This refreshing dessert is perfect for a summer day. You’ll need to plan ahead for this, but that’s a good thing. Both components of this dessert can and should be made one day ahead of time. The tapioca will need to soak for four hours before you even get started, so make sure to factor that into your planning.
The soaking really makes a big difference in how the grains plump up. While the original instructions called for an overnight soak, I found that was too long. The tapioca dissolved in my fingertips. I then tried four hours and found that was just right. I also experimented with not soaking the tapioca before cooking, and I found that result wasn’t nearly as satisfactory as the soaked tapioca, so I highly recommend that you don’t skip this step.
Finally, make sure your box of tapioca is fresh, and not pulled from the dusty depths of your cupboard. You want to purchase small pearl tapioca, not the instant or large pearl variety.
1 cup sugar, divided
1 vanilla bean or 1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup fresh-squeezed orange juice
One 10-oz bag frozen mango chunks, pureed (makes about 1 cup puree)
½ cup small pearl tapioca, soaked 4 hours in 2 cups of water
One 15-oz. can coconut milk
Fresh berries, for garnish
Mint sprigs, for garnish
To make the mango coulis: Put ½ cup of the sugar into a small saucepan. Grate the zest of two lemons right into the pan. Squeeze juice from the lemons into a separate bowl and reserve. If you are using a vanilla bean split the bean lengthwise and scrape seeds into the pan with sugar. Or just add vanilla extract. Add 1 cup of water and bring to a simmer, just until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and let cool. Strain syrup into a container and stir in reserved lemon juice, orange juice, and mango puree. Refrigerate overnight, or until thoroughly chilled.
Combine the pre-soaked tapioca (including the remaining soaking liquid), coconut milk, and remaining ½ cup sugar in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring constantly; the tapioca should start to thicken almost immediately and become somewhat gloppy. When finished, the tapioca pearls should look translucent and have swollen to about twice their size. When tasting a spoonful, the texture should be gelatinous, without any crunchy bits left. The timing should be less than five minutes. Remove from heat and let cool. As the tapioca cools it will thicken considerably. Refrigerate overnight for best texture.
To serve, divide tapioca among eight shallow soup bowls. I used a 1/3 cup ice-cream scoop to dish out the tapioca in order to get nice rounded mounds. Pour mango coulis around the tapioca. Garnish with fresh berries and mint.
Notes and Instructions
Recipe heavily adapted from “The Soul of a New Cuisine: A Discovery of the Foods and Flavors of Africa,” by Marcus Samuelsson
Photo credit: Linda McElroy