We had a taste for some sago in palm sugar and ice the other day in the sweltering 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 sugar 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 milkâ€¦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 carefulâ€¦I havenâ€™t the foggiest clue what to do with all the leftover sago!