Sorry about the ‘Yee Haw‘ in the title….I get a little excited sometimes and the Texan in me really comes out. Yeah, so WOW, I was lucky enough to advance to Round 2 of Project Food Blog!!! But only thanks to YOU. If it hadn’t been for your support, encouraging comments and votes, I totally wouldn’t even be here! So THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart!

In this round of Project Food Blog, our mission is to cook outside of our comfort zones and recreate a classic dish from another culture. The kicker? It can’t be French or Italian. They wouldn’t want to make it too easy on us, now would they? ;) I knew this would be a challenging order, because when you get right down to it…..I’m boring. There, I said it. The majority of my food is American, Mexican, Italian and Cajun, with the occasional Greek thrown in to annoy my mother, who hates Greek food. In all honesty, it’s not often that I step outside of my comfort zone at all. I’m a “play-it-safe” kind of girl. But not anymore. Today I turn over a new leaf. I kick the old, “boring” Amy to the curb and let the new, adventurous, perhaps even slightly dangerous Amy in the kitchen. Who knows what that Amy will come up with! She’s pretty awesome. My husband digs her.

So, after lots of careful thought (I went down the Indian, Israeli, Greek and  Moroccan paths, but ultimately, was left cold), I decided to do a Tong Sui (translation: ‘sweet water’), a delicious Cantonese dessert soup (sounds good, right? Well it is…trust me!). To be honest with you, the only “Asian” food I’ve ever made is Kung Pao Chicken…………….*cricket*, *cricket*…………….I know. I’m ashamed. Everyone knows that doesn’t count. So I thought, “what better culture to choose from?!” I was first introduced to this yummy, sweet soup 4 years ago at our friend Billy Wu’s house. Every year, he hosts a huge BBQ that my husband fondly refers to as “The WuBQ” (and looks forward to year round). There’s a plethora of every food imaginable, and I was lucky enough to sample a dish that would intrigue me for years to come. Billy’s mother is a wonderful cook and loves sharing her Chinese culture with everyone (she once convinced my poor husband to try a smoothie made with Durian, the funkiest, smelliest fruit known to man). She opened the lid to a large pot filled with a rich, coconuty soup and invited me to try a bowl. “Why not?”, I thought – it smelled good enough. One bite and I was hooked. It was sweet, creamy, slightly thick and filled with rich coconut milk, tapioca pearls and taro. I went home that night thinking about the soup. I’ve thought about it ever since.

Upon doing some research, I found out that Tong Sui is Asian comfort food. Like our chocolate pudding or macaroni and cheese, a nice big bowl of this is like a big, warm hug. Very common. Billy’s mom makes it all the time and his whole family loves it. I love it too. Which is why I’m diving in head-first and making my very own traditional Tong Sui! Billy’s mom was sweet enough to give me her own personal recipe and I’m honored to be able to recreate it here!

Tong Sui (Cantonese dessert soup)
-makes a large pot; enough for 6-8 people

**Kam Kwai gave me her list of ingredients and her method of cooking. Just like so many of my grandmother’s recipes, measurements are just approximations- you can add as much or as little of everything as you want.

3 cups water, plus more for boiling the tapioca and barley
approximately 3/4 cup small tapioca pearls
1/2 cup pearl barley
1 small sweet potato, peeled and diced into centimeter-sized cubes (Kam Kwai uses Taro- similar in texture to sweet potato- but the ones at the Asian market were big, long and furry and frankly, they scared me a bit so I used sweet potatoes)
1 12-oz. can coconut milk
1 12-oz. can evaporated milk
1/2 – 1 cup sugar (this isn’t meant to be too sweet, but if you prefer it sweeter, feel free to use the full cup of sugar)
1 teaspoon salt
pinch ginger
pinch cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
*the cinnamon and vanilla isn’t traditional, but I wanted to put my own spin on it

In a medium pot over high heat, bring 1 1/2 cups water and pearl barley to a boil. Reduce heat to low and cook covered for 40-45 minutes, until the barley is tender.

In a separate pot, bring another 2 cups water to a boil. Add in the tapioca pearls and cook for 10-12 minutes, until clear and cooked through.

In a large stock pot, bring the 3 cups water and diced sweet potato to a boil. Cook for 10 minutes until the sweet potato is tender. Stir in the cooked barley, coconut milk, evaporated milk, sugar, salt, cinnamon, ginger and vanilla. Lastly, stir in the tapioca. Taste for sweetness and add more sugar and spices as needed. Remove from heat. Serve and enjoy!

*Tong sui can be enjoyed warm or cold.

I had lots of fun making this soup- it’s so different and unusual compared to the things I normally make. That’s why I’ve enjoyed this challenge so much. Not only have I succeeded in cooking a delicious dish from a completely different culture, I made my first ever trip to the Asian market! Now THAT was an experience! I’ve discovered so many wonderful ingredients and ideas that I would have never even considered trying before. Like I said, that was the old, boring Amy! Who knows what I’ll try next- Billy also gave me a great recipe for sweet dumplings to make for Chinese New Year! Bring it on! I’m a new woman!

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63 Comments »

  1. Oh wow! That looks delicious! :) Congrats on making it to round 2!!!

    [Reply]

    Comment by Amy @ The Nifty Foodie — September 25, 2010 @ 10:44 PM

  2. Looks SO yummy, A!! :) Pretty pics, too!

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    Comment by Jessica of My Baking Heart — September 25, 2010 @ 10:46 PM

  3. Great job!! That sounds really good and your pics are awesome! Congrats on advancing to round 2!!

    [Reply]

    Comment by Shannon — September 25, 2010 @ 11:07 PM

  4. This is a great choice and looks so good! Can’t wait to try it.

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    Comment by Mother — September 25, 2010 @ 11:46 PM

  5. This looks and sounds good, I will try it with the traditional taro root. BTW, taro root is nothing like sweet potato, raw it can be dangerous due to the high toxicity in both the root and leaves.

    [Reply]

    Comment by dixiedevil — September 26, 2010 @ 1:23 AM

  6. This looks quite tasty. It’s a cold rainy day here in Canterbury, I would love a bowl right now.

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    Comment by Spencer — September 26, 2010 @ 9:03 AM

  7. Thanks dixiedevil- I know they’re not the same thing, I just wasn’t really sure how to describe taro. Like I said, this is my first time cooking traditional Asian food, so I probably have a lot to learn.

    [Reply]

    Comment by amy — September 26, 2010 @ 10:02 AM

  8. Ah ha! That’s why you went to the Chinese market. I get it now. I’m a little slow sometimes. This looks great! Good luck on challenge 2 girlie! :)

    [Reply]

    Comment by Lindsey @ Hot Polka Dot — September 26, 2010 @ 11:25 AM

  9. Awesome job, Amy! Congratulations on making it to round two. I can’t wait to vote for you again!!!

    [Reply]

    Comment by Kelsey — September 26, 2010 @ 11:43 AM

  10. You got it, Lindsey! ;) I wanted to tell everybody what I got at the Asian market but I had to keep my mouth shut! Now the cat’s out of the bag, though! :)

    Thank you Kelsey!!! :)

    [Reply]

    Comment by amy — September 26, 2010 @ 1:33 PM

  11. It looks wonderful! Great job on tackling this dish, best of luck in round 2!

    [Reply]

    Comment by Jenn — September 26, 2010 @ 2:54 PM

  12. Thanks so much, Jenn!!

    [Reply]

    Comment by amy — September 26, 2010 @ 2:55 PM

  13. i LOVE ALL Cantonese desserts, including this warm one. I also like the cold coconut milk, mango and pomelo one with tapioca balls….another favorite. Love it – pictures are beautiful! you have my vote!

    [Reply]

    Comment by Joanne Choi — September 26, 2010 @ 3:46 PM

  14. Beautiful! Perfect choice. This is totally what the challenge is all about! You so got this, lady! Good luck!

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    Comment by themilkmanswife — September 26, 2010 @ 4:32 PM

  15. Way to go for making it to round 2! This soup sounds amazing – and I love that you tackled something totally new!

    I totally agree – I had so much fun participating in this challenge and making something I never would have made otherwise.

    Good luck in this round!

    [Reply]

    Comment by Candice @ ChiaSeedMe — September 26, 2010 @ 8:30 PM

  16. Yey – you made it to round 2!!! And you will certainly make it to the next round with this beauty. It has comfort written all over it! And those flavors all sound incredible. I think you hit a homerun with this one.

    [Reply]

    Comment by Eliana — September 26, 2010 @ 8:52 PM

  17. Your pictures keep getting better and better! You go girl! You have my vote of course!! :-)

    [Reply]

    Comment by Jessica — September 26, 2010 @ 9:02 PM

  18. you did a great job by keeping it low key and simple. you nailed it! :) i love desserts with tapioca pearls. this will get +1 vote from me. congrats on making it to round 2 and i hope we all make it to third. all the best!

    [Reply]

    Comment by Jan/Thella @ I Love. Therefore, I Cook. — September 26, 2010 @ 10:08 PM

  19. Looks fantastic and flavorful. I have never had that before and O like Asian cuisine. Way to go girl! I voted for you!

    [Reply]

    Comment by Noelle — September 27, 2010 @ 8:50 AM

  20. Oh my gosh this looks amazing! I love coconut, taro and tapioca :) Great entry, I was giggling and drooling through the entire thing!

    [Reply]

    Comment by Callie @ Callieflower Kitchen — September 27, 2010 @ 9:02 AM

  21. Great recipe with a great story! Good luck, I definitely voted for you! :)

    [Reply]

    Comment by Melissa — September 27, 2010 @ 10:39 AM

  22. What an awesome and beautiful post, and congrats on making it to round 2. This sound delicious too!

    [Reply]

    Comment by Krystal R — September 27, 2010 @ 11:53 AM

  23. Fabulous recipe, and the pics look delish, good luck!!!! :-)

    [Reply]

    Comment by Tasha @ ThatsSoYummy — September 27, 2010 @ 12:08 PM

  24. Wow – beautiful photos and you’ve persuaded me to try this despite my aversion to tapioca (weird, I know)! Well done!

    [Reply]

    Comment by Ruby — September 27, 2010 @ 1:39 PM

  25. Anything translated to “sweet water” has to be pretty good, right?
    your soup looks amazing and love the t-shirt lol
    good luck:)

    [Reply]

    Comment by Ethan — September 27, 2010 @ 1:58 PM

  26. Love all the history. You get my vote just for that.

    [Reply]

    Comment by Kelly — September 27, 2010 @ 2:05 PM

  27. Yum! This looks like rice pudding soup, which I think is a brilliant idea! Can’t wait to try this!

    [Reply]

    Comment by Rachel @ The Avid Appetite — September 27, 2010 @ 2:13 PM

  28. Hey thanks for stopping by my blog! Your entry is aweeeesome :) I love anything with tapioca in it. I am going to have to try this for sure!

    (I voted for you, fingers crossed!)

    [Reply]

    Comment by Monique@She's Going The Distance — September 27, 2010 @ 2:40 PM

  29. I’d sing for that! You’ve got my vote!

    [Reply]

    Comment by Dan Clapson — September 27, 2010 @ 2:57 PM

  30. That soup looks so delicious. I voted for you.

    [Reply]

    Comment by Lisa — September 27, 2010 @ 4:10 PM

  31. Thank you!!

    [Reply]

    Comment by amy — September 27, 2010 @ 4:22 PM

  32. I will confirm here and now that tong sui is indeed comfort food for at least this Chinese person. When I’m in HK, I literally try to eat coconut-tapioca soup every day, varying in what goes in it (my fave=honeydew or mango), because there are multiple chains of shops that specializes in tong sui. So, Amy, you only picked like my favorite dessert ever for this post – so of course I’m voting for you!

    [Reply]

    Comment by riceandwheat — September 27, 2010 @ 4:41 PM

  33. Oh YAY, R&W!! I’m so glad I picked something you love so much!! Thank you for your sweet comment!!! :)

    [Reply]

    Comment by amy — September 27, 2010 @ 4:56 PM

  34. Looks like my kinda comort food. Anything sweet “coconutty” and creamy. Pic is beautiful, idea is original. You get a vote from me. Good luck in the challenge!

    [Reply]

    Comment by Krissyp — September 27, 2010 @ 5:31 PM

  35. It sure does look warm and comforting. I’ll definitely vote for you! My former coworkers used to always talk about durian but I never came across it personally. Your husband is brave to try it!

    [Reply]

    Comment by Jeanne — September 27, 2010 @ 5:43 PM

  36. Pictures are gorgeous, as usual. I’ve never heard of this soup before, but it’s very interesting to me. I love coconut and taro (and I totally understand why you didn’t use it, it does look TERRIFYING at the market), so I’m sure I’d love this. You know you’ve got my vote!

    [Reply]

    Comment by sweet swallows — September 27, 2010 @ 6:27 PM

  37. That’s so interesting and different! You definitely have my vote. Of course, you had it anyway, but this way you actually earned it. :-)

    [Reply]

    Comment by Kira — September 27, 2010 @ 6:44 PM

  38. Great looking site! Good luck in round two!

    [Reply]

    Comment by Cook in a Bar — September 27, 2010 @ 7:19 PM

  39. I would love to try this!

    [Reply]

    Comment by branny — September 27, 2010 @ 9:15 PM

  40. Beautiful blog and great post. You have my vote AND thank you for commenting on my blog.

    [Reply]

    Comment by Virginia Taylor — September 28, 2010 @ 12:08 AM

  41. This is very different, which is why it stands out amongst many of the challenges. A sweet dessert soup made of sweet taters (a fave vegetable, by the way) deserves some attention. Great challenge entry!

    [Reply]

    Comment by The Duo Dishes — September 28, 2010 @ 12:23 AM

  42. Well done! You are so right, this is definitely comfort food :) I make a lot of tapioca-pearly, coconuty, soupy things when I feel I need a sweet pick me up :) Your take on it looks spot-on and very delicious. Oh, and of course you get my vote (don’t sic your hubby on me ok?)

    [Reply]

    Comment by shaz — September 28, 2010 @ 6:46 AM

  43. Great post! Love your pics! Good luck with round 2!

    [Reply]

    Comment by Danielle@Runs With Spatulas — September 28, 2010 @ 9:21 AM

  44. Looks delicious – tho I will admit also intimidating because it reminds me of bubble tea and that scares me! Beautiful none the less and you make me want to try this. I voted!

    [Reply]

    Comment by Heather @ He Cooks She Cooks — September 28, 2010 @ 9:57 AM

  45. slurp i want this now,..

    [Reply]

    Comment by notyet100 — September 28, 2010 @ 10:28 AM

  46. That’s so unique! I voted for you!!

    [Reply]

    Comment by Rachel Wilkerson — September 28, 2010 @ 4:43 PM

  47. This sounds positively delicious! I made my first dessert soup this summer and loved it. This looks way better! I’m cheering you on for this round – all the best!

    [Reply]

    Comment by Reeni — September 28, 2010 @ 4:49 PM

  48. Thank you Rachel and Reeni!! You girls ROCK!!

    [Reply]

    Comment by amy — September 28, 2010 @ 4:50 PM

  49. Loved your post. Nice job and nice photos too. Good luck with PFB!

    [Reply]

    Comment by Therese @ artistta — September 28, 2010 @ 4:53 PM

  50. Hey Amy – Congrats on making round two!! I got a reminder and couldn’t wait to read what you had submitted! it looks fabulous and I also have never heard of it and I LOVE Asian cuisine! Thanks for the intro to this wonderful food! Good Luck (as if you needed it)!

    [Reply]

    Comment by Amy J — September 28, 2010 @ 5:49 PM

  51. Great post! I’ve never heard of this before now, but I love tapioca. Looks delicious. I voted for you!

    Good luck! =)

    You can check out my PFB post at : http://www.foodbuzz.com/project_food_blog/challenges/2/view/864

    [Reply]

    Comment by Jacob's Kitchen — September 28, 2010 @ 8:36 PM

  52. Looks yummy!!

    [Reply]

    Comment by Allison — September 29, 2010 @ 12:56 AM

  53. Good idea to use sweet potato instead of taro, I’m not a fan of the stuff either. Just voted for you, best of luck!

    Lick My Spoon

    [Reply]

    Comment by @lickmyspoon — September 29, 2010 @ 2:53 AM

  54. I’ll overlook many a “yee-haw” for that beautiful soup! It reminds me of bobo tea. It’s nice to see another “pie lady” in PFB…good luck to both of us!

    [Reply]

    Comment by Libby — September 29, 2010 @ 9:04 AM

  55. love that you really stepped outside the box on this one! i’ve never heard of this but I would love to try a bowl! I voted for you yesterday–good luck!

    [Reply]

    Comment by natalie (the sweets life) — September 29, 2010 @ 2:05 PM

  56. I decided to travel to Asia, too! I love that you chose a dessert! It looks really beautiful. Great job!

    [Reply]

    Comment by Dana — September 30, 2010 @ 11:10 AM

  57. Unique dish with great pictures. You got my vote!

    [Reply]

    Comment by Ed — September 30, 2010 @ 5:37 PM

  58. I have not ever heard of this, and now I want some! I gave you a vote- good luck.

    Lisa.

    [Reply]

    Comment by Lisa — September 30, 2010 @ 6:25 PM

  59. Hello, fellow PFB competitor!:) Wonderful job. I definitely want to try this. I voted for you — Good luck in the challenge!

    [Reply]

    Comment by Celeste Jenkins — October 1, 2010 @ 12:16 PM

  60. I was a bit unsure how mine would turn out at first. I only had quick tapioca on hand so it kind of looked like a gelatinous glue on its own. but once I added the tapioca to the coconut milk, squash sugar mixture and evaporated milk and whisked it all together it looked and tasted exactly like the tong Sui I would eat at my uncles Chinese restaurant while growing up. thanks for sharing this recipe!

    [Reply]

    amy Reply:

    So happy to hear it!

    [Reply]

    Comment by Grace — January 22, 2012 @ 6:57 PM

  61. Hi!! Thanks for the recipe, i wanted to ask if you had to wash the tapioca pearls after your boiled them with water. Today, I asked an aunt and she said that part was very very very important. But since it seems you didnt do it and it still looks good….
    I dont know

    Please, reply me.

    Thanks!

    [Reply]

    amy Reply:

    I actually didn’t do that and mine turned out fine. I guess you could if you really want, but it wasn’t necessary for me.

    [Reply]

    Comment by Elena — May 9, 2013 @ 1:39 PM

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