Malaysian Dessert – Sago Pudding

S'pore Dessert - 001 Sago Pudding edited re-sized

Yearning for something tropical which is cold, sweet and creamy to complete your meal that is easy and can prepared ahead? Here it is! Sago Pudding is a perfect end for casual family meals. Make it more stylish for your dinner guests by pouring the pudding into individual shaped jelly moulds. Gula Malacca or palm sugar not only the sweetens, this syrup adds its own distinct flavour and fragrance; so much so that this dessert is also known as Gula Malacca.

Health benefits of Gula Malacca (yes this surprised me as well!)

• Gula melaka is considered to be a particularly wholesome sugar, retaining more mineral salts than refined sugar due to the absence of bleaching. It’s said to contain key vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients, including potassium, zinc, iron, and vitamins B1, B2, B3 and B6.

• In Indian ayurvedic medicine, gula melaka is used to treat throat and lung infections.

• Gula melaka has a relatively low glycemic index (35 as opposed to honey’s 55) giving a steadier supply of energy so it’s an ideal sweetener alternative for children (no sugar peaks and lows in the bloodstream); it’s also reputed to be better for diabetics.

Some Comments about Ingredients

  • Sago Pearls – purchase the small ones. Do not buy Tapioca Pearls which are meant for Bubble Tea.
  • Gula Malacca – there are so many brands in the market place. Look for those marked “100%” gula malacca. I am pleased with the featured brand. It is the real mccoy. When it is melted, it is relatively clean so it doesn’t require straining when you have boiled the 2 sugars with water to make the syrup.
  • Fresh coconut santan – This was not included in the above photo. You can purchase packets of these from the chiller section of supermarkets. If these are not available where you live, those can or UHT packets of coconut santan or cream may be used.
  • Food colour – although I like to colour mine, this is entirely optional.

COOKING

STEP 1. Fill 1.5 litres of water into a large pot or saucepan. Bring water and 3 pandan leaves to boil on high heat and pour the 1.5 cups of sago pearls into pot. Lower heat  and continue stirring once iin a while for about 10 to 12 mins, till each of the small sago pearls is about 3/4 cooked (a small white spot remains in the centre). Stirring prevents sticking.

HINT: do not wash the sago pearls beforehand.

STEP 2. Turn off the heat and cover the pot. Leave it covered for about 10 to 12 mins as this will ensure that each sage pearl is fully cooked and transparent. Do not skip this step.

STEP 3. Meanwhile, in a smaller saucepan, heat the 1/2 cup water, 40 gm of soft brown sugar and 160 gms of roughly chopped gula malacca with 3 pandan leaves for about 10 mins till the sugars are melted. Check to make sure that the syrup is clean. Sometimes, you may see small little black speckles. In this  case, filter the syrup.

STEP 4. Uncover the pot of cooked sago pearls. You will notice a very starchy liquid with transparent pearls inside. It should look like the photo above. Bring pot to the sink and run at least 1 litre or more of water into the pot. Stir. This will reduce the starchiness of the liquid making the transparent sago pearls more evident.

STEP 5. Pour into a sieve to strain. You may have to fill more tap water into the pot and strain again. The aim of this exercise is to wash all the starchy liquid from the cooked pearls. Then, you can either leave the Sago pudding in a large bowl to dished out into separate bowls later on when you are serving the dessert or ladle washed sago pearls  into individual serving bowls. Whichever you prefer, refrigerate for at least 4 hours till it is well chilled before serving. Chilling does cause the pearls to turn opaque.

The aim of cooking these pearls for the correct length of time and washing away the starch which held the cooked sago pearls tightly, forming a sticky clump is shown in the photo below. Each delicious spoon of this dessert will give you a mouth full of sago pearls individually coated with sweet fragrant sauce.

 RECIPE

Serves 5 to 7

Ingredients

Sago Pudding

  • 1 1/2 cups of small sago pearls
  • 3 pandan leaves
  • 6 cups water

Gula Malacca Syrup

  • 160 gm gula malacca
  • 40 gm soft brown sugar
  • 3 pandan leaves

Fresh Coconut Santan (or Coconut santan/cream in cans or UHT packets)

  • 300 ml fresh coconut santan
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Method

1. Fill 1.5 litres of water into a large pot or saucepan. Bring water and 3 pandan leaves to boil and pour the 1.5 cups of sago pearls into pot. Continue cooking for about 10 to 15 mins, till each of the small sago pearls is about 3/4 cooked and all you see it a small white spot in the centre. HINT: do not wash the sago pearls beforehand.

2. Turn off the heat and cover the pot. Leave it covered for about 10 to 15 mins as this will ensure that each sage pearl is fully cooked and transparent. Do not skip this step.

3. Meanwhile, in a smaller saucepan, heat the 1/2 cup water, 40 gm of soft brown sugar and 160 gms of roughly chopped gula malacca with 3 pandan leaves for about 10 mins till the sugars are melted. Check to make sure that the syrup is clean. Sometimes, you may see small little black speckles. In this  case, filter the syrup.

4. Uncover the pot of cooked sago pearls. You will notice a very starchy liquid with transparent pearls inside. It should look like the photo above. Bring pot to the sink and run at least 1 litre or more of water into the pot. This will reduce the starchiness of the liquid making the transparent sago pearls more evident.

5. Pour into a sieve to strain. You may have to fill more tap water into the pot and strain again. The aim of this exercise is to wash all the starchy liquid from the cooked pearls. Then, you can either leave the Sago pudding in a large bowl to dished out into separate bowls later on when you are serving the dessert or ladle washed sago pearls  into separate bowls. Whichever you prefer, refrigerate for at least 4 hours till it is well chilled before serving.

Serving Suggestions

Sago Pudding is a dessert that goes well with both Western and Asian (including Japanese) cuisines and it certainly appeals to the taste-buds of many nationalities. It all depends on how you choose to plate it.

I have a habit of serving a plate of cold, freshly cut seasonal fruits as a precursor to Sago Pudding. Mangoes or mixed berries go very well with it.

Begin your meal with some of the dishes which have already been posted on this blog. Here’s a quick run through of some of them.

Chinese Soups

1. Radishes with Dried Squid. Click here.

2. Lotus Root, Peanut and Pork Ribs. Click here.

3. Jin Hua Ham and Winter Melon. Click here.

4. Pork Stomach with Peppercorn. Click here

Western Soups

1. Cream of Mushroom Soup. Click here.

Asian Seafood dishes

1. Dry Assam Seafood. Click here

2. Fried Fish with Fermented Black Bean Sauce. Click here.

3. Stuffed You Tiao (Baked).  Click here.

4. Quick Braised Sea Cucumber, Chicken and Mushrooms. Click here.

Western Mains

1. Baked Red Snapper. Click here.

Asian Meat dishes

1. Beef Rendang (spicy). Click here

2. Singapore Curry Chicken (spicy). Click here.

3. Chicken Breasts with ketchup. Click here.

4. Pari Pari Style Chicken. Click here.

Asian Vegetable Dishes

1. Broccoli and Meat/Tofu Stir Fry. Click here.

2. Spinach in Broth with 3 types of eggs. Click here.

3. Pork, Spinach and Egg Stir Fry. Click here.

Japanese Cuisine

1.  Soup – Miso Soup and Brown Rice. Click here.

2. Chawan Mushi (Steamed Egg custard)  Click here.

3. Tofu no Shira-ae. Click here.

4. Yawata Maki ( Beef and Asparagus Rolls). Click here.

5. Simmered Pumpkin. Click here.

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