Gula Melaka Sago
Gula melaka sago is Soy‘s absolute favourite Asian dessert because it epitomises her childhood that was partly spent in East Malaysia. I personally can’t remember having gula melaka sago as a child, but I was not deprived of Asian desserts in Singapore, believe me. When we had a disappointing experience with gula melaka sago at a local Malaysian restaurant a few years ago (coconut milk that was off- eek!), I set about researching how to make it ourselves. Making the sago pudding itself is easy, but there are a couple of ways to present the dish. Soy likes her sago pudding to be set, but you can also have the sago unset, and you can have them floating in the sauce.
Using really good quality gula melaka will translate into getting a delicious dessert. Gula melaka is palm sugar, and is extracted from the sap of the flower bud of the coconut tree. Good quality gula melaka should be dark in colour and is actually not very sweet. We’ve got stocks of gula melaka in our pantry brought back from Malacca (the town the sugar is named after), and they are the best- dark and rich in molasses, with a robust flavour. But any good Asian grocer’s will stock good quality gula melaka.
The gula melaka comes in blocks, which you then have to melt down with a little water. It is extremely important to melt the gula melaka over very low heat, as it burns easily.
As I mentioned, Soy likes her sago pudding in little set portions, so I use my muffin pan! I previously used individual ramekins, but I’ve found that using my muffin pan is the easiest in terms of getting it into the fridge, getting out the sago in one piece and for cleaning up.
This dessert is so easy to put together- it really doesn’t require much skill, but it will be spectacular visually, and is another dessert that will impress dinner guests for minimum effort. It’s also gluten-free, so if you have guests who are gluten-free, you don’t have to scratch your head to come up with a dessert. I must say, though, that the only downside is that working with sago is pretty messy. No matter how often I’ve made this dessert, I am always faced with a starchy, sticky saucepan at the end of it. Oh and on that note, please use a non-stick pan to cook your sago!
Gula Melaka Sago (Sago pudding with palm sugar)
makes 12 puddings
1 packet (about 300g) small sago pearls
200g gula melaka
200ml natural coconut cream
100ml natural coconut milk
Bring a large pan of water to the boil and add sago when water is boiling. Stir frequently to avoid the sago sticking to the bottom of the pan. Turn off the heat when the sago floats to the top. The centres of the sago should be just translucent as the heat retained will cook the sago through. Pour out half the water (the sago would have fallen to the bottom by now) and rinse with cold water a couple of times to remove the starch. Spoon the sago into moulds and chill in the fridge until set (about 1 hour).
Melt the gula melaka in a small saucepan with a little water over very low heat until dissolved. Set aside to cool. Mix the coconut cream and coconut milk and set aside.
To serve the puddings, place 1 set sago pudding in a bowl. Eat with as much gula melaka and coconut milk/cream as you like!
NB I like to mix coconut milk and coconut cream as I like the consistency- not too thick and not too thin. Adjust this according to your taste. We have also started having our gula melaka sago with a mixture of coconut cream and soy milk!
After consultation with Lyn, who is one of the best home cooks we know, I’ve finally realised why my saucepan is always starchy when I cook my sago…. not enough water!! So here are some tips I learnt from Lyn that I’m going to share- use them with the basic recipe above:
- Soak the sago in cold water for about 30 minutes before cooking.
- Use LOTS of water to cook the sago. So unlike what I have been doing, the water should not turn starchy if you put sufficient water in the pan in the first place.
- Don’t overcook the sago- it should only cook for a few minutes before you turn off the heat.
- Add some white sugar and a pandan leaf when melting the gula melaka to bring out its flavour.
- Add a bit of salt to the coconut milk/cream, as it will bring out the sweetness of the gula melaka.
Special thanks to Lyn, and I’m looking forward to even better sago pudding next time!