Sago Pudding (Gula Melaka)

Gula Melaka (Photo by sue_jan/flickr)

This is the famous pudding which has changed many people's feelings about the dreaded sago.

Serves 6-8.


2.5 litres/5 pints/10 cups water
300 g/10 oz/2 cups sago
2 tablespoons fresh milk or coconut milk
pinch of salt

For serving
250 g/8 oz palm sugar (gula melaka)
125 ml/4 fl oz/1/2 cup water
2 strips pandan leaves
300 ml/10 fl oz/1 1/4 cups coconut milk
pinch salt


Bring water to a fast boil and slowly dribble in the sago. Let it boil fast for 5-7 minutes. Turn off heat, cover the pan with a well-fitting lid and leave for 10 minutes. The sago will finish cooking in the stored heat and the grains will become clear. Run cold water into the pan, stir, then pour contents of pan into a sieve, shaking the sieve so the water runs off.

Put sago into a bowl, stir in milk and add salt. This quantity of milk is just enough to give it a pearly white appearance. Divide between individual dessert dishes or molds, or pour into one larger mould and chill.

To make the syrup, chop palm sugar into small pieces. Put into a small saucepan with the water and pandan leaves and heat gently until melted. Strain through a fine sieve or tea strainer to remove any small impurities.

Either extract coconut milk from grated fresh coconut or use a good brand of canned coconut milk. Canned coconut milk may need diluting with a little water if very thick or lumpy. Stir in a good pinch of salt as this accentuates the flavour. Coconut milk should be served at room temperature, as chilling will solidify the fat.

Serve the sago accompanied by palm sugar syrup and coconut milk in separate jugs.

Recipe excerpted from Encyclopedia of Asian Food by Charmaine Solomon (Periplus Editions, 1998)