Sueda’s Japanese Sweet Tapioca with Coffee Jelly
Hi, my name is Sueda Ugurlu. My family and I came to Australia from Japan about two years ago due to my father’s job. My mother and father are both Turkish. My mother comes from Eskisehir, a city in the north-west which dates back to at least 1000 BC and is estimated to be even older. In Turkish, Eskisehir literally means ‘old city’. My father is from Burdur in south west Turkey where Salda Lake is famous for being one of the cleanest lakes in the world.
My parents met in Japan where they both lived and worked for about 20 years. My mother taught Turkish at a Turkish Cultural Centre in Tokyo and my father worked at a software company. My brother and I were both born in Japan and only visited Turkey during the summer holidays but I feel I have a strong connection to my family’s nationality. For my parents, the connection is of course stronger; they were born and raised in Turkey so they always felt far from home.
Before we came to Australia, my parents and brother were looking forward to moving, but I was strongly against it. As time has passed, I’ve gotten used to living here but if you gave my mum a ticket to Japan now, she would take it. She feels a deep longing for Japan as the country which she considers home because of the long years she spent there.
Having spent the first 14 years of my life in Tokyo, Japan feels like it will always be an interesting experience of my life with a special place in my heart. I get nostalgic at times and miss it and I hope to visit as soon as possible.
My brother and I attended an International School, with overseas and Japanese students. 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. I struggle not to forget Japanese now.
A question I get asked frequently is whether I prefer Japan or Australia. I do not have a definite answer for this question as both countries have their pros and cons. But thinking about my future, my preference is to live and work in Australia as it has a more easy-going lifestyle and a really multicultural society. If or when I have my own children, I will tell them of my fond memories and hope I’ll be able to take them to visit so they can experience it for themselves.
Some of the unforgettable memories I cherish from Japan are the days of Ramadan.
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 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 Japan. 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.
Our Iftars were even better because my mother put so much effort into filling the seats around the table with Muslim and non-Muslim friends. She gave 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.
A very special dessert my mother would make during Ramadan 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 and has made ever since.
Tapioca is small pearls that create a nice texture in desserts that contain coconut milk or exotic fruits. It’s easy to make and refreshing to eat during hot summers. Whenever I have this dessert, I remember the good times in Japan. I hope you will enjoy it as much as I do!
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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.