Thursday, September 01, 2011

Tapioca/Sabudana Pudding with Mango

Dear Foodies,

Everyone who loves Thai food has heard or better yet, tasted one their most popular desserts - sticky rice with mangoes. The mangoes on their own are tempting enough to order a plate of the dessert. Its a simple combination of flavors yet uniquely different owed to the perfect balance between sweet and salty. Thai food, in general, is known for its play on various textures and flavors in each bite. There is sweet, salty, sour, bitter and spicy flavor components in almost all their dishes and they don't stop there. Yet another layer of textures is added by the use of sprouts, bamboo shoots, fresh herbs, fried onions and other such ingredients that make the meal a delight to the senses.

I've had this dessert on my to-do list for a very long time but it never got done. When I was hosting IAVW-Thai I was determined to make a dessert but got caught in the heady aromas of curries and curry pastes! It actually took me a long time to even try out a dessert while eating out because I'm always filled up with pad thai or a thai curry by the time I get to dessert. 

The rice component is made using a glutinous rice variety that cooks up to become a sticky, gooey mass. I've never been able to justify buying a bag just for this recipe because I don't prefer sticky, lumped rice in general. Sabudana/tapioca pearls, on the other hand are something I always have in the pantry. I usually buy the bigger pearls to make sabudana kichadi, a tiffin item that I love. When I ran out of them a few months back V could only find the smaller pearls and he got them home instead. It was a disaster trying to make the kichdi with the smaller ones, they take only a minute to get cooked and end up into a sticky, inedible mass within seconds...gah!

I found that the smaller pearls are best suited for payasam. Saggu bhiyam/Sabudana payasam is the only dessert that V has requested more than once I think. The last time that I started out making this payasam for him was right after we had enjoyed a great Thai dinner that ended with dessert. We liked it so much that I made a mental note to replicate the recipe for us at home. When I began preparing the payasam I decided to give it the Thai make-over and see how it tasted. I had all the ingredients on hand and it turned out absolutely perfect! That final sprinkle of salt takes the dessert to a whole other level. I loved this variation and have actually been adding a few grains of salt to all my desserts since. For those of you who love the original dessert and don't stock up on glutinous rice this is a quick and easy variation to address the cravings.

Once you've made the substitution for rice, the rest of the ingredients are easy to find. These demure ingredients create a final dish that is clearly more than the sum of their parts. The mangoes don't have to be perfectly ripe, infact a mildly tart & sweet mango would be my first pick. Frozen grated coconut, cardamom pods and sabudana are ingredients that I always have on hand and so its always easy to recreate this. You can make this starting from plain milk but if you can find evaporated milk then you are that much closer to the final prize. It cuts down on the cooking time by half and also takes away the stress of babysitting milk, phew!

Tapioca Pudding with Mangoes
Servings: 2-3
Prep time: n/a
Cooking time: 30-40mins
  • 1/2 cup - Tapioca pearls
  • 1/2 cup - ripe Mango, peeled & diced
  • 1/4 cup - Coconut, freshly grated
  • 1 can - Evaporated milk
  • 2-2.5 cups - Milk (Whole milk for a richer version, I used 2%)
  • 1/3 - 1/2 cup - Sugar
  • 2 - Cardamom pods, de-seeded
  • Pinch of salt
  1. In a saucepan, bring together evaporated milk and 1.5 cups of milk. Cook on medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until the mixture reduces by a third, about 15 mins.
  2. In the mean time, soak grated coconut in a few tablespoons of water/milk and grind to a coarse paste. Using a mortar & pestle coarsely powder the cardamom seeds, adding a little granulated sugar to help grind them.
  3. Once the milk is reduced and thickened, add the tapioca pearls and cook for a few minutes. Add sugar, coconut paste and cardamom powder next and stir gently to incorporate the ingredients.
  4. As the pearls cook they will thicken the payasam so add more milk as needed to get the desired consistency. They take only a few minutes to cook and will turn translucent when ready.
  5. Finally finish off with a pinch of salt and taste to check for balance of flavors. You want just a subtle hint of salt when tasting the pudding, nothing too obvious.
  6. Turn off the heat and serve warm/cold garnished with diced ripe mango. As the payasam cools, it will thicken and set-up, so if you want a looser payasam/pudding add more milk right before serving.
Notes: Evaporated milk is milk with 60% of its water content removed and is unsweetened. If unavailable, begin with 3 cups of regular whole milk and reduce it by half by cooking on medium-low heat and stirring frequently to avoid burning the milk solids.
If you have coconut milk on hand you can add it right after the tapioca pearls to enhance the coconut flavor.
And there you have it, all the flavors that you like in the Thai dessert but with a twist. The pearls almost disappear into your mouth as you eat the pudding and the evaporated milk gives it a rich milk flavor that I love in payasams. The mild hint of cardamom that to me makes an Indian dessert and the tropical coconut flavor bring in comforting flavors. The final hint of salt is what differentiates this from being a regular Indian dessert and takes it to the realm of exotic. It's weird how the salt actually enhances the sweet flavors in the pudding and slight tartness in the mangoes. Hope you get to try it out and enjoy these flavors.

Happy Ganesh Chathurthi  to those who celebrate it and
I wish you all a safe and fun long weekend!

10 thoughts:

Nitha said...

delicious pudding....

Pavithra Elangovan said...

Delicious pudding..absolutely yummy shots.

Pavani said...

Wish you a very happy Vinayaka Chavithi Priya.
Very interesting Thai-Indian fusion dessert.. Sounds delicious. I wish my husband or my son love milk based desserts. I'll be the only one eating them at home, so I avoid making at all.
Enjoy ur weekend.

Hari Chandana P said...

Wonderful and delicious dessert.. looks simply superb !!
Indian Cuisine

Unknown said...

Easy and a delicious looking dessert

Priya said...

Nitha, thank you

Pavithra, thank you, I'm craving laddu's currently :D

Pavani, that cuts off many of our desserts then. When I'm running out of time I end up taking the easy route by making payasams :) Have a great weekend!

Chandana, thank you :) Hope you had a nice puja today.

Sharmilee, thank you, enjoy the long weekend there.

chaitrali pathak said...

loved it....delicious...lovely presentation and beautiful clicks

divya said...

Delicious pudding..absolutely yummy

Shri said...

It looks fabulous. For some reason, I can never play with Tapioca in the kitchen..It almost always ends up in a disaster.

rads said...

I have a "surprise dish" to make tomorrow for a potluck, aiming to do this. Let's see :)

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