Champion Food Co. - Irvine
I'm already well into my thirties, but I'm still drinking boba milk tea. Well, not all the time, but for some reason, I'm always keenly aware of myself when I do.
I consider boba drinks funnier than anything that has a cocktail umbrella in it. It's because of those oversized straws, the plastic sealed-on tops with the cartoon characters, and the milk tea itself -- a chocolate-milk liquid more apt to be seen in a toddler's sippy cup than in a grown man's beverage.
Anthony Bourdain had a boba drink in a not-so-recent episode of No Reservations and he looked damned silly sucking on one -- the culinary equivalent of John Wayne riding on top of a coin-operated mechanical horsey and going "Wheee!"
And the capper, of course, are those tapioca marbles. These are the nuclei of the frivolity: Dark-colored, sticky, starchy balls that settle on the bottom of the cup like prayer beads, but serve no purpose other than to be chewed and act as a potential choking hazard.
The adult in me can really do without them. These are empty calories I can better allocate to more substantial foods. Also, it's usually the drink that I'm after. But the Asian in me compels my brain to always ask for it. Plus, it's tradition. Back in college (damn, that was a long time ago) my friends and I used to drive to Monterey Park from Irvine just to get a boba drink.
Ah, the folly of youth.
Nowadays when I hanker for a throwback to those simpler, stupider times, I go to Champion Food Co. in Irvine where they still go through the trouble of assembling the drinks to order.
Other purveyors premake the milk tea and ladle it out like soup from a refrigerated trough. The folks at Champion? They're stirring, mixing, doing actual measurements. A squirt of sweetened condensed milk here. A spoonful of simple syrup there. And also, they use crushed ice, not cubes. This makes all the difference. Ice cubes become obstacles, an impedance for your straw to get at that final boba ball.
For snacks, Champion offers tea eggs and other things to go with your carb-ladened drink. This time, I ordered something I hadn't seen there before: squid balls.
When I did, the gal walked over to the fridge, took out a plastic ziplock bag with five or so golf-ball sized orbs, deposited them to a fryer basket, and then sealed them shut behind the door of a small metal box that had a countdown clock on the front (no, it wasn't a microwave or an oven).
What came out of it about a minute later was golden brown, hot, crispy, and presumably not fried, although it sure tasted like it was.
The texture was as springy and resilient as an actual squid, except even more so. It seemed hellbent to exact revenge against Nemo (the Captain, not the fish). And on that front it was successful: Each ball was caked in spicy powder, some of which I accidently inhaled through my nostrils (painful).
Ah, the folly of adulthood.
Champion Food Co.
14775 Jeffrey Rd # L
Irvine, CA 92618
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