Taiwan is the place to go for fruit. Really good fruit. The pineapples, the mangoes, so much sweeter and flavorful than anything I've had before. The passionfruit and lychees so fresh. The wax apples (蓮霧, liánwù) and guava (芭樂, bālè). The gigantic watermelons (seriously, the size of two huge American watermelons put together).
And with so much good fruit, it naturally follows that there are amazing fruit drinks. Fresh-pressed juices and fruit-infused teas at shops two to every block. Stop in and for 25 to 35 NTD (about $1 USD) you get a huge 24-ounce cup of happiness, tucked into a small handled plastic bag along with a straw.
These fruit drinks--and the people I was with when enjoying them--are something I miss terribly. Don't you love how happy times with friends brings out the best flavor in life? Thankfully, even when life takes away your lemons and you can't make lemonade, you can still at least make papaya milk...or something like that! ^^ Papaya milk (木瓜牛乳 mùguā niúrǔ, or 木瓜牛奶 mùguā niúnǎi) is a popular Taiwanese drink, essentially consisting of blended fruit and milk. I remember the first time I had this...I was hanging out at the Dream Mall, East Asia's largest mall, which just so happens to be located right in my summer hometown of Kaohsiung. After wandering through countless floors and corridors in this huge mall, the papaya milk was a perfect refreshment, such a smooth and creamy fruit drink that slid down so easily!
Now if you're a purist, you could just go for the fruit and milk combination. But depending on how sweet your papaya is to begin with (and on how sweet you like your drinks), you might want to add a little simple syrup. I know the papayas here in Santa Barbara are not as sweet as the ones in Taiwan! Those drinks are mighty good, and besides the great fruit, it's my suspicion that they use whole-fat milk in Taiwan. Nothing wrong with whole milk, but if you're like me and want a healthier version, you'll be happy to know that low-fat milk will also yield a wonderful velvety finish.
I'm just so glad that even back here in Santa Barbara, when I take a very ripe papaya and blend it up, close my eyes and take a sip, I'm back in Taiwan for a few minutes. Yum. Really, for your own sake, go find a papaya and some milk and treat yourself right.
Papaya Milk (木瓜牛乳, mùguā niúrǔ)
Makes one serving
150 ml (5 fluid oz.) puree of fresh, ripe papaya
150 ml (5 fluid oz.) milk
2 Tbs. simple syrup or water
Before starting, make sure all ingredients are well-chilled. (To make a simple syrup, dissolve 1 part sugar in 2 parts warm water, then chill well.)
Blend papaya puree and milk together in a blender until smooth and creamy. With blender running, add simple syrup or water until desired sweetness and consistency is reached. Serve while still nice and cool.