Sago are tiny white pearls that look similar to tapioca pearls. While tapioca is made from the tuber of the cassava plant, sago is made from the pith of sago palm trees. The pearls are boiled until they are translucent and then are sweetened with milk and sugar. Cinnamon is the spice flavoring of choice but cardamom works great too. The bubbles at the bottom of the bowl or cup make for a delightful surprise as they slide down your throat.
Soak sago with 1/2 cup water for 4 minutes.
While the sago is soaking, add the remaining 2 cups of water along with the cinnamon stick (or cardamom) to a saucepan. Cover and bring to a boil.
Add the soaked sago along with any residual soaking liquid to the boiling water and stir.
Lower the heat to low, cover the pot, and let simmer for 6 minutes or until the sago is translucent.
Remove from the heat, and sweeten with sugar and milk to taste.
All About Sago
Whereas tapioca only comes from one particular plant, sago is derived from a variety of tropical palm plants, including the sago palm. The starch is extracted from the pith, or spongy center, and processed into either flour, meal, or pearl sago (this form is similar to tapioca). It is one of the staple food products in New Guinea and the Maluku Islands in Indonesia where it is referred to as saksak, sagu, and rabia. Southeast Asia is the largest producer of sago and exports the starch to Europe and North America.
Sago is used in a few different ways, including as a thickener, for baking, as a flour, and in desserts such as puddings. The preparation can range from forming it into a pancake, making into a glue-like paste, or forming the starch into balls. Commercially, it is most often made into pearls. Although low in calories, sago does not have any health benefits.
Choosing the cardamom pods instead of cinnamon will give this pudding an Indian or Middle Eastern flair. The pods are either black or green; for this recipe, use the green pods and gently "smash" them using the side of a knife.
The flavor of this dish can be changed by simply swapping out the cinnamon or the milk for an alternative. In place of, or in addition to, the cinnamon, add in a bit of nutmeg and/or ginger. And, whether for taste or to make the recipe vegan and dairy-free, you can use almond milk or coconut milk in place of regular milk.
For added texture and flavor, include a little bit of dried fruit, chopped apple, or fresh berries. You can also sprinkle a few toasted nuts on top before serving.