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Sago is the starch extracted from piths of tropical palm stems and is commercially produced and commonly sold in the form of pearls. They are usually cooked in water or choice of liquid and widely used in beverages and desserts. These spheres are really easy to prepare, requiring only for the most part boiling in water until translucent. But if you want them chewy or what I describe as “a bite with a fight”, I follow a certain technique on how to cook sago.

I usually keep freshly-prepared sago in a bowl of cold water until ready to use but if I plan to keep the batch longer than a few days, I store the sago in a sterilized bottle with simple syrup to prolong shelf life. I included a recipe for packing syrup using brown sugar. Here are a few delicious things you can use sago:

  • Ginataang Bilo Bilo-a delicious concoction of palm fruits, tubers, banana, glutinous rice balls, jackfruit and sago stewed in coconut milk
  • Sago at Gulaman-a refreshing summer cooler made with gulaman cubes, sago and simple syrup
  • Ginumis-a shaved ice dessert much like the classic Filipino halo-halo but uses gulaman cubes, sago, pinipig and coconut milk
  • Buko Salad Drink-a must try! a rich and creamy drink filled with gulaman cubes, young coconut strips, nata de coco, sago, condensed milk and coconut milk
  • Ingredients
    • water
    • 1 package (14 ounces) uncooked sago pearls
    For the Simple Syrup
      • 2 cups brown sugar
      • 2 cups water
        How to Cook Sago
        Prep time
        Cook time
        Total time
        Yield: about 4 to 5 Cups
    1. In a pot over medium heat, bring enough water to cover sago pearls to a boil. Add sago pearls, stir gently and cook for about 10 minutes or until translucent. Remove from heat, rinse well and drain.
    2. In the pot, add boiled sago and enough cold water to cover. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, and bring to a gentle boil. When water has boiled for about 6 to 10 minutes, remove from heat, rinse well and drain.
    3. In the pot, add enough cold water to cover sago and again, bring to a gentle boil. Repeat process until pearls are tender but chewy and translucent with no white in center. Under cold, running water, rinse sago a few times to remove excess starch. Allow to cool. Use as needed or store in simple syrup until ready to use.
    For the Simple Syrup
    1. In a sauce pot over medium heat, combine sugar and water. Cook, stirring regularly, until sugar has dissolved. Allow to slightly cool. Transfer sago into a clean bottle and pour in syrup.

    Use high fire to re-boil the liquid and then use medium fire and keep the liquid boiling during the whole process. Give several stirs to make sure the pearls not sticky to the bottom.

    Cook for 20 minutes and cover the lid and let it stay for another 15 to 20 minutes. Check whether the peals are completely transparent. In most cases, they should be well cooked and transparent. If not, continue cooking with high fire for several minutes until well cooked

    In China, a dessert shop originated from Hong Kong has bought sago into our attention. One of their top popular dessert is mango sago (Chinese Name: 杨枝甘露). Traditional Hong Kong style mango sago use mango, coconut milk, cream, grapefruit or pomelo. Now, those yummy, soft and transparent pearls are served with other popular dessert ingredients

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