Sueda’s Japanese Sweet Tapioca with Coffee Jelly
I’m 15 now and my family and I came to Australia from Japan about a year ago due to my father’s job. My mother and father are both Turkish. My mother comes from Eskisehir in the north west of Turkey and my father from Burdur in the Lakes region of south west Turkey where the second largest lake, Salda Lake, is considered to be one of the cleanest lakes in the world.
They actually met in Japan where they both worked for about 20 years. My mother taught Turkish at a Turkish Cultural Centre in Tokyo and my father worked at a software company. Even though they could both speak Japanese, it was hard for my father, with very long working hours nearly every day and very little downtime.
Four years after they married, I opened my eyes and arrived in the world and later my brother was born. My brother and I attended an International School, which was mostly dominated by foreigners and Japanese students with one parent from overseas. It was easy to make friends because it was such a friendly environment and I had some Japanese Muslim friends too – their mother was Japanese and their father Turkish. English became my second language and Japanese my third. My mother tongue is Turkish.
I never lived in Turkey so it didn’t feel like I was away from home and I didn’t feel homesick. But I can’t say the same for my parents. They were born and raised in Turkey so for them, they always felt far from home. My brother and I spent our summer holidays in Turkey, so for us we thought of Turkey as a holiday when we had a break from normal life, got to see our relatives and had a good time. The direct flight was 12 hours which is much shorter than the 20 hours from Sydney. My grandparents and my aunt also visited us in Japan a couple of times. It felt strange seeing them in my home when I was so used to going on holiday to them.
Having spent the first 14 years of my life in Tokyo, Japan feels like it will always be an interesting episode of my life with a special place in my heart and I hope I will always stay in touch with my friends back in Japan.
Before we came here, everyone in my family except me wanted to live in Australia. Now my mother would prefer to go back to Japan and I’ve got used to living here. I have good memories but I don’t miss Japan as I thought I would. I feel there is no need to dwell on the past, but rather to focus on the present and the future. If I have kids one day, which I doubt I will in this overpopulated world, I would tell them of my fond memories, but I’d rather take them there because telling and seeing are two different things. I am pretty sure if there ever comes a time my mom has the opportunity to live wherever she wants, she’ll head back to Japan as that’s where she feels most at home. When we used to live in Japan, she used to say she missed Turkey, but I guess that has changed overtime.
I am trying not to lose my Japanese. It would be a shame to lose the language so I try to watch Japanese TV shows on Netflix. When I am older, I would like to visit Japan, but not live there. I think the lifestyle here in Australia is more suitable for me because I know English better than Japanese.
Memories of Ramadan from my time in Japan are engraved in my heart and I would like to share them with you.
Ramadan is a holy month each year when Muslims try to ‘elevate’ spiritually, which means worshipping and becoming closer to God. My goals for this Ramadan are to finish reading the holy Quran and to worship God to the best I can to get closer to him. Living in a non-Muslim country like Japan made it hard to experience and feel Ramadan’s spiritual atmosphere and its social pleasures like fasting together, breaking fasts together, praying tarawih (the special kind of prayer said only during Ramadan) and thinking about being generous together. It was also hard to find halal food in a small Muslim and Turkish community but we went to the mosque sometimes or to a friend’s house to break our fasts with others and I appreciated what we did have and made the most of it.
I treasure memories of breaking the fast and inviting guests to Iftar. In any culture, tables bring people together and Ramadan Iftars don’t just mean having guests but thinking consciously about the act of sharing your food with others.
The mastermind behind our Iftars is always my beloved mother who puts so much effort into filling the seats around the table with Muslim and especially in Japan non-Muslim friends. She gives her all to cook delicious food for everyone. I would help her out as much as I could. Our house would be filled with the different fragrances of delicious food floating in the air. You could even smell those fragrances outside before the guests arrived.
One of the many dishes I remember my mother would make is ‘Asure’ which means ‘Noah’s Ark Pudding’. She would hand it out to everyone in the apartment block so that people understood more about Ramadan.
Another special dessert my mother would make that my brother and I could not resist eating was Sweet Tapioca with Coffee Jelly. It is a Japanese dessert that my mother came to know and love. Tapioca is basically small pearls that create a nice texture in desserts that contain coconut milk or exotic fruits. It’s easy to cook and refreshing to eat. Try making it and I hope you enjoy it too
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First boil the tapioca beads in water until they become transparent. Then strain and wash with cold water.
Pour the milk and coconut milk into a pot. Add the sugar and boil. Then add the tapioca pearls into milk.
To make the Coffee Jelly Cubes:
Boil the water and add the coffee and kanten and stir well until dissolved.
Pour it into a flat tray and leave to chill until the mixture becomes jelly like and firm.
When firm cut into small cubes and add the milky drink.
Chill in the fridge and serve in small glasses with spoon.