Saturday, 25 October 2008

sago gula bali

Frankly I’m disappointed at how poor these photos look, considering what a pretty little dish this actually was.

I guess I can’t do much about that, since it’s night when I cook and I don’t have a light box or suitable place to be taking photos.

Something for the Christmas wish list?

I know, I know. Here I am posting yet another Indonesian dish. You must think I’ve gone mad and I’m on some kind of Indonesian bender, but actually most of these recent recipes were cooked for the same Indonesian feast from September and I’ve been spacing the posts out.

In my opinion, sago pearls are exquisite. So many people think these gelatinous balls are repugnant, but I adore their silky smooth texture and slight toothsome resistance. They go wonderfully in drinks and dessert soups, such as my coconut milk sweetened with Balinese palm sugar, cinnamon and pandan.

I love the idea that this dessert is made from three palm products: starch (sago), sap (palm sugar) and nut (coconuts).

Sago Gula Bali (Sago w Spiced Coconut Milk)
Anna's very own recipe. Serves 4.


400ml coconut milk
¼ cup water
1 pandan leaf, tied in a knot (or 1 drop pandan essence)
65ml palm sugar syrup
2 cinnamon quills
2/3 cup sago
Pinch of salt
4 mango cheeks, flesh cut into chunks


1. Rinse sago until water runs clear. Soak for 30 minutes.

2. Heat coconut milk, water, pandan, palm sugar syrup, salt and cinnamon in a pot until well combined and spices are infused. Chill.

3. In another pot, boil sago until transparent (about 5 minutes).

4. Rinse cooked sago in cold water.

5. Strain coconut milk infusion. Discard solids.

6. Divide sago between bowls and top with chilled coconut milk and fresh mango.

Pandan (Pandanus amaryllifolius) is an aromatic leaf also known as screwpine

Commonly used in South East Asian cooking, (Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand, Myanmar and Sri Lanka) it is particular popular as a flavouring for desserts and its green colouring explains the lurid green of many Asian sweets.

During a cooking class in Bali, our teacher explained that pandan was used similarly to vanilla in Western cuisine, and it seemed to have a similar, albeit milder, flavour.

To extract the flavour, the leaves need to be bruised which explains why they are often tied into knots and tossed into liquid to infuse. I have seen custards, jellies, pancakes and soups all flavoured with pandan.

Pandan also works with savoury food. In Thailand pandan makes an excellent wrap for grilled chicken, in many countries rice is infused during cooking and pandan can also flavour curries and pickles.

Many Asian grocery stores sell frozen leaves because the process doesn’t seem to destroy the nutty flavour.

Pandan grows in long narrow leaves fanning out from woody roots.

Interestingly, the leaves are not only flavoursome, but a good cockroach repellent and, according to Wikipedia, “the characteristic aroma of pandan is caused by the aroma compound 2-acetyl-1-pyrroline which also gives white bread, jasmine rice, basmati rice and bread flowers their typical smell”.

Indo/Malay - daun pandan / pandan wangi
Sri Lanka - rampe
Thailand - bai toey
Vietnam - lá dứa
Burmese - soon mhway

Pandan is my Weekend Herb Blogging ingredient for this week, while our host is Laurie from Mediterranean Cooking in Alaska, a delicious blog that contains some really fascinating posts about harvesting wild Alaskan herbs like spruce tips and devil’s club shoots.



  1. That looks really good.
    Also, instructions for making your own lightbox here. It doesn't look too hard.


  2. This looks delicious. I've never had sago pearls before, but they remind me of tapioca, which I love. The whole thing looks incredibly creamy and good!

  3. Two ingredients I've never used before, so this is a most interesting post. Thanks for entering it in Weekend Herb Blogging! I sure understand your frustration with taking low-light pictures...

  4. Very interesting. I've been wanting to taste pandan for at least two years now, ever since a blogger from Singapore wrote about it several years ago.

  5. I love these types of desserts. Mangoes and coconut milk are so good together.


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