Lime ginger and coconut tapioca pudding

Some days I just wish I was in Thailand.

Outside my window it’s sunny with a promise of better days to come. It’s been a while.

I need some sticky heat and a solid dose of sunshine.  I want blue water and spicy food.

Thailand was the first place The Hungry One and I went on holidays together. Two days into the trip and the humidity he would be more comfortable if he shaved his head. He was more comfortable, but I wasn’t quite sure how I felt about being on a romantic holiday with someone who was six foot 2, 110 kilos, and, quite frankly;  now looked a little little like Hitler Youth.

Soon after that visit to the barber we travelled on to Phi Phi Island, and made friends with two tiny Irish travellers. We had some laughs. We talked to the boy about lots of things. Yet the only thing we seemed to talk to the girl about was shark attacks. I think she’d read ‘The Beach’ too many times.

Over the course of those four days we ate banana pancakes and tapioca puddings,  we sucked on lychees and consumed our body weight in fried noodles.  We loved that island.

Two years later when the tsunami swallowed Phi Phi, our hearts just broke.

Six months later we were drawn back to Thailand.  We stayed on a beach south of Patong. We ate, read and swam.

In the years that lapsed since our first visit the the land of smiles so much had changed, but so much remained the same. They were some of our happiest days.

When I need some sunshine, these are now the flavours I turn to.

Ginger wakes me up. Coconut makes me look out for palm trees and the lime makes my palms itch for a cocktail, preferably with a novelty umbrella.

Meanwhile, tapioca must be one of the most soothing substances around. To start with, the little pearls look like bean bag stuffing, in miniature.  It’s cheap and readily available from most Asian food stores.

With some stirring and coaxing it’s simply  delightful to watch these little balls swell to twice their size, before relaxing into cuddly spheres that get suspended in a custard style sauce like spawn.

To me, it’s rice pudding on a holiday. It’s flexible enough to be eaten hot, or cold. It’s a great foil for lychees, or other tropical fruits- though adding the toasted coconut gives it a good kick of textural contrast.

It’s the perfect dessert to follow Asian spiced fish or a richer  and aromatic meat like duck. I like to eat it listening to bad pop music from the last decade, with a few empty Tiger beer bottles scattered around on the floor. That way I really feel like I’m on holiday.

Ginger, lime and coconut tapioca pudding
with lychees and toasted coconut

Serves 6


30 grams of fresh ginger (a piece about an inch long)
peeled zest of one lime
1 cup water
2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup small pearl tapioca (not quick-cooking)
1 400 ml can unsweetened coconut milk


1 cup of lychees (fresh or in jars)
juice of one lime
1/2 cup of coconut shards

Here’s how we roll

1. Bring the cup of water to the boil with the lime zest and ginger, cut into pieces the size of your fingernail (or just some smaller pieces so the flavour leeches out of more surfaces). Once it’s come to the boil, put a lid on and take it off the heat. Let it steep for 20 minutes at least.

2. Fish the lime zest and ginger pieces out of the water. Add the milk, sugar and coconut milk and bring it to the boil.

3. Stir in the tapioca and return to the boil.

4. Reduce heat to medium and simmer, stirring frequently uncovered until the liquids are absorbed and the tapioca thickens to the texture of a sloppy porridge.

5. Transfer to bowls, or martini glasses and refrigerate (NB, you can also serve warm).

6. To assemble, toast the coconut shards in a dry fry pan until they smell nutty and brown on the edges.

7. Dress the lychees in the juice of the lime.

8. Top the bowl of pudding with sliced lychees and the coconut shards.

  1. This is an interesting measure: "size of your fingernail":) How about a handful of ginger instead of 30g?

  2. Oh you're so right… have tweaked a bit. Serves me for writing after a pina colada or two (tropical yearnings continue…)

  3. This sounds like a concoction from Bath and Body Works…speaking of which, after reading this, I had to dive head first into a bottle of Exotic Coconut. Must. Have. Warm. Weather. Soon!!

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