Grim's Grub: Beware the boba blob!
HomeHome > News > Grim's Grub: Beware the boba blob!

Grim's Grub: Beware the boba blob!

Mar 09, 2024

It was August of 1972 and the Cassarate was threatening to burst into flames! She was a large freightliner at sea and absolutely racing for its life to port at Cardiff, Wales.

Days before, timbers in the hold had started to smolder. The crew was feverishly keeping the fire at bay by splashing seawater onto all the timbers, but they just did not have the volume needed to completely stop the fire.

So when they saw port in Hawaii after 25 days delaying the blaze at sea, they likely had no clue their trouble was just starting.

The ship pulled into port and the firefighters were ready. Off came the crew, on went the fire crew. As they fought the fire, water ran off the timbers and started to seep into the other cargo.

They almost certainly did not immediately notice as something began to swell in the hold. The water brought it to life and it burst out of its crates until it was pressing against the sides of the liner, threatening to buckle the steel sides.


By the time firefighters noticed, the ship was at risk of splitting and sinking. So they had to begin fighting the blob below as well as the heat.

They were joined by the ship's crew and dock workers, who began offloading crates that had not yet swelled to bursting. It took hours, but they were eventually successful.

There was no doubt lots of sticky, slimy cleanup was to be had, but the Cassarate was saved from both fire and sinking.

It's one of the world's more bizarre near misses that only a child with an active imagination could have truly guessed. What the firefighters didn't know as they courageously fought the blaze in the shipment of timber was that the Cassarate was hauling over 1,500 tons of dry tapioca from Thailand.

When the water from the fire seeped into the crates in the hold, it inadvertently began to hydrate the tapioca. Then, all it needed was heat to cook — heat provided by the ongoing wood fire on board.

One cup of tapioca pearls becomes 2 1/2 cups when cooked, meaning that the ship's cargo was not only taking on water and likely more than doubling in weight, it was also expanding by more than double.

The shipment was enough to fill more than a million plates (500 truckloads) of pudding; and here it was, simply oozing out into the ship's hold and pressing at the ship's sides.

It was likely a maritime emergency the likes of which nobody had ever seen or will see anytime soon.


Ambrosia Tapioca From the original Betty Crocker's Cookbook

Mix the sugar, tapioca, salt and orange juice in a 2-quart saucepan. Let it stand for 5 minutes. Heat it to boiling over medium heat, stirring constantly.

Cool slightly, then stir in orange sections and dates. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Spoon tapioca into dessert dishes and sprinkle with coconut. Serves 6.

Boba (Bubble) Tea, Brown Sugar Flavor

Note: The tea and milk ratio may be altered, but combined they should make 4 cups.

Heat the 4 tablespoons of water and 2 tablespoons of brown sugar over medium heat until the sugar has dissolved, then turn off the heat. Add 1 tablespoon of the tapioca flour and stir until combined and there are no lumps. Turn the heat on again and stir until the mixture thickens, then remove it from the heat.

Add the remainder of the flour and mix well until it creates a sticky dough. Flour a surface with tapioca flour and knead the dough until it is uniform, soft and elastic. Use additional flour to prevent sticking to your hands. Roll the dough into long, thin sticks, approximately as thick as a garden pea.

Cut the sticks and make them into balls the size of a garden pea. These may either be dusted to prevent sticking and then frozen on a sheet pan and bagged in the freezer until ready to use, or used immediately.


To use immediately, boil the pearls while stirring to prevent them from sticking to themselves or the pan. Cover and boil for 20 minutes, then let rest another 20 minutes. Drain the pearls.

Warm the remaining brown sugar over medium heat for a couple minutes. It does not need to be melted, just warm enough to "flow" a bit. Add the boba pearls and stir well to coat them with the sugar. Add the boba pearls to a clear glass, then top with ice.

Combine your black tea and milk in another container, then add the liquid to your boba pearls.

Boba may be flavored in many other ways with fruits or matcha, or even just a flavored milk. It is traditionally drunk through very big straws, allowing the drinker to suck up the bubbles and chew on them. But be careful not to accidentally choke on them.

Travis Grimler is a staff writer for the Pineandlakes Echo Journal weekly newspaper in Pequot Lakes/Pine River. He may be reached at 218-855-5853 or [email protected].