“Pull up a chair. Take a taste. Come join us. Life is so endlessly delicious.”
~ Ruth Reichl
Many years ago, when my sister and I were sharing a house, we’d sometimes venture out for dinner to a little Asian Restaurant in Market Square at Sunnybank. Our restaurant of choice was called Gourmet Court – a cheerful and cheap eating place, which was good because neither of us had any money back then! None of the staff spoke English, and the menu was all in Mandarin, but it did have a helpful photo for each dish. We would always point to what we wanted, smile profusely, and then mime drinking tea. Somehow, this crazy system always seemed to work for us. The tables were covered in red and white checked plastic tablecloths and little vases of fake flowers which was the only decor beside the lucky cat at the till.
Simone and I were always the only Caucasians in the place, and we looked out of place with our pale skin and long blonde hair. At first that felt uncomfortable but we were treated so well that we came to love going there. After we became regulars the owners would usually bring us a complimentary dessert at the end of our meal. In winter it was a plate of sliced fresh fruit, but when the temperature warmed up they brought out this unusual dish – a cold, sweet coconut ‘soup’ with tapioca pearls (made from a form of root vegetable called cassava) and freshly diced rockmelon. It was our complete favourite; cool, refreshing and delicious.
Gourmet Court no longer exists, but I’ve found a way to recreate our old favourite dish! I hope you enjoy it as much as we do. An added bonus is that it’s gluten-free, and dairy-free. I also make mine sugar-free now too, using a sugar substitute. The tapioca/coconut milk mixture will keep in the fridge for five days, if it lasts that long.
1 x cup of small tapioca pearls, 2 x cups of coconut cream, 2 cups of water, a pinch of salt, 1/2 cup of sugar or equivalent (I use natvia!), one rockmelon (cantaloupe)
Add the coconut cream, water, salt and sugar to a saucepan and stir well over low heat until sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat and cool.
Soak the tapioca for twenty minutes in cold water, then drain in a colander. Bring two litres (8 cups) of water to the boil in a large pot, and add the drained tapioca pearls. Stir well so nothing sticks to the bottom, and keep stirring every so often. Bring back to the boil and then reduce heat to medium and cook for 12 to 15 minutes. Turn off heat, cover and let sit for another fifteen minutes. Then rinse well under cold water to stop the cooking process. The pearls should be mostly translucent and jelly-like with perhaps a few white spots still in the middle. Be careful not to overcook, or the tapioca will turn to mush.
Add the tapioca pearls to the cooled coconut mixture and refrigerate until needed. The pearls will swell a little more with the coconut milk, and will provide a nice chewy texture.
To serve ladle the ‘soup’ and pearls into a serving bowl and then add a generous portion of freshly diced rockmelon to the top. I served mine to Ben and the workmen here at the farm as a post-lunch treat, after they’d spent the morning slaving away repairing fences in the heat. It was soon devoured!
The rest became breakfast this morning. 🙂
Note – this is also delicious served with freshly sliced banana, mango or strawberries.