Spicy Green Mango

--Living and eating with a dash of whimsy and a sprinkling of spice--

  • I'm a budding food-tographer turned blogger who's insanely passionate about food..real food...the kind that sprouts from the earth and you have to wash it to eat it. Yes, hearty real food. I live to eat and I eat to live and am loving every bit of it! If you're here, then I suppose we share the same passion! Enjoy!

Posted by Spicy Green Mango 41 comments

It's true!  Spicy Green Mango is dishing up a dessert to tickle your sweet fancies for Project Food Blog's Challenge 4 where I've been tasked with creating a step-by-step photo tutorial of an amazing recipe. Thank you SO MUCH to all of you who've voted thus far and I am baffled by all your wonderful comments. Voting for Challenge 4 begins on October 11 and ends October 14 at 6pm (PST), so vote here and click on my PFB widget!

The air is beginning to feel a bit more brisk just as the deep crimson leaves that once adorned my Japanese maple tree only a few months back begin to fall, blanketing my lawn with a quilt of autumn foliage . The sight of leaves turning fiery shades of amber, orange and red are in one word:  breathtaking!  I've realized just how much I've become entranced with the autumn season; it's Mother Nature's way of telling me to trade in my baskets of sweet, sun-ripened strawberries for her golden, sun-kissed pumpkins that are waiting to be harvested.  And ultimately, it also means welcoming another family of seasonal fruits and vegetables into my home. 

For this round of Project Food Blog, I was asked to create a mouth-watering recipe pictorial of my choice.  To celebrate my love for the changing season, I wanted to select an ingredient that was truly in touch with this time of year, but one that would also pay homage to my Southeast Asian heritage.  So, how could I possibly go wrong with...PUMPKINS!  And the recipe? Well, the literal translation is essentially SweetWater Pumpkin {naam waan maak euh in Lao) -- a special treat from my sweet tooth to yours. 

And the best part? There's only 4 main ingredients:
  • Coconut Milk
  • Sugar/Kabocha Pumpkins
  • Water Chestnut Gems
  • Tapioca Pearls
It begins with a smooth coconut milk broth that's been sweetened and simmered to provide the perfect playground for my SweetWater Pumpkin dessert to perform a richly refreshing dance on my taste buds.  Wait!  Rich and refreshing? Hmm...is this even possible, you ask? Why, yes, of course! I chose to add in water chestnut gems which really gave it that refreshing crunch, while the combinations of Sugar & Kobocha pumpkins added a nice layer of richness that elevated my entire dessert experience.  And then it all comes together with the silkiness of the dainty tapioca pearls.  Mmm...yum!  Are you ready to see how I did it? Well, wonder no more.

TIPS before you BEGIN:
Each ingredient of this dessert can be prepared up to 2 days in advance.  The trickiest part is the preparation for each, but I promise you that it is soo worth it.  It's the best way to end a great dinner or simply for enjoying all on its own.  If you don't include any of the water chestnut gems, you can definitely serve this warm, but if you do choose to include the chestnuts, then serve it chilled.  Otherwise, enjoy!

STEP 1:  Simmer the Coconut Milk
  • 1 can of coconut milk (13.5 oz)
  • 5 cups water
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 and 1/2 cups sugar
How-To:  Combine all ingredients and simmer in a pot over medium flame for about 30-45 minutes*.  Remove from heat, let cool and set aside. 
* If you wish, you can skim the top of the coconut milk and remove any floating coconut particles. 

STEP 2:  Prepare the Pumpkins
I chose 2 types of pumpkins: Sugar and Kobocha pumpkins, but you can choose whatever pumpkin you wish and it doesn't have to be 2 kinds--I was just experimenting with both. 

  • Half of a small to medium-sized pumpkin
  • 1 tsp of white limestone paste
  • 8 cups water (4 cups for soaking pumpkins and 4 cups for boiling)
  • 1 sturdy knife 
The Sugar Pumpkin:  Rumor has it that these sugary little darlings are great for pies and baked goods, so I naturally gravitated to them on my recent trip to the pumpkin patch, which I will definitely be blogging about soon!   They are easy to handle, their skins isn't as tough as the Kabochas, but when it came down to the taste test, they were a bit bland in my book (but maybe that's because I didn't rub any sugar, which usually is the case if you use them for pies and other desserts).  But I've fallen in love with their color and the texture is silky and smooth.

How-To:  Seeding/Prepping the Pumpkins
  • Prepare a pot of 4 cups of boiling water
  • Using your hands, scoop out the seeds and set aside (you can sprinkle them w/salt & roast them for a snack later)
  • Use a spoon to scrape  the remainder of the flesh, leaving a smooth interior
  • Cut the pumpkin into wedges so they can be easily peeled
  • Use a vegetable peeler to remove the skin from each wedge -- I realized later that this step was missing in my photos, so I made sure to include it with my Kabocha preparation!
  • Dice the pumpkins into bite-sized pieces
  • * Dissolve 1 tsp of white limestone paste in 4 cups of water. Strain the mixture through a sieve (discarding any clumps of limestone) and use the water to soak the pumpkins for about 20 minutes 
  • Place pumpkins in boiling water and cook until they are tender to the bite (10-15 minutes)
* As with most Thai/Lao dessert recipes, using limestone paste is the secret to making sure that your pumpkins do not become one goopy mess when you boil them b/c the paste individually binds each pumpkin chunk so that they retain their shape throughout the cooking process & when it's incorporated into the SweetWater.  Cool, eh?

Based on my mother's recommendation, I also opted for Kabocha Pumpkins as well, and my oh my, they are delish!  Once cooked, kobochas impart a rich, buttery flavor that can't be beat.  Not only that, but the green skin of this pumpkin coupled with its golden flesh is just mesmerizing.  I'm such a sucker for color!


STEP 3:  Crafting the Water Chestnut Gems
  • Half can water chestnuts, diced
  • 1/4 cup tapioca starch/flour
  • 3 cups of water
  • Food Coloring (liquid form): 
    • Purple Gems:  The ratio of drops to produce purple is 3 Red: 2 Blue
    • Orange Gems:  The ratio of drops to produce orange is 3 Yellow: 2 Red
How-To:  Water chestnuts are crunchy and refreshing and once they're cooked with the tapioca flour, that's when the magic happens.  The shiny (sparkly) sheen from the translucent tapioca shell makes them resemble little gems and will keep your guests swooning for more. I decided that I wanted to make purple and orange water chestnut gems. 
  • Bring water to a boil. Place diced water chestnuts into a mixing bowl. Combine food coloring for desired color. Toss the colored water chestnut pieces with the tapioca flour
  • Shake off any excess flour and drop the water chestnut pieces into the boiling water. Give it a good stir and cook until the pieces float to the surface or until starch is translucent. Remove from pot and soak in ice water, then drain well

STEP 4:  Tending to the Tapioca Pearls
  • 1 and 1/2 cups of extra small tapioca pearls, soaked for 40 minutes
  • 4 cups water
How-To: Smooth and silky, these little pearls roll off your tongue and really enhance the overall texture of the dessert.  Bring the water to a boil and pour in the soaked tapioca and cook for about 2 minutes or until pearls are translucent.  Since they have been soaked, this will reduce their cooking time tremendously.  Remove from pot and soak in ice water, then drain well.


And after everything is prepped, mixed and done, what you've just created is really nothing short of fabulous and decadent.



41 Responses

  1. One word - STUNNING! You have my vote and I am sure you will sail through to the next round. Nice, nice job!!

  2. Thank you, Lisa! You're much too kind. I hope to see you in Round 5 as well!

  3. Oh my! If I can't make this from these thorough (and beautiful) pics. I 'm a lost cause. GREG

  4. Liren says:

    Aaack, this is utterly beautiful! Please help me up off the floor! This is very similar to a Filipino dessert, except instead of pumpkin, there are yams and jackfruit and plantains. Oh dear, now I'm craving. I will definitely have to try this!

  5. @Greg: Thanks! Your spring rolls were spotted on FoodGawker and I was floored!

    @Liren: I love how you keep on pushing the envelope and further giving me a run for my food. You're so inspiring, so it always means a lot when you wander over here and take a gander at my blog. Yes, the Southeast/Pacific rim desserts are pretty similar--it's just the waters that have separated us in the past--not anymore! Thank you!

  6. Stephanie says:

    Gorgeous pictures! Your blog is always stunning. So excited you've made it this far and I will definitely be giving you a vote this round! Good luck :)

  7. @Stephanie: Awe, thank year my dear!

  8. Anna says:

    Wow...your post is amazing, every photo look great. Beautiful idea. Loved it. You sure got my vote.

  9. sophia says:

    Ah, that looks soo refreshing...and it reminds me of this Singaporean dessert bobochacha, though that one has taro and sweet potatoes. Your visuals are spectacular, and I'm sure you'll advance! Good luck!

  10. Duchess says:

    So charming, so many rich colors. Bravo.

  11. Lisa says:

    This is amazing and sounds so good. I especially like the idea of those water chestnut gems. So pretty. I voted for you.

  12. your photos are really stunning. this is a great step-by-step guide btw. congrats for making it this far! :)

  13. Jun Belen says:

    WOW! Those are the most vibrant photographs I have seen so far in this challenge. I really love the rich, rich colors. Truly picture perfect!! Well done, Chandara!! And by the way, anything with coconut milk is GOOOOOD!!

  14. Beautiful and exotic! (VOTE!)

  15. @Anna, Jan/Thella & Margaret Murphy: Thank you! I had to borrow my hubby's hands to make it all work, but I think it did.

    @Sophia: Awe, thanks so much! Yes, Southeast Asian desserts are all in the same family..we just put our own little twist on it, but that's why it's so great!

    @Duchess & Lisa: Thanks, ladies. I think you will definitely enjoy the gems..they give a nice crunch every time I bite into them and their colors are just lovely.

    @Jun: Awe, you're too kind. And thank you b/c I know your photos always make my jaw drop b/c they, too, are so vibrant! And yes, anything with coconut milk seems to be a winner in my book as well.

  16. Ok, this is only my favorite type of dessert ever - when I visit Hong Kong, I literally must have some tapioca dessert every day even in the dead of winter! What a great idea for this post and the colors in the photos are incredible! Good luck!

  17. Anonymous says:

    Your photo is brighten and colorful. I like the color of the cup that is blended with the plate and spoon. You got my vote for beautiful looking pumpkin and purple gem and everything. Perfect shot of camera.

  18. Beautifully shot, interesting to read and easy to follow.

  19. I love that you chose to make something so unique... I would never have any idea where to start when making this so your tutorial is awesome! And your end result is absolutely beautiful :)


  20. Whitney says:

    truly unique, i can bet that no one else even thought of that idea!

  21. Reeni says:

    Your pictures are so beautiful! I could stare at them all day and night! Best of luck in this round!

  22. Jenny says:

    yum! you never seize to amaze me! i know where you got the glass and dishware from, from our favorite store besides Retrofit Republic :)

  23. VegSpinz says:

    Love the pictorial- the pumpkins are precious!

  24. I love the idea of a dessert that's both rich and refreshing, as you said. I can imagine the combination of differing textures in this dish being quite intriguing. Great post, I'm voting for it!

    Lick My Spoon

  25. Excellent post - you got my vote for this! Good luck :) Feel free to hop over to leave a comment :)

    Have a wonderful day!
    jen @ www.passion4food.ca

  26. Speechless ! Great job on the post and photos. I'm very curious to give this recipe a whirl and I'm not a pumpkin dessert lover !

  27. Peggy says:

    What a great tutorial! Definitely very visually stunning! I'm a sucker for anything with tapioca pearls in it so I will definitely be giving this one a go very soon!

  28. beth says:

    Beautiful, and looks so delicious! You have my vote for sure :)

  29. Jean says:

    I already voted but failed to comment earlier. These are not only beautiful pictures but they are excellent tutorials. It's very similar to the filipino halo-halo so I know I'd love it. Well done. :-)

  30. Wow. What a beautiful tutorial! Your photos are just lovely. And the steps are clear and easy to follow. And I can get on board with anything pumpkin, especialy this time of year. nicely done. I voted for you!

    Good luck! Hope to see us both in round 5!! =)

  31. Gorgeous tutorial, so filled with such vibrant colors and shapes. Great job!

  32. @rice&wheat, Anon, Foodshetought: Thank you! I'm glad you're enjoying this as much as I did.

    @WearenotMartha: Awe, thank you. I was wracking my brain over this post, but I'm quite pleased with the final product. And then, figuring out a recipe that wouldn't be so daunting. I hope you end up trying it!

    @Whitney, Reeni, Jenny & VegSpinz: Thank you so much!

    @LickMySpoon: Yes it was! I love the combo and am glad you do too!

    @Jen: Thank you, dear!

    @Wheels & Lollipops: My sister is not into the pumpkin, so she omitted it from her cup, but she loves the chestnuts and tapioca.

    @Peggy, Beth & Jean: Thanks! Yes, this dessert has its appeal and variations all throughout Asia and the best part is that you can pretty much put anything you want in it :)

    @Jacob's Kitchen: Thank you! It's always a feat to make recipes easy to follow and I'm still trying to get the hang of it. I appreciate your vote.

    @Table Talk: Thank you very much!


  33. I'm torn - the pictures and description are stunning but I tend to run a mile from anything containing tapioca pearls. This has everything to do with bad childhood tapioca puddings and nothing to do with your lovely dessert! I should just go ahead, make this dessert and find out that maybe tapioca isn't so bad at after all :)

  34. I'm with Daily Spud - a bad childhood tapioca pudding experience might have left me scarred for life until I tasted Chinese coconut milk tapioca pearl 'soups' - total convert!
    Yours looks amazing and I love the water chestnut gems...beautiful photos.
    Voted, enjoyed!

  35. This is really neat! I have never seen this before, and I love the colorful nature of the dish. I do love sweet pearl drinks in general, so this is definitely right up my alley.

    Great photos!

  36. Wow, wonderful entry...Beautiful dessert and photos :)

  37. Libby says:

    Kudos to you. Whenever I can avoid having to cut open a pumpkin I do. LOL These pics are gorgeous! Cheers, I voted...

  38. Lizzy says:

    You spoon feed us don't you!Thats how we get lazy...Also is there a way we can alternate pumpkin..I just can't stand it

  39. @Lizzy: Thanks! My sis is also not a fan of pumpkin, so she just omitted it altogether. If you like taro, I would suggest substituting that for pumpkin b/c it still imparts the same level of richness. If not, just forego them both and do without. Enjoy!

  40. Fantastic! This doesn't look like something I'd usually pick up but I will admit that the premise has gotten me intrigued!
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  41. Jusfood says:

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