When I first visited Taiwan a few years ago, I learned of the glorious combination that is sago (or tapioca) and sweet potato. While I grew up only knowing tapioca as a gluggy pudding that was prepared with a dash of vanilla if anything, my eyes were suddenly opened to the complexity the humble ingredient could adopt when thrown into syrupy sugary “soups” and served alongside starchy tubers or even legumes.
Although I enjoyed quite a few sago desserts while wandering around night markets in Taiwan, they’re not something I would consume on a regular basis at home or had even thought about preparing until somehow the idea for this recipe emerged in my mind. It is my take on the more traditional Taiwanese sago soups, prepared with coconut milk (inspired by Southeast Asian variations), not as liquidy as the sago you would find in many parts of East Asia, and made using the small tapioca pearls that I grew up cooking.
While this tapioca soup has no roots to any region in particular, it is a dish that can suit a variety of tastes, and can be customised as you see fit. Add more toppings if you want, add less liquid, sweeten more or less as desired… But I urge you to keep the sweet potato, however odd it may seem to tapioca traditionalists, as that is the integral part of this dessert.
Sweet Potato & Tapioca Soup
- 1 small sweet potato
- 1/2 cup, soaked in 1 cup of water overnight tapioca pearls
- 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp. ginger
- 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
- 1/2 tsp. turmeric
- 1/2 cup stevia and sugar baking blend, or sweetener of choice
- 2 cups, divided coconut milk
1. Bring a small pot of water to a boil.
2. While you’re waiting, wash and chop sweet potato into rounds, then cut each round in half.
3. Once water has boiled, place potato in steaming basket, set on top of potatoes, and cover with lid for about 10 minutes, or until potatoes are tender.
4. Once cooked, remove from heat and set aside.
5. Meanwhile, add tapioca, spices, sweetener and 1 cup of water to saucepan over medium-high heat.
6. Once boiling, reduce heat to a simmer and continue to cook and stir until tapioca turns translucent.
7. Slowly add 1 cup of coconut milk while stirring.
8. Finely dice half of your sweet potato and stir into the tapioca, then remove from heat and let cool slightly.
9. Dish up your tapioca and top with remaining sweet potato slices, then pour remaining coconut milk overtop. (If serving the dish straight away, top with cold milk. If serving a chilled tapioca, heat your milk before pouring).
Photo: Quincy Malesovas