Ever since my first trip to Taipei, I was enamoured by this dessert I had in Jiu Fen – 芋圆 (directly translated as taro ball); a dessert consisting of grass jelly and tapioca balls of various flavours (taro, sweet potato, matcha etc), topped with red beans and mung beans. The tapioca balls were chewy and soft, with a hint of the base flavours, and the grass jelly and beans provided complementary textures and flavours, making it super addictive. Right after the trip, struck with an insane craving, I tried my hands making it based off this recipe, and was delighted to discover that it was a close substitute for the original.
Since then, a franchise selling this dessert was introduced in Singapore and I no longer have to go through all the trouble when cravings hit. However, food from your own hands is always THAT bit more special, and after having the authentic version once again during my recent trip to Taipei, I was eager to try making it again!
This is a perfect dessert for all weathers. On chilly days, snuggle under the blankets with a bowl of tapioca balls served in hot ginger soup. For hot and humid days, a bowl of shaved ice, grass jelly, red beans and the tapioca balls will make a refreshing treat.
Taro balls and sweet potato balls: recipe from mitongwu
Taro/sweet potato puree* 100g
Tapioca flour 30g
Water ~10g (to adjust accordingly)
*To make the puree, slice the taro/sweet potato and steam them till fork tender, about 15 – 20 minutes. While steaming, use a bamboo steamer or cover the lid with a large cotton cloth to prevent excess moisture from dripping onto the taro/sweet potato. Use a fork/ potato masher to mash the taro/sweet potato. I like to leave the purée a little bit chunky for added texture. However if the purée is too chunky, the dough might fall apart easily.
1) Combine the purée and tapioca flour in a bowl
2) Add water, a little at a time (1/2 – 1 tbsp)**, until the dough comes together in a ball.
** This is to prevent the dough from being too wet, thus requiring the addition of more flour which will affect the texture. A good proportion would be 70% purée, 30% tapioca flour.
3) Spilt the dough into half and roll each half into ropes of 1 – 1.5 cm in diameter.
4) To form the tapioca balls, cut the rope into pieces of 1.5 – 2cm. Lightly coat the pieces with tapioca flour to prevent them from sticking together.
At this stage, you can choose to proceed to cook the tapioca balls immediately or store them for future use. They will last a week in the refrigerator and keep for months in the freezer.
5) To cook the tapioca balls, bring water to boil in a saucepan. Pop the tapioca balls into the water in batches and scoop them out once they expand and float to the surface.
6) Toss the cooked tapioca balls with some sugar (adjust to taste) while they are still warm
7) Serve hot/cold with toppings as you wish!