Tapioca with Rum Caramel Sauce & Almond Jelly (Guinomis)

From kindergarten until the age when we were writing with other things other than crayons, St. Valentine's Day in school was a time for making greeting cards with big red hearts saying "I love yous" in big bold letters which at the beginning were sometimes mispelled.  We then take home these elaborate handmade greeting cards and give them to our parents.  We did this year after year until the school smartened up and decided that it was time to move on and buy our own greeting cards.  I never really thought once about those cards anymore after I gave them.  But my Mom did.

Valentine's Day was celebrated with a flourish of flowers, cards & special dinners in our house when I was growing up.  My Dad, who was a pilot, was always away on a flight.  So to make up for his absence, my siblings and I would buy our Mom a red rose or splurge on a bouquet if we had money.  In turn, she would make our dinner more special.  Sometimes that celebration extends to our two grandmothers too.  We celebrated love in our house even if we were incomplete as a family. 

Two years ago, my Mom lost her life battling with leukemia.  She was in the Philippines and I was in Italy.   I wan't able to see her on her last moments because I had a difficult pregnancy.  I had to stay in bed all the time so to make a 20-hour flight was absolutely out of the question.  I gave birth and she saw her 10th grandchild through the internet.  She was happy, as always.  But then she slipped away days after that.  I only managed to say goodbye to her through the telephone.  So impersonal but it was the only way.

When she died, my siblings sent me a box of some of her things that hold sentimental value.   I fixed them quickly and put them away from my sight.  Every single thing in that box held memories that hurt.  I didn't touch them anymore until a few days ago when my sister called and asked for something that might have ended up among the things they sent me.  I went through them, didn't find what my sister was asking for but instead, I found something that broke my heart to pieces. 

I was holding a part of an album that my Mom compiled of Valentine's Day cards that I gave her and my Dad from Kindergarten until 4th or 5th grade.  All handmade, colored with crayons, shouting red hearts, and all saying one thing.  I love you Mom & Dad.  Happy Valentine's Day.

This dessert is called "guinomis" in the Philippines.  It is boiled tapioca mixed with coconut milk, caramel syrup, rice flakes, unflavored gelatine cubes & shaved ice.   This is one dessert that I used to find in only one restaurant in Manila.  And I frequented that restaurant with my Mom, oftentimes, after a day of shopping together.  

It's Valentine's Day today and I would like to re-create what my Mom & I used to love eating together and to thank her, rather too late, for keeping all those Valentine's cards with loving care.  I did a bit of twist to my version of the traditional guinomis.   I flavored the gelatine with almond milk and instead of using water in the caramel sauce, I used rum.  To finalize it, I topped it with some mint leaves.

And a plate of a very small almond jelly heart with rum caramel sauce and mint for my Valentine date at home. 

This post will appear in the Ipad app called Foodgazer.  It's a wonderful new app that has a collection of food pictures of different food bloggers with even bigger pictures to besiege us more with hunger pangs.  I just installed it and it's my Ipad app at the moment, enjoying the delicious looking pictures in it.  Check it out too and see for yourself.

Our words for today are:

Sugar = zucchero.
Coconut milk = latte di cocco.
Almond milk = latte di mandorle.

Buon San Valentino!

Tapioca with Rum Caramel Sauce & Almond Jelly (Guinomis)

Serves 4

  • 100 grams tapioca pearls
  • 1 liter water
  • 60 grams sugar
Rum Caramel Sauce:
  • 1 cup rum
  • 1/2 cup or 8 tablespoons Muscovado sugar (or regular brown sugar)
Almond Jelly:
  • 250 ml. almond milk
  • 1 teaspoon agar-agar (scrape off excess with a knife)
  • 1 tablespoon white sugar 
  • 4 teaspoons pinipig or rice flakes
  • 4 mint leaves
  1. To prepare the tapioca, soak them in water for an hour.  Drain and discard water.   Boil 1 liter water.   When the water boils, add the tapioca & white sugar.  Cook for about 10 minutes or until pearls become transparent.  If it becomes too thick, add more water.  Let cool. 
  2. To prepare the rum caramel sauce, mix the muscovado sugar and rum in a small saucepan.  Cook until it becomes slightly thick.  Let it cool.
  3. To prepare the almond jelly, boil the almond milk & sugar in a small saucepan.  When it boils, add agar-agar.  Cook for another minute, whisking continuously.  If you cannot get rid of the lumps, strain the liquid.  Transfer to a square or rectangular baking pan or whatever container you can use to retain that shape.  Put in the fridge for about 30 minutes.  Cut to square pieces.  Set aside. 
  4. Fill up the glass with the tapioca pearls.  Add some almond jelly.  Pour some rum caramel sauce.  The amount depends on how much you want it to be sweet.  
  5. You can put some shaved ice with the mixture. 
  6. Garnish with rice flakes and mint leaves.