Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Red Rubies Blue Sapphires

One thing I love about eating out in Singapore is that you can always find dessert stalls at the food courts or hawker centres which sell a variety of Asian desserts. These range from ice jellies to hot sweet soups to colourful fruity concoctions with mountains of shaved ice. One of my favourites has to be the Red Rubies, which is a Thai dessert also known as Tub Tim Grob. In the beginning, I was a little skeptical about eating slimy red-coloured cubes of water chestnuts, or rather, it was the shocking red that made me think twice. However, after I kept hearing my friends raving about how delicious it was, I decided to give it a try. And indeed, they were right! Crunchy little cubes of water chestnuts covered in a soft and chewy jelly-like coating made from tapioca starch, served with sweet coconut milk - it's the perfect combination and a great way to end a meal.

We don't have many of these Asian dessert bars/stalls in Australia, and Tub Tim Grob is not often found on the menus of Thai restaurants. Fortunately, this is a relatively simple and easy dessert to prepare at home and the ingredients are readily available at Asian grocery stores. If you don't have fresh water chestnutes, you can subtitute them with canned or frozen ones. I used frozen ones and they are fantastic.

Red Rubies (Tub Tim Grob)


25 water chestnuts, peeled and washed if fresh ones are used
4-5 drops red/blue food colouring mixed with 1/2 tsp water
1/2 cup tapioca starch
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1 can (400ml) thick coconut milk mixed with 1/2 tsp salt
A drop of rosewater essence


Prepare the sugar syrup by heating 1/2 cup sugar and 1/2 cup water in a pot until sugar is dissolved. Add a tiny drop of rosewater essence (not too much!). Cool and refrigerate.

If using frozen chestnuts, leave them out to thaw for half an hour. Then cut each chestnut into 6 tiny cubes. Place them in a bowl, rinse with water and drain.

Bring some water to boil in a medium sized pot. Prepare a large bowl with iced water.

Add the food colouring and 1/2 tsp water to the chestnut cubes and mix with a spoon until evenly coloured. Toss them into a bowl with the tapioca starch and mix gently with a spoon until each cube is well coated. Place the cubes in a strainer/sieve and shake gently to get rid of excess flour. Then add them to the boiling water and cook for 2 minutes. Remove and drain off the water, and place them in the bowl of iced water so they don't stick together. Refrigerate them for a few hours before serving. Soaking them in the water also helps the starch coating to "expand".

To serve, place a few "rubies/sapphires" in a bowl along with some ice cubes. Spoon over some syrup and coconut milk and mix well before eating.