. Both of them are beneficial for blood sugar stability.
The first one is fiber, a carbohydrate that humans can’t digest. Since it’s not absorbed, it can’t raise your blood sugar. Once you consume, fiber can slow down the digestion and absorption of other carbs, keep blood sugar levels from rising too quickly after a meal.
The second one is resistant starch. Just like fiber, it is not digestible, so it won’t risk your blood sugar level. Research shows that around 12% of the starch in cooked taro is resistant starch, making this veggie one of the best sources of this nutrient.
This combination of resistant starch and fiber makes taro root a good carb option — especially for those with diabetes.
It Lowers The Risk Of Heart Disease
People who consume more fiber often have lower rates of heart disease, according to research. Hence, the fiber and resistant starch in taro root also work to lower your risk of heart disease.
Over 6 grams of fiber is found in 132 grams of taro, which is more than twice the amount of fiber in a 138-gram portion of potatoes. That said, taro is a better fiber source. Additionally, it provides resistant starch, which lowers cholesterol and has been associated with a reduced risk of heart disease.
It May Offer Anti-Cancer Properties
Taro root contains plant-based compounds called polyphenols that have various health benefits, including the potential to reduce cancer risk.
Taro root contains polyphenol, which is a plant-based compound with many health advantages. One of them is the potential to lower cancer risk.
The main polyphenol found in taro is quercetin, which can also be found in onions, apples, and tea. In test-tube and animal studies, quercetin has been shown to trigger cancer cell death and slow the progression of different cancer types. It also serves as a powerful antioxidant, protecting your body from excessive free radical damage that has been linked to cancer.
It Can Help You Lose Weight
You might have heard many times that consuming more fiber can help you lose weight, but do you know why? Well, fiber slows down stomach emptying, which keeps you full for a longer period and reduces the number of calories you eat throughout the day. As a result, you can lower body weight and less body fat over time.
Due to its high fiber and resistant starch content, taro root may increase feelings of fullness, reduce overall calorie consumption, and accelerate fat burning. In the long run, this results in weight loss and reduced body fat.
What does taro taste like? You’ve got the answer now! After you already know how amazing it is and how much magic you can make with this humble plant, are you still hesitating? It’s time to rush to the nearest market and pick the freshest taro from the Asian section. Feel free to get yourself a delicious taro milk tea after reading this too!
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