Though it is called Tapioca Cookies, to me, this melt-in-your-mouth sweet treat is more like cookie dough rather than cookies. Kids around the world have one thing in common, they all love cookies. Cookie is one of the most simple sweet treats that will surely bring back everyone’s sweetest childhood memories. After I came to the United States, I learned that both children and adults here love to eat cookies and cookie dough. My co-workers told me that as long as they see cookies, they instantly become children again and chomp through that fresh batch of cookies to the very last one. I guess the same thing happens to me when I see my favorite childhood treat, Tapioca Cookies.
This no-bake vegan cookie recipe is unlike any other dessert recipe in Vietnamese cuisine. Made of only a few simple ingredients, the Tapioca Cookies are very easy and quick to make, but they sure pack a lot of flavors. While in America and many other Western countries cookies are made of flour, egg, butter, sugar, chocolate, peanut butter, and/or nuts, in Vietnam, there are cookies made of just tapioca starch, coconut milk, sugar, and food flavorings. The most popular flavors of Tapioca Cookies are coconut or original flavor, and pandan flavor. Since Tapioca Cookies are really easy to make, the adults often let the children join them in making these cookies.
When I was a kid, my favorite activity when visiting grandma’s house was to make Tapioca cookies with my grandma and my sisters. I can never forget those beautiful summer days when my sisters and I stayed at my grandma’s in the countryside. The tropical climate of Vietnam is dominated by the monsoon season. As a result, there is often heavy rain during summer. The summer rain was always so heavy that almost all outdoor activities were stopped. However, this is not the case for some fun indoor activities. Every time it rained, since we could not go outside to play, my grandma usually suggested that we make tapioca cookies. What could be more exciting than when the weather got chilly, you got to play with warm, aromatic, and edible play-doh.
My grandma often joked that the best way to babysit a bunch of kids is to make them busy, and this was exactly what happened during those rainy summer days. As the weather became colder due to the rain, we all loved to hang around the kitchen. My grandma will first light up the fire for the oven. In the countryside, instead of using gas or electricity, we used wood and coal to make a fire to cook with. As my grandma was having her hands full with the fire, we often helped out with chopping off pandan leaves. I don’t know about other families, but my family always grows pandan leaves in our backyard. Once the oven was hot enough, grandma would start with cooking coconut milk, sugar, and pandan leaves together until thickened. The mixture would then be removed and set aside to cool down. The next step was to roast tapioca flour with chopped pandan leaves. Once the pandan leaves became crispy, this mixture would also be removed from the heat, and the tapioca flour would be sifted. In a large bowl, my grandma would pour the coconut mixture gradually onto the flour, and our job was to mix them well. The flour would become very smooth and moist, and we can add different food colors that we liked. Lastly, we stuffed the flour into the molds to shape our cookies. These molds were usually made out of wood, but nowadays people prefer plastic molds since they are easier to wash and dry.
Just like many other sweet treats, the Tapioca cookies will pair very well with hot tea. By the time we were almost done molding the cookies, my grandma always brewed a fresh pot of jasmine tea. We would sit down together to enjoy our hard work alongside a warm cup of tea. It could be raining and cold outside, but we were always warm and well-fed inside with our beloved grandma.
If you would like to try Tapioca cookies, you can find them at almost every Asian supermarket and bakery. Or, you can try making them at home with your children and have some fun time together.