In fact, I had this drink at an Indian restaurant in Batam, Indonesia, but that island, as close as thirty-five minutes to Singapore by boat, is so filled with unscrupulous Singaporeans – like the city-state itself – that it remains a valid place to try today’s subject,
Yes, teh tarik, a sweet drink composed of black tea and sweetened condensed milk, calls Malaysia its home, though it’s nearly as ubiquitous in Singapore. Though, I have a few bugaboos when it comes to food and drink, and not one is terribly logical. The one involving teh tarik regards my mostly blanket disapproval of artificially sweetened beverages – does passion fruit juice really need Splenda? – but this Malaysian specialty is a notable AND rare exception. I mentioned that it’s not a logical gripe, primarily because I have no problem with pairing teh tarik with kaya toast, aka buttery Singaporean goodness.
As for the meaning of the name, teh signifies “tea” and tarik is “pull” in Indonesian and Malay. Pulling tea sounds like an act of torture in that part of the world, and in some respects, it is. The origin stems from the act of the vendor having to quickly pull the concoction between two vessels, in order to skillfully mix the condensed milk with the tea. For a clearer example of what that means, check out this video (it’s the same thing on mute). The allure to some customers is that, while the peddler is preparing the sugary stuffr, not even a drop of it is splashed onto them, even though your expectations lead you to believe you’d become a teh tarik manusia, or human pulled tea.
Have you tried this before? Feeling bushed after just two sips?