20 Jul2005

We had a taste for some sago in palm sugar and ice the other day in the sag1sweltering heat and rushed out to the grocery to buy a small pack of sago and a bunch of ripe saba cooking bananas. Just before starting to make minatamis na saba (stewed bananas in syrup), I noticed that it would take a whole day to reconstitute the sago! I have obviously never made sago at home. What the heck is this stuff made off that it takes longer to reconstitute than dried legumes? Sago is actually made from the powdery starch that is obtained from the pith of sago and related palm trees. The starch is often used as a food thickener and in some places a textile stiffener (according to a Princeton University site)!!! Yikes. Grown in the Southern Philippines (typically in marsh areas), Indonesia and Malaysia, the sago palms yield oodles of these starch balls that are sold in all different sizes and sometimes artificially colored. Cook, soak overnight, blanch again, soak again and you end up with these gelatinous, somewhat tasteless soft marbles that many of us have grown used to in Asian desserts and drinks.

To make this dessert, I made minatamis na saba with white and brown sag2sugar and a touch of honey. I had intended to add some light molasses to add flavor and color but my pantry yielded none. Once cooled, I put the bananas in a glass (here for photo only, then transferred to a bowl to eat) added sago, some of the sweet syrup, shaved ice and milk…yum! This was really good though it might have been better with real palm sugar (panocha), some molasses and a thicker syrup to really put it over the top. I was also a little impatient and the bananas were still a little warm so my ice melted faster than I would have wanted it to. Nevertheless, a great snack in hot and muggy weather. By the way, a tiny pack of sago yields gallons of reconstituted pearls so be careful…I haven’t the foggiest clue what to do with all the leftover sago!



  1. schatzli says:

    Left over sago.. check celia’s she made one with cantalopue melon.

    Have you heard the ilokano version of binignit? name on the tip of my tounge (i will come back ask my Ilocano friends)
    they put sago…

    Mango smoothie with sago – tasted this in Singapore.

    Slightly out of topic:
    I had once a talked with a merchant marine guy who works for a cargo container. They cross between Greece, Indonesia with stop over in Singapore and Japan.

    We got talking about it and he said the worst cargo that
    brings so much dust is SAGO, which they load in Indonesia and unload in Singapore and Japan….

    Jul 20, 2005 | 8:17 am


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  3. Mila says:

    Thank you for these instructions. I didn’t know it took that long! I thought you just popped it in water and it turned gelatinous like jello. Is there ready to mix sago already bagged and ready to eat with fruit?

    Jul 20, 2005 | 5:53 pm

  4. stef says:

    there IS “instant sago” available now — they’ve been pre-cooked to almost-done stage then allowed to dry again but not all the way (hence an opened package has to stay in the fridge) — it takes all of 5 minutes to cook them. the only thing is, i haven’t found non-colored ones, so if you’re trying to avoid food coloring, it wouldn’t be for you:)

    Jul 21, 2005 | 7:57 am

  5. Marketman says:

    Stef, thanks for answering Mila’s question. Now we just have to find out if the instant sago in the U.S. is also available here in Manila…

    Jul 21, 2005 | 8:03 am

  6. Maribel Van Hoven says:

    HI Marketman,
    I love reading your articles and I do learn a lot …but most of all you have a way of writing that makes it enyoable to read.
    You have published my Budbud Kabog here and I thank you again.
    I see that you do a lot of research and i was wondering if if you could advise me where there are good markets similr to Salcedo in Makati. I only sell my suman there in Salcedo and here inside the Ayala Alabang market. I would like to branch out and expose my suman to more people.
    I hope you can me help in this . Thank you very much in advance.

    Maribel Van Hoven
    Salcedo Market
    Budbud Kabog

    Jul 21, 2005 | 11:15 am

  7. Maribel Van Hoven says:

    I forgot to mention …about the sago…I heard that there are some varieties that are cancerous..so I have kept away from eating anything with sago..but i do love it..how much t truth is there to this rumor?

    Jul 21, 2005 | 11:21 am

  8. Mila says:

    Thanks Stef for the info. Colored sago? Interesting.

    For Maribel, I was told by a friend that a new open air market is opening up or has started in Legaspi Village. It’ll be on Sunday mornings, and it’s at the park near Union Church.

    Jul 21, 2005 | 11:47 am

  9. Marketman says:

    Hi Maribel, there aren’t many markets that have the same customer profile as Salcedo. But perhaps the one that is in Greenhills on Sundays? between ortigas center and the highway might be a good one to try. Alternatively, the one in Legaspi village parking lot might be another (though similar target market). Frankly, you have some of the best bud-bud I have EVER tasted and I don’t usually use superlatives easily. I would suggest the best venue might be the monthly bazaar of Edward Keller at Fort Bonifacio. Also, you should give your contact numbers out for private orders as that will probably yield many orders especially towards the holidays. Perhaps if you have a Makati pick up point you will expand your market. Also, sharing a space with an existing vendor at say a top supermarket might also do you good, Rustan’s, Landmark, South Super come to mind… For Marketmanila readers out there you really must try Maribel’s budbud. She can be found at the Salcedo Market on Saturdays.

    As far as cancer and sago, I am not a medical expert by any means but cursory research suggests two potential sources for this “rumour” circulating… one is the view that highly colored sago can be cancerous because the dyes used are not “standard or approved” – that from an Indian commentary. And perhaps another possible source is that sagu plantations may be sprayed with insecticide and there is some fear that residual insecticide is left on the bark that is then processed into sago as we know it. There were no obvious links between sago and cancer on my internet search. In fact, there is one link that suggests sago as a food for those with cancer is better than more traditional grains… But again, I am not the right person to make pronouncements on that. Maybe best to just eat uncolored sago…

    Jul 21, 2005 | 1:31 pm

  10. marie says:

    I’ve tried buying semi-cooked (i believe they are actually fully cooked but since they are sold in our
    village wet market…). I made a small amount of simple syrup with a pandan leaf and toss the sago right in till they turn
    opaque-y, and it take just a few minutes. The larger sized sago becomes really nice and chewy and the small tiny ones you have to watch out for while cooking because they could turn mushy. Anyway, I scooped out the sago with a slotted spoon or strainer, dunked in ice water on standby, and returned to the syrup. Done! I used this for mango sago, prepared with some nestle cream, condensada, lots of mango bits. Served on a stemmed martini glass and i had an exotique dessert – pandan-scented mango sago. Winner! especially with the kids

    I missed maribel’s suman, got to the market late this morning and i presume it to be all gone by 9am. Will try to come early next week, but the candied yema you recommended is truly something to die for!!! Maybe i shouldn’t tell too many people, because it’s almost always all gone before i get there…and it has me pining for it the whole week!

    What if maribel tries consigning her stuff to the the kakanin vendor in alabang’s makati supermarket during the weekends? BF market also has a ‘suki’ vendor of regional goodies and homemade cooking viands and pastries right outside the main market. She accepts consignments, especially on weekends. It’s right outside the Cardama’s General Merchandise Store. The BF Wet Market is frequented by, not only BF Homes dwellers, but also by the nearby villages like alabang hills and ayala alabang. I’m really dying to try it, i’ve never had one, i think

    Jul 23, 2005 | 4:10 pm

  11. Mila says:

    I do have to add that, like Marie, I’m another yema addict ever since I read the post on Market Manila. I buy at least two bags each week and if I don’t end up giving one bag away during meetings and the like, I eat them all! They are lovely treats.

    Jul 25, 2005 | 2:12 pm

  12. chick says:

    saba con yelo w/ sago! sarap esp. pag summer =)

    Aug 16, 2007 | 5:16 pm


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