Many types of dessert soup, featuring various main ingredients, are routinely consumed in Thailand as well as other places in Asia, especially the East and Southeast. Some of these dessert soups are served warm; some are served chilled or topped with crushed or shaved ice; some are great at any temperature. I have covered some of them here already. Remember pineapple in iced syrup (or the apricot version of it), glutinous rice pearls in sweet coconut cream, crunchy water chestnut dumplings in iced coconut syrup, or sweet sticky rice and durian in coconut cream? Even things that you don’t normally associate with dessert — let alone ice dessert — can be prepared in this manner, e.g. egg noodles. Sa-khu Cantaloupe (localized as khaentalûp), a chilled dessert ‘soup’ of chewy tapioca, juicy cantaloupe, and sweet and creamy coconut milk fits right in that pattern.
Once cooked, tapioca pearls become soft, translucent, sticky, and viscous. Sweetened with sugar and topped with creamy and slightly salty coconut cream topping, you get a comforting, warm, and gooey pudding that comes in countless variations depending on what other ingredients you add to the tapioca base to create different flavors and textures (corn kernels, young coconut meat, and taro are among the most common add-ins). The way tapioca pearls are used in this case, however, is atypical. The presence of this large amount of coconut milk breaks up the starchy “glue” that holds the cooked tapioca pearls together, causing the tiny beads to loosen, separate from one another, and float freely.
The end result is not much different from a chilled bubble tea. The only exception is that it’s served in a bowl instead of a tall see-through glass, that the tapioca pearls are lighter in color and much smaller, and that you go after the little pearls and the added melon balls with a spoon and not an oversized straw. Continue Reading →