Cantonese sugar soup | Taro and Tapioca pearls dessert 芋頭西米露

A few posts ago, I made a savory dish using taro (taro pancake). Today, I went for something sweet using taro again – Taro and Tapioca pearls tong sui 芋頭西米露, literally translated as ‘sugar soup 糖水’. The term tong sui is referred to any sweet, warm soup or custard served as a dessert at the end of a meal in Cantonese cuisine. However, tong sui can be found everywhere in Hong Kong (tong sui stores), thus it is not limited to eat it only after a meal. Tong sui are a Cantonese delicacy and are rarely found in other regional cuisines of China.

Chinese desserts are different than western desserts. In western restaurants, guests usually have a cake, ice-cream or a cup of coffee/tea to round off their dinner. However, in Chinese restaurants (in the Netherlands) you will often get a plate full of fruits or a typical Chinese dessert. The most served sugar soup in Chinese restaurants would be the red/green bean sugar soup. My favorite sugar soup is the Taro- and Tapioca pearls. This dessert is not hard to make, however you have to be wary that the pearls do not stick together and become porridge.

Taro tapioca pearls tong sui

Taro and Tapioca pearls tong sui

Small taro

Small taro


300 gr taro
150 gr rock sugar (or to taste)
80 gr small tapioca pearls
250 ml coconut milk (or to taste)
625 ml water

  1. Peel and cut the taro into small cubes. Steam half of the portion taro for 10 minutes or until soft and puree them.
  2. Cook the tapioca pearls about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally so they do not stick together. Remove the pan from the heat and put a lid on it. Let it cool for about 10 minutes or until it becomes transparent. Rinse the pearls with cold water and then put aside.
  3. Bring the water to boil and cook the remaining taro for 8 minutes. Add rock sugar and cook until it dissolves. Add the mashed taro from step 1 and the coconut milk. Cook it for a few minutes. Stir the pearls through and serve immediately.

*In order to keep the pearls from being mushy, cook the pearls first and separately, and put aside. For choosing taro, you can either use big or small ones.

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