If there's a tapioca pudding that has remained faithful to its pedestrian roots, this is it. No cream, no liqueur, no mousse. Indeed, compared to other places, Phuket's tapioca can seem on the thin side, and the corn kernels for added sweetness and texture are decidedly off-trend. But Phuket has one thing going for it that no other local tapioca purveyor has: it serves its tapioca warm. That's right, the cooks make it just for you. And nothing says "ma-ma" like tapioca right off the stove.
248 Divsadero, SF. (415) 864-8584, www.phuketthaisf.com
Some days you need tapioca. You need it bad. You need it bad and you sure as hell aren't going to make it yourself. And you're certainly not going to eat another satay dish just to get to the tapioca, or resort to Kozy Shack (not because it's bad — it's good — but because the four-ounce containers are just too damn small and you'd have to eat the whole pack). Those are the days to head to Whole Foods' prepared foods section, where eight-ounce containers of tapioca await. Although Whole Foods takes a classic approach to tapioca, it does up the gourmet ante by using cream (and milk) and a generous helping of vanilla. The result, of course, is smooth, creamy, and sweet — the way you wish your Mom had made it, if she hadn't been saving the cream for something "special."
Various locations, www.wholefoodsmarkets.com