Vietnamese Artichoke Tea Isn't Just for Drinking
The products of the Hung Phat herbal tea company are prominently displayed in nearly every one of the city's mega-Asian supermarkets in Chinatown, Sunset Park, and Flushing.
These include teas that promise to make you skinny and address all sorts of other body issues. In fact, where medicine is concerned, the Vietnamese seem to turn first to tea.
I stumbled on Hung Phat's artichoke tea while grazing in one of those supermarkets on Sunset Park's Eighth Avenue, and it seemed like a hoot, so I brought a box home intending to give it as a gag gift. But one day when a friend requested herbal tea, I brought it out and brewed a couple of cups.
If you're bored by the usual herbal tea possibilities -- usually limited to mint, Red Zinger, and the extremely diuretic (drink it and see if you can get to the bathroom fast enough) chamomile -- artichoke tea is a refreshing alternative.
The bag brews up light, and slightly on the sweet side, with none of the bitterness associated with the boiling water from fresh artichokes, which is useless as a stock due to this quality. In Vietnamese medicine, the tea is said to promote clear skin (goodbye, pimples!) and good liver function.
And the folks at Hung Phat really know how to have fun. Here's a picture story about their New Year's party.