Tapioca & Red Rice Pudding With Cayenne-Spiced Mango & Papaya

I was invited to dinner at friend of a friend’s home on Saturday night and the menu was Thai food.  I offered to bring a dessert and wanted to make something that worked with the rest of the meal, so I came up with this tapioca and red rice pudding, inspired largely by this recipe.  I’ve had tapioca puddings before and I’ve had sticky rice desserts before, but I’ve never had or seen the two of them combined.  I decided to try it, mainly for the varied texture and the visual effect of combining red rice with a dish that’s typically white/translucent.  I flavored it with Thai basil, cilantro, lemongrass, lime, cayenne and coconut milk.  I don’t have much experience cooking Southeast Asian cuisine, but this turned out really well, I think.  The flavors all worked and the textures were varied and fun.  This recipe makes about 10 servings.

  • 1 cup (uncooked) Bhutanese red rice
  • 2 cans (13.5 oz. each) unsweetened coconut milk
  • 3.5 cups of water
  • 3 inch piece of ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 10 sprigs of cilantro + more for garnish
  • 10 Thai basil leaves + more for garnish
  • grated peel of 1 lime + more for garnish
  • 2 tablespoons of fresh lemongrass, chopped
  • juice of 2 limes
  • 2 cups of whole milk
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup (uncooked) small pearl tapioca
  • 1 mango, chopped
  • 1 papaya
  • pinch of cayenne
  1. Cook the 1 cup of rice in 1.5 cups of water.  When it’s done, add 1 can (13.5 oz.) of coconut milk and set aside.
  2. Combine the ginger, cilantro, basil, lime peel and lemongrass in a food processor for 20-30 seconds.
  3. Combine the aforementioned, food-processed mixture with the remaining 2 cups of water in a saucepan, bring to a boil, remove from heat and steep for 20 minutes.
  4. Strain the solids from the water, pressing on the solids to extract as much of the water as possible.  Discard the solids and return the infused water to a clean saucepan.
  5. Add the 2 cups of milk and the sugar to the infused water; bring to a boil over medium-high heat stirring frequently; add the tapioca, stirring; return to a boil and then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer uncovered, stirring frequently, until the tapioca softens and swells and the mixture thickens—about 35 minutes.
  6. Remove the tapioca mixture from the heat and combine in a large bowl with the cooked rice that’s been soaking in coconut milk.  Add the second can of coconut milk and stir thoroughly to combine and allow pudding to cool to room temperature.  When pudding has reached room temperature, either serve or cover and refrigerate until 20 minutes before you’re ready to serve it.  Regardless, the pudding should be brought to room temperature before serving because the many subtle flavors are muted by cold temperature.
  7. Combine the mango, papaya, juice of two limes and pinch of cayenne in a large bowl.
  8. Serve pudding as pictured above, topped with the mango-papaya mixture, cilantro, basil, and grated lime peel.

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