Also Known as
Sabudana, sabu dana
Sago is a powdery starch made from the processed pith found inside the trunks of the Sago Palm. Sago forms a major staple food for the lowland peoples of New Guinea and the Moluccas where it is often cooked and eaten as a form of pancake with fish.
Sago palms grow very quickly, up to 1.5m of vertical stem growth per year, in the fresh water swamps and lowlands in the tropics. The stems are thick and either self supporting or grow with a somewhat climbing habit. The leaves are pinnate, not palmate. They are harvested at the age of 7 to 15 years just before they flower. They only flower and fruit once before they die. When harvested the stems are full of the stored starch which would otherwise be used for flowering and fruiting. The trunks are cut into sections and into halves and the starch is beaten or otherwise extracted from the "heartwood", and in some traditional methods it is collected when it settles out of water. One palm yields 150 to 300kg of starch.
How to Select
Clean, wash and drain the sago seeds ans soak them in enough water for minimum of 3 to 4 hours. At times after draining and proper washing it is soaked in buttermilk also for fasting preparations in India.
It is readily available at any grocery store. Look out for dry, even and white uniform pearls of sago. It comes in different grades -small, medium and large, buy acoordingly. Avoid if any yellowish tint or creamish in colour. Verify on the fresh stock with the shop keeper. Check out the label thoroughly, sometimes sago is partially pre-cooked, although there is no indication on the packaging. That variety is unacceptable for this recipe.Culinary Uses
· Every pearl has to be separate, it's essential that you don't over-soak it, or it will turn out like a sticky paste.
· There is one other very important thing you should know about preparing this dish. Sago is very heat-sensitive. If you try to fry the soaked pearls of sago in the hot spiced oil or ghee, it will turn into a sticky, gluggy mass, which is impossible to separate. Instead, fold the sago carefully into the warm seasoned oil after the pan has cooled a little. If you need to re-heat the dish, do so on the lowest possible setting, stirring constantly.
· Sago is used in Indian cooking, especially as a light-meal choice for Ekadasi grain-fasting days. In North and western India it is most commonly used in fasting dishes, such as sabudana khichadi (generally made using soaked sabudana, fried with potatoes, chilli and peanuts) and sabudana Vada.
· When cooked they turn from their opaque white color to translucent, and become soft and spongy.
· In South India they are used to make small pappadam wafers, sabudana vada and also for making a variant of a sweet semi liquid dessert called kheer or payasam.How to Store
Keep them in an air tight and dry container. Purchase as needed. Do not mix the old and new stock. Keep it away from moisture, as little water can make the whole thing soggy thereby becoming unacceptable. It can however be stored for weeks or months.Health Benefits
· Sago is nearly pure carbohydrate and has very little protein, vitamins, or minerals.
· Sago can be enriched with addition of other healthy food options- groundnuts, vegetables, milk etc.