2000s Recipes + Menus

Coconut and Palm Sugar Syrup with Tapioca, Tropical Fruit, and Shaved Ice

  • Active time:2 hr
  • Start to finish:2 1/2 hr
August 2001
Still life with fruit: In this variation on the Indonesian concoction chendol, we’ve replaced the traditional green pea flour “worms” with tapioca.

Made from yuca (pronounced “YOO-ca”), pearl tapioca can be found at Asian markets and specialty foods shops.
  • 8 1/4 cups water
  • 2/3 cup large (1/8- to 1/4-inch) pearl tapioca (not quick-cooking)
  • 1/2 cup grated or crumbled dark palm sugar (4 oz)*
  • 2 (13- to 14-oz) cans unsweetened coconut milk (do not shake)
  • 2 firm-ripe mangoes (1 1/2 lb total), peeled, pitted, and cut into 1/4-inch pieces
  • 1 lb firm-ripe papaya (preferably red), peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/4-inch pieces
  • 1/2 pineapple, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/4-inch pieces
  • 2 cups shaved ice
  • Garnish:

    fresh coconut shavings, toasted
  • Special equipment:

    an ice shaver, preferably manual
  • Bring 8 cups water to a boil in a 2-quart saucepan and add tapioca, stirring constantly. Gently boil, stirring occasionally, until tapioca is almost completely translucent, 40 minutes to 1 1/2 hours, depending on size of tapioca.
  • Remove from heat and let tapioca stand, covered, until completely translucent, 45 minutes to 1 1/2 hours, depending on size.
  • While tapioca is standing, bring sugar, a pinch of salt, and remaining 1/4 cup water to a simmer in a small heavy saucepan, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Simmer syrup until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes.
  • Scoop out 3/4 cup (total) of thick layer of coconut cream from tops of cans (reserving remainder for another use) and whisk into syrup until combined well. Chill syrup until cold, about 1 hour.
  • Add 3 cups cold water to translucent tapioca, then drain in a sieve. Transfer tapioca to a large bowl filled halfway with cold water, swirl, and then drain in sieve. (This removes excess starch.)
  • Spoon 3 tablespoons syrup into each of 4 glasses (there will be some left over), then divide fruit and tapioca among them. Top with shaved ice.
Cooks’ notes:
  • Small pearl tapioca may be substituted for large, but the cooking time must be reduced to about 5 minutes boiling time and 15 minutes standing time.
  • For this recipe, we prefer one of the following brands of coconut milk because the thin liquid and the creamlike layer are distinctly separated: A Taste of Thai, Mount Tai, Thai Kitchen, or Ka-Me.
  • Syrup can be made 3 days ahead and chilled, covered.

*Available at Asian markets and Uwajimaya (800-889-1928).
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