Tapioca, caramel and mango pudding

Photographer: Emma

My time in Thailand, although brief changed how I cook and how I eat.   Since going there about a year ago I have fully embraced the cuisine which is now a staple of my diet.   I vividly remember eating foods for the first time – dragon fruit, steamed broth from a side cart, whole soft shell crab.  And first time food experiences – having to hang my drink on a door handle in my room after it was given to me in a little plastic bag with ice and a straw, struggling to open fresh-roasted chestnuts after confidently buying them from a vendor in Chinatown.
My boyfriend has since been back to Thailand a couple of times for kickboxing and we are constantly trying to recreate Thai cuisine in our own kitchen – often with little success.   We are really lucky in Auckland to have good quality and reasonably priced Thai restaurants and specialty stores readily available to us.  So it’s not really about the fact that we don’t have access to the food, it’s about the process and the understanding of the flavours and why they work together.

Thai desserts often use tapioca and this one combines the silky pearls with a Thai take on a traditional caramel sauce and fresh mango.


1 c tapioca
8 c water
1.5 c palm sugar
150 ml water
100 ml coconut cream
1 mango
2 tbsp mint, chopped
¼ c coconut flakes, toasted


1. Put the tapioca and water into a large sauce pan. Bring to the boil then reduce to a simmer. Cook until the tapioca pearls are translucent right the way through. Once cooked, drain into a sieve and run under cold water.
2. In a separate sauce pan, add the palm sugar and the water. Bring the sugar syrup to the boil and simmer. Brush the sides of the sauce pan with a pastry brush dipped in water. This will prevent sugar crystals forming and crystalising the sugar.
3. Take the sugar syrup off the heat once golden in colour.
4. Whisk the coconut cream into the sugar.
5. Dice the mango and combine with the chopped mint. Spoon the mango and mint into the bottom of four glass tumblers.
6. Mix the palm sugar and coconut sauce with the tapioca and spoon over the mango.
7. Top with toasted coconut flakes and serve warm or cold.