Hear me out: I acknowledge global warming. I am sitting in my apartment with two fans on glued to this chair and have ice cubes in my cheeks like a squirrel hoarding nuts. Did they say global humidifying is upon us as well, or is it just these couple of days we’re having in the hellishly hot tri-state area?
I also acknowledge that this chilled soup, a dessert rather than a starter, was far from invented by myself. It’s more of a typical Cantonese summer dessert soup, and I’ve enjoyed this and similar combinations of fruits and tapioca in a chilled soup as dessert at dim sum. It looks lovely if you have the means and time to scoop your watermelon into little balls, too, or if you think you have the stamina to take on the extra work without sweating into anything.
small tapioca pearls — good for making pudding, too
the preferred serving bowl
Working with tapioca always reminds me of the many shapes and uses these versatile little pebbles of a tasteless starch can take on. I could really go for a good bubble tea right now, with molasses-brown pearls sunken to the bottom of a cup of sweet, milky tea shaken up with ice. Then again, I could also go for a nice, cool dip in the chilled watermelon soup I just made. One sweltering day at a time, I suppose.
Chilled Watermelon Coconut & Tapioca Soup
(makes 6-8 serving)
1 small seedless watermelon
1/2 can coconut milk (try to get the kind with the least amount of fat)
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup small tapioca pearls
In a saucepan, bring about 2 cups of water and the tapioca to a boil. Remove from heat and let rest, covered, for about 15 minutes. Drain water and rinse tapioca with cold water once or twice. Set tapioca aside.
Slice about 1/3 of the watermelon off of its top. Scoop out all the flesh and set aside the bigger piece of the rind (this will become the bowl). Cut watermelon into workable pieces to throw into a blender or food processor. Work in batches to pulse or blend watermelon so that there are still many chunks (about the size of a watermelon ball). Pour the juice through a strainer into a large mixing bowl. Add the sugar and stir until it dissolves. Pour in the rest of the watermelon chunks, coconut milk and the reserved tapioca and stir gently until just blended.
Transfer soup to your watermelon bowl and serve into bowls with a ladle. If desired, add ice cubes directly into the soup to keep it chilled longer.
(for 6-8 servings)
1 seedless watermelon (from a stand on Mott St. in Chinatown): $4
1/4 cup small tapioca pearls (from a 1-lb bag at $0.65 — yes, $0.65, at Kam Man Supermarket on Canal St.): $0.05?
1/2 can coconut milk (at $1.29/can): $0.65
1/4 cup sugar: $0.05
Four brownie points: Coconut hasn’t enjoyed the forgiveness that other fatty nuts and vegetables like the avocado, or pecan have in recent years. It’s not surprising, with a saturated fat level of around 50 grams per cup. But if you’re lenient with mother nature’s saturated fats, and skip that store-bought cookie filled with the bigger culprit, trans fat, then coconut milk can be a part of your diet, just as it is for Thai people. Plus, watermelon is loaded with lycopene.