Saturday, January 16, 2010

Sweet Potato Sago Dessert

On a recent visit to the wholesale centre with my mother, we chanced upon our usual grocer selling large sago pearls. I have always been intrigued by these large spheres but have never tried cooking them before. Curiosity getting the better of me, I bought 1kg of these sago pearls.

It was only when I did a cursory search online that I found that I was in for some trouble as the online comments suggested that cooking these pearls will be a long and painful affair. Armed with this information, I decided to make sweet potato dessert with these pearls to welcome a friend's return from San Francisco. 

Thinking that knowledge is the key to handle these notorious pearls, I set out to boil a vat of water first. I was told that soaking them prior will turn them into mush and in the name of kitchen science, I soaked a handful of sago pearls in water. True enough it disintegrated into a thick white mush and I had to throw it into the trash. Once the water had started to boil, I added the sago pearls, letting them simmer over low heat.

And it simmered, and simmered... the clock was ticking and we needed to get ready to go for the get together and the sago pearls stared at me with its hard whiteness, not the gelatinous transparent spheres I was looking for. It slowly started to attain its transparency and only after two hours was I able to get a pot of cooked sago pearls. However, by then, some of the smaller cooked pearls had started to disintegrate, thickening the water it was cooking in. Hence, I realised that the next time, I needed to remove the pearls that are cooked and not leave them in with the uncooked bits.

The verdict, these pearls are far more textural than their smaller cousin. It provides a chewy addition to the soft sweet potatoes and even my mum who makes excellent desserts liked it very much that she asked me for the recipe (which is actually inspired by her). I do want to use these pearls more often but it also means I need to learn how to cook them faster or without using so much heat from the stove. Perhaps a thermal cooker or pressure cooker might work.

Sweet Potato Sago Dessert

260g large sago pearls
4 pandan leaves
1 kg sweet potatoes
200g red sugar
400g coconut milk
1 litre water


1) In a large pot, bring lots of water to boil. Add the sago pearls and boil until the pearls become translucent. (May take up to 2 hours) (You can consider using a slow cooker or thermal pot)
2) Once cooked, drain away the water and wash the cooked sago in cold water to remove starch. Set aside.
3) Peel and cube the sweet potatoes. 
4) In another pot, add 1 litre of water, pandan leaves and sweet potatoes and cook the potatoes until tender.
5) Add sugar, coconut milk and sago and bring to a boil.
6) Remove from heat, serve hot or cold with some ice cubes.


  1. Hummm! I don't think I've ever seen these pearls. Sounds interesting to taste (more than to cook...). What is red sugar please?

  2. Yes V, it is hassle to cook but the texture is very nice.

    I tried looking up red sugar but can't seem to find it. It's actually sugar that is a dark orangish colour but the colour could just be artificial colouring I think.

  3. Ah ok. It was the first time I heard about this sugar. Thanks for your comment (I forward the compliments to my personal photographer ;-)). I've got 2 pages now : I kept the old one that is food concerned only ; the second one is a way to send more news and photos to my family and friends, reason why it is private.

  4. Hi! I'm looking for the proper way to cook sago. Should I wait for the water to boil before putting in the raw sago so that it doesn't disintegrate? Thanks!

  5. Hi Cianoy,

    There are two types of sago pearls. The tiny ones (not in this picture) can be soaked ahead and then cooked in boiling water.

    The ones that I used are the big sago pearls (like in this picture and seen in bubble tea). This cannot be soaked ahead at least from my experience. You have to put it in boiling water. I recently made another dish with this sago and after adding it to boiling water, I let it simmer for about 10 minutes and off the fire, just leaving it covered and hot. After about 15 to 20 mins, I boiled it again. Continue this process until the sago is cooked. It will take a while but it saves on the cost of gas. I think you might want to experiment with thermal pot, should be faster.

  6. I thought it was an excellent blog, that information has been very helpful in my life, I am a desserts lover, so I really enjoyed this reading, this weekend I want to do one! Thanks for this great moment!

  7. I thought it was an excellent blog, that information has been very helpful in my life, I am a desserts lover, so I really enjoyed this reading, this weekend I want to do one! Thanks for this great moment!