The girl stared around the crowded market, her eyes wide as she took in the endless rows of open stalls filled with hundreds of coconuts, breadfruit with their leathery green skins, hairy tubers, and fresh watermelon and papaya stands. Farmers had come from all over the main island and by boat from the outer islands, arriving before dawn to stake a spot in the packed hall. They called out to customers and passersby in a language the girl didn’t understood – laughs and cheerful banter followed. She wandered around the aisles, overwhelmed by the miles of fresh leafy greens and unfamiliar herbs.
“Fresh ginger? Turmeric?” a seller said to her in English, offering a handful of orange and yellow roots. She shook her head with a smile, and walked into the fish section. It was like no seafood market she’d ever seen, packed with giant blue lobsters, abalone, octopus, fresh oysters, all laid out in neat piles. She was pretty sure she saw a pufferfish in there, lying innocuously among the giant tuna heads and strings of iridescent parrotfish. Leaning over the side of the dock fishermen caught reef fish right off the harbour, pulling them up and swinging them onto the tables with the other catch. The fish wouldn’t start to smoulder until later in the day, when the equatorial sun cooked them where the wooden roofs of the stalls didn’t reach.
Soon she was among women and men tossing cut up fish and clams in fresh coconut milk, lime juice, and chilis, roasting taro leaves and island pigs in underground pit ovens. A row of elderly ladies sat chatting behind piles of steamed purple yams and fermented cassava cakes wrapped in banana leaves. At the end of the row was an even older woman, bent over a large pot, which she stirred from time to time with a large, flat paddle. She waved the girl over and held out a cup of a steaming, viscous substance. On the woman’s table lay an assemblage of taro root, pumpkin, and open, fresh young coconuts.
Tentatively, the girl tried a spoonful of the dessert soup. It was warm and lightly sweetened, comforting in its natural earthiness – her reward for arriving early, before the lady’s golden offering ran out.
“Thank you,” she whispered. The woman gave her a gentle, toothless smile and turned back to her pot. The girl walked on, thinking that she would remember this moment her whole life.
- 2 cups tapioca flour or tapioca pearls (large or small)
- 8 cups of water
- 1 cup chopped pumpkin, kabocha or butternut squash (optional)
- 1 cup chopped taro
- ¼ - ⅓ cup coconut sugar or maple syrup (adjust sweetness level as desired)
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 1 tsp cinnamon or cardamom (optional, AIP-provisional) or both
- 1 can of coconut milk or ½ cup of coconut cream
- 2 cups fresh or frozen young coconut (can sometimes find in frozen section of ethnic/Asian groceries)
- ¼ cup dried cranberries (unsweetened), raisins, dates, or figs (your choice)
- Add tapioca pearls or tapioca flour to cold water, bring to boil in pot.
- Lower heat, and cook until mixture has thickened (or pearls are translucent).
- Add squash and taro, cook until tender (poke with fork)
- Add sweetener and seasonings. Take off heat and add coconut milk/cream, young coconut, and dried fruit.