Chilled Watermelon Coconut & Tapioca Soup

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.

Cost Calculator
(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

Total: $4.75

Health Factor

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.

13 Responses

  1. mark

    Kam Man is going to drop the bottom out of the tapioca market with prices like that…what a find!!!

  2. Nancy

    That pic of your tapioca soup is beautiful! Speaking of cooling desserts, there’s another great Asian one for battling skin-melting heat & humidity – grass jello!

  3. Yvo

    Wow, that looks awesome. I love the watermelon bowl you made, too! And I have to buy some of this tapioca stuff…. mmm. I seem to avoid making desserts though… oh well. Too bad I’m allergic to coconut (I know, I know, yes it’s a lot of stuff…) but this sounds really good (I sneak some of that tapioca/coconut milk pudding at Chinese restaurants for dessert sometimes… until my face starts to swell…)

  4. Alanna

    Hi Cathy ~ Just wanted to let you know that your post is featured on BlogHer today! ~ AK

  5. Carroll

    And I’m here from reading the link at BlogHer. Dear Goddess, that soup sounds good! Love the look of your blog (and the concept) and have bookmarked. Will be back to read more right after I run down to the local Asian market for some pearl tapioca. My daughter-in-law is a huge fan of pearl tea-type drinks. And watermelon. And coconut. This will be a great surprise for her the next time they’re here for a visit. Thanks for the potential “great mother-in-law” points! 🙂

  6. RJ

    this is by far my favorite summer soup. I waited all year for the local Dim Sum place to make it again, had a bowl, and took some home for takeout.
    In that year, I have looked for the recipe often.
    Thank you. I’m off to market =)

  7. Susan

    Hi Cathy,
    I’m a new reader and enjoy reading your website everyday. I have a question about this recipe. I’ve read it a couple of times and can’t figure out when/how to add the tapioca.

  8. cathy

    Whoops! Thanks for pointing that out, Susan! I just added that step, in the final mixing of the soup. Enjoy!

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  10. Brian

    I’ve had the same soup, also at dim-sum but it had a little rose water added to it which gave it an amazing floral quality. Thanks for the recipe!

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