Tapioca pearls in Coconut milk is a refreshing cold drink from my childhood that made Sunday afternoons more perfect!
There is something to be said for simple things. Especially ones that you had no part in, yet they bring you immense joy. Like the stray puppy or kitten that finds its way into your backyard and even though you know that your parents are not going to let you keep it in a million years, until they find out, that stray is yours for all intents and purposes. Or the unexpected rain that shuts down schools for a day or two, although I realize that the thought comes in bad taste now. My heart goes out to those displaced by the hurricane ravaging Texas as I type, we have family there and it’s a terribly grim affair. I do hope you can forgive me for reminiscing about rains from my childhood of a much smaller scale.
This Tapioca peals in Coconut milk is a simple thing from my childhood that turned ordinary Sunday afternoons into something a little unusual. Usual was my brother and I running around the house playing nonsensical games to no end causing quite a racket as we ran up and down the stairs. But on the afternoons when this particular drink was made, things got a little quieter after lunch. You see, this might not be the case with you, but coconut milk has the same effect in me as a strong sleeping draught, much like the one Juliet drank in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. But there’s nothing romantic about the sleep that overcomes me, oh no. One glass of this, and I’d be unattractively knocked out for a few hours, and there’s no hell fire nor tempest that can rouse me.
As an adult, I seem to have developed some form of mild resistance to this unexpected drug, but find me a little couch space on on an idle afternoon and you’ll find me succumbing yet again to the sly wiles of coconut milk.
These little pearls are made either from Tapioca or the Sago Palm, and although the bag I purchased said Tapioca, I’m still a little unclear as to their source. You’d be able to find them in Indian stores around you labelled either Sago or Sabudana or Javarisi. It’s not unlike Boba, these little beads of pearly white, but when cooked, they turn absolutely clear and translucent and slightly chewy, but less so that you’d expect of Boba pearls. And these are considerably smaller as well.
There is a wider variance in the way each household prepares these Tapioca pearls – some prefer to soak ahead of cooking, some feel that this messes with the starch cover. If you are already well practiced in the art of Sago cooking, go ahead with the method you are well versed in. At the end, what we’re trying to get is a translucent, gelatinous clump of caviar-like goop.
My mother always soaked, and so shall I. You’ll need to rinse it quite a bit, if you’re taking this route, as these Tapioca pearls can stir up quite a bit of starchy gunk when touched by water. And once the water runs clear, submerge and let sit undisturbed for an hour.
After the hour is up, rinse out the soaking water and add a new measure of water and bring to a slow boil. You could pressure cook them, as my mother did, but I’ve never figured out the right amount of time to achieve the perfect translucence. I always seem to over cook them and all I get is a watery, paste-like liquid with no visible pearls.
It takes about 10-15 minutes of boiling for the white pearls to turn translucent as you see below. Even if there are a few white spots here and there, fret not. They’ll continue to cook as they cool down over the stove.
Into a jar they go to be chilled thoroughly – at room temperature, you are very aware that you are eating mouthfuls of starch, but somehow when chilled, they become more jelly-like! Jelly-like, is how I like them best.
While they taste best with freshly extracted coconut milk, I neither have the patience nor regular access to fresh coconut. Hence, I stick with canned coconut milk, one of the few canned products I have no qualms with. But remember to dilute it to drinking strength, if you take the canned route too. I find that 1 parts milk to 4 parts water works well.
Add some few spoonfuls of cooked Tapioca Pearls to each glass and fill with chilled drinking-strength coconut milk. Add sugar to taste and it is a soothing and comforting drink on a hot summer afternoon, with or without the sleep that follows.
And remember, coconut milk has a calming and healing effect on ulcers and acidity – so it’s not a bad idea to have a glass/bowl of this after a heavily spiced meal, which is what all Sunday afternoons were like at the Dawson household.