A bowl of this sago (tapioca) and taro dessert soup is the perfect sweet finish to a savory Chinese meal. Besides being cheap, it’s very easy to create, requiring only water and 7 more components.
It freezes well, too, so you can make a ton and save some in quart or pint containers for a last-minute weekday dessert or for prepping ahead of time for a party. Serve this to your guests as dessert after a hot pot or buffet dinner this winter.
At first glance, taro’s knobby, hairy appearance reminiscent of a football might not seem promising. A few have compared it to potatoes. And while its texture is similar to that of a potato, its flavor is far superior, with a buttery aroma and taste that never fails to surprise and amaze me.
It’s the main attraction in this bowl of soup. The small tapioca pearls/sago (which you can get dried at a Chinese or Asian grocery shop), coconut milk, sweetened condensed milk, and vanilla all play supporting roles in this delicious dessert, providing contrasting textures and flavor profiles.
- 2 pounds of taro
- 50g of rock sugar
- 13.5 ounces of coconut milk (1 can)
- 5 ounces of sweet potato (cut into 1/4-inch cubes)
- 7 cups of water
- 1/2 cup of sago
- 1/2-2/3 cup of sweetened condensed milk (to taste)
- 1/2 teaspoon of salt
- 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract (optional)
- Bring about two quarts of water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add the sago and mix it in (but wait until the water is boiling before you add it). Boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes or until the tapioca has become completely transparent. If the pearls aren’t entirely translucent after 20 minutes, remove them from the heat, cover them, and let them rest in hot water for another 5-10 minutes. Pass through a fine-mesh strainer to remove any remaining food particles, then rinse in cold water to cool. Soak in a basin of cold water and leave aside.
- Simply chop the taro in half or thirds lengthwise. To remove the outer skin from the taro, lay the taro pieces flat and carefully cut them around them with a knife.
Cut the taro into 1/4-inch cubes, and you’ll need around 1 cup (5 ounces). The remaining taro should be cut into 1-inch pieces.
- Put the larger taro pieces (about an inch) and the rock sugar in a large pot with 7 cups of water. To make the taro very soft, bring it to a boil, cover it, and simmer over medium heat for 20 minutes.
- Mash the taro with a potato masher until it is quite smooth. The soup will initially seem watery, but it will thicken up as it finishes cooking.
- Throw in some cubes of sweet potato and taro and mix everything together. Cover and cook at a low simmer for another 10-12 minutes, stirring regularly to prevent sticking, until the taro and sweet potato cubes are soft.
- Blend in the sweetened condensed milk, vanilla extract, salt, and coconut milk (if using). Wait 2 more minutes before serving.
- The sago should be drained before being added to the soup. If the soup is excessively thick, adjust the consistency by adding hot water. Serve!