Friday, February 11, 2011

A Culinary Holiday: Sago Gula Malacca

I managed to head out for a ski today despite the rotten trail conditions.  We're in bad BAD need of a fresh dump of snow to salvage the remainder of the cross-country ski season.  It did snow today, but not near enough what I was hoping.  I almost think this may have been my last ski of the season.  Since the winter fun is coming to an end, I decided to set my efforts on more tropical activities--making Sago Gula Malacca.  

Sago Gula Malacca is kind of like tapioca pudding but 10, 20, 50, 1000 times better!  The sago pearls are much smaller than what you find in regular tapioca, and they don't sit in gloppy, pasty custard.  No, these pearls swim in creamy coconut milk and sweet sweet gula malacca.  Gula malacca is palm sugar and kind of tastes like burnt sugar.  It's delicious!  I was remembering a visit back to Malaysia where my dad and I had spent a couple of hours hiking in Bako National Park.  It was hot, and we were both soaked with sweat.  After our hike, we ended up leaving the island by boat and my relatives took us to a little outdoor stall to have sago gula malacca.  I don't remember where this place was, but I do remember my Aunty Elizabeth accidentally walking over top of some rice that was laid out to dry.  I sure hope they washed the rice before they served it, but it was the kind of place where you wouldn't be surprised if they didn't.  Anyway, we sat down and ordered bowls of sago gula malacca for everyone and we absolutely devoured it.  It was so delicious that we immediately placed a second order and seriously considered a third.  I just remember the cool sago pearls and the sweetness of the gula malacca was so refreshing.  The last time we were in Malaysia, I asked about the place but I got the confusing impression that perhaps it wasn't a good idea to eat there anymore for "hygenic" reasons.  Maybe that's why the sago gula malacca was so tasty?  Anyways, here's my version of the dessert--yes Malaysian relatives, even though it's snowing outside and below 0'C, we can still manage to enjoy some Malaysian treats.

I started with 4 ingredients-sago pearls, gula malacca, pandan leaves and coconut milk.  Yes, that's ice crystals on the pandan leaves--one limitation of living in Canada--no fresh coconut milk or pandan leaves.

First, I chopped up the gula malacca and dissolved it in boiling water.

I ended up with a syrup like this:

 It's a good idea to strain the syrup afterwards, this batch wasn't too bad, but you can see what sort of debris is left behind.

Then I boiled the pandan leaves in water for about 10 minutes to release the essence.  Pandan has a very pleasant smell.  I guess the closest description would be that it smells like grass.  Doesn't sound very appetizing?  Well... pretend you're a cow in the midst of a field full of the longest, lushest, freshest, greenest and sweetest grass around.  That's what pandan smells like--deliciously grassy.

Some recipes say that using pandan leaves discolor the sago pearls-as you can see below the water has a yellowish tint to it

If you don't want yellowish sago pearls then don't use pandan leaves, but I'm all about taste, not presentation as you'll later see.

After the pandan leaves have boiled long enough, you remove them and add the sago pearls.  Eventually the sago pearls lose their white color and become clear

They also become quite sticky and starchy

After they've boiled long enough you rinse them in cold water 

And stick them in molds and chill them.

When they are chilled enough, you drown them in gula malacca syrup and coconut milk!

It may not look pretty, but boy was it ever tasty!  Wish you were here mom and dad!


Joyce said...


Anonymous said...

Daddy said,

Why you always make the delicious stuff when I am not around? On my second thought the stuff look like many small tailess babies which will become green frogs and hopping around along the Sawarak River bank. When you eat some of them you will have a feeling that many green frogs in your throat. May be I am jealous by making this comment since I do not have the chance to enjoy the delicious stuff. Now you understand what the old man want to tell you. Keep on trying and tasting different stuff. Love always, Daddy.