During cold winter, this Tapioca Pearls with Taro dessert soup will warm your soul! Sweet & earthy. It’s a very popular Cantonese dessert.
2022 is coming to an end. I’m sharing the last recipe for the year. It has been a pretty cold winter in Los Angeles so far. Bryan has been complaining a lot about how cold the apartment is. So I wanted to make something sweet, yet hot.
Tapioca Pearls with Taro (芋頭西米露) is a classic Chinese dessert soup. I grew up eating it in Chinese restaurants, usually as dim sum or dessert after dinner. It has coconut milk, taro, sugar and tapioca pearls.
Taro is a root vegetable. If you haven’t had taro before, think of it like a sweet potato or yam. It’s little earthy and starchy. Although not sweet at all, it works really well in dessert. Before adding the taro into dessert soup, that needed to be steamed first. Cut the taro into small cubes and steam for about 15 minutes. Mash 1/3 of the taro and reserve the rest as cubes.
Tapioca pearls are like boba, and very common in Asian desserts. These little pearls don’t have much flavors. It’s more about the slightly chewy texture. All you need to do is boil them in boiling water for 10 minutes, then cover and let them sit for another 15 minutes. Drain and rinse well under cold tap water. That will stop the cooking and keep the chewy texture. I have a few other recipes that use tapioca pearls as well, like Purple Sweet Potato Tapioca Pudding, Baked Custard with Tapioca, and Tapioca Pearls with Mango.
For the sweetener, I used rock sugar in this recipe. Rock sugar is often use in Chinese desserts. It’s less sweet. In Chinese medicine, it’s believed that rock sugar is better for your health. If you can’t find rock sugar, you can substitute with regular white sugar in this recipe, but definitely use less.
When you have taro and tapioca pearls ready, it’s time to make the dessert soup. Combine water, coconut milk, rock sugar, mashed taro and salt in a pot. Bring to a boil. Add the taro cubes and bring back to a boil. Taste and adjust with more rock sugar if needed. Last, add the tapioca pearls. Dessert is ready!
Sweet and earthy with a little chewy tapioca pearls. On a cold day, this is a perfect dessert to warm your soul. If you prefer cold dessert, just let the soup cool in the fridge in an air-tight container. It is really good either way. I’ll be back later this week for our annual Top 6 recipes!
Tapioca Pearls with Taro 芋頭西米露
- 60 grams tapioca pearls
- 300 grams taro (peel removed, cut into ½-inch cubes)
- 2 cups water
- ¾ cup coconut milk
- 90 – 120 grams rock sugar
- Pinch of salt
- In a medium saucepan, bring water to a boil. Turn the heat down to medium. Add tapioca pearls, cook for 10 minutes, stirring often. Cover with a lid, remove from heat and set aside for 15 minutes. Most of the pearls should be completely transparent. It’s ok if a few have tiny white spots in the middle. Drain the tapioca pearls into a fine-mesh sieve and rinse under cold water until cool, stirring occasionally. Set aside to drain.
- In the meantime, in a large wok or pot, put in the steaming rack and add water that reach 1 inch below the top of the rack. Bring the water to boil over medium-high heat.
- In a steam-safe plate (that can fit into the wok or pot), place the taro cubes in an even layer. Transfer the plate on top of the steaming rack. Cover with a lid and steam for 15 minutes or until fork tender. Carefully remove from heat.
- Transfer about 1/3 of the taro to a sturdy plate. Mash the taro into very smooth paste with a potato masher or fork.
- In a large pot over medium-high heat, add water, coconut milk, 90 grams rock sugar, salt & mashed taro. Bring to a boil. Add the rest of the taro cubes and cook for 2 minutes. Taste and adjust the sugar level with more rock sugar if needed. Keep in mind that tapioca peals will still need to be added, so you want the liquid to taste a bit sweeter than you may want at this point. Add the pearls, and bring back to just a boil. Serve hot right away or serve cold after being chilled in the fridge.
- There are a few varieties of tapioca pearls. Some are bigger and some are smaller. Small ones are usually used in dessert soup. You can get them from Asian supermarkets, Amazon or even Whole Foods.
- Fresh taro can be found in most Chinese or Vietnamese supermarkets. It’s seasonal, so they may only be available during fall and winter time. The one I got was already peeled and sold in a sealed bag.
- The flesh of fresh taro can feel a bit powdery when touch, which is completely normal. It’s a starchy root after all.
- Rock sugar can be bought in Chinese supermarkets or from Amazon. They can take up to 3 – 5 minutes to melt depends on sizes.
- If you can’t find rock sugar, you can use regular sugar. But use a lot less. Start with 3 tablespoons. Taste and adjust.
- There are many different brands of coconut milk. They don’t taste the same. My favorite one is Aroy-D and you can get in from most Asian supermarkets and from Amazon.
- Leftover can be stored in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.