Sunday, March 7, 2010

Taro and Coconut Sago Dessert ("Sai Mai Lo")

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If you've ever gone for dim sum at your local restaurant where they have the push carts, you may have seen this dessert before. I've noticed these days that most restaurants make the sago dessert using honey dew lemon-based juice. It's really a shame that this dessert, "Sai Mai Lo" is hard to find, and it probably explains why I'm always hitting up the bubble tea shops for a cheap substitute that's essentially artificial flavouring based. Before we begin, I must say that I'm immensely confused about the terminology in differentiating between Tapioca, Tapioca Pearls, and Sago. Oddly enough, Sago is also referred to as "Frog Spawn" or "Fish Eggs" due to its similarity in appearance.

This is a dessert that can be served warm or cold. In addition, this interpretation calls for Taro, but you may skip the Taro steps entirely if you wish to only make it a Coconut Milk Sago Dessert.

The ingredients are:
  • 3/4 bowl of Sago
  • roughly 1/2 to 1 cup of chopped Taro
  • 1 can of Coconut Milk (~400mL)
  • 1 can of Condensed Milk (~200mL)

Preparing the Sago Jelly:
  1. In a medium sized pot, bring the water to a boil on medium-high heat.
  2. Once the water is boiling, add the Sago. Stir the Sago gently to prevent clumping at the bottom of the pot, and continue to do so until the water boils again.
  3. Remove the pot from the heat and cover for 3 minutes.
  4. Prepare a cool water bath by placing a mesh strainer over a mixing bowl, and turning on the tap so that a gentle stream of cool water flows into the mixing bowl. Drain the Sago into the mesh strainer. This step is important to stop the cooking process of the Sago jelly. NOTE: Your Sago should be clear on the outside, but the centre should still be white. If the Sago is cooked fully now, it will turn to mush by the end of the recipe. Cooling it now will preserve the ball shape of the Sago.
Preparing the Taro:
  1. In a small pot, boil the taro until it's tender enough to mash. Don't mind the amount of taro my photo as I was actually using the rest of the taro in another dish that night.
  2. Remove the taro from the water and mash it into small chunks about the size of chocolate chunks used when baking cookies. Keeping it in chunks will provide some texture in the dessert.
Making the Taro and Coconut Sago Dessert:
  1. In a large pot add 2 to 3 litres of water and bring it to a boil over medium-high heat. The water level should not exceed 3/4 of the height of the pot at this point.
  2. SLOWLY add all of the condensed milk while stirring. Stirring will prevent the condensed milk from sticking to the bottom of the pot.
  3. Add the coconut milk into the pot, turning it into a creamy white colour
  4. Add the taro to the pot and continue to stir
  5. Once the liquid boils, turn the heat off and REMOVE from the heat. Add the Sago to the pot and cover.
  6. Serve either warm or chilled. Remember to give a gentle stir prior to serving as the Sago will settle.
I borrowed the following picture from Wikipedia just to show what the dessert will look like when serving.


  1. Hi! Just wanted to ask something... wouldn't this be too sweet, using the whole can of condensed milk?

  2. Actually, it's not sickeningly sweet. It's definitely less sweet than a coke or a chocolate bar. What you'll find is that the large volume of liquid you have to start dilutes it quite a bit, and once you add in the coconut milk as well, the level of sweetness was just right. If you're very worried about the sweetness, there are two ways you can test out the recipe. 1) Use extra amounts of water and reduce it to a level of sweetness you like, or 2) use less condensed milk. Try it out!

  3. This recipe is fantastic! Thank you so much for sharing it.

    I confirm that it is far from being too sweet, I actually had to add a bit of sugar, but I suppose it depends on ones personal taste or the amount of water that you add to the preparation.

    My concern was with the pearled tapioca that I used the first time. The pearls were so big that it took HOURS to cook, but the end result was (in my opinion) far better than with the smaller pearls. :)

  4. Are you using sweetened condensed milk or evaporated milk? I've been scouring the internet for ways to make this, and many use evaporated milk. My mom told me that all I needed was coconut milk and not even milk, evaporated, condensed or regular, but she also has never made this before.

  5. I am using condensed milk. In a can, it's extremely thick and sweet, but once you add it into the recipe it blends well with the other ingredients. Without the condensed milk, there is no sweet flavour at all - not good for a dessert! Try the recipe Barbara, the others who have made it as above seem to like it. Thanks for visiting my site as well.

  6. thank you for sharing! i will try making for dessert tonight :)

  7. You're welcome madame. Tell me how it goes!

  8. For someone who cannot have dairy (lactose), is it possible to replace the condensed milk with palm sugar (dissolved) as a sweetener?

  9. I'm sure you could use palm sugar, any sugar would do in reality. I'd be careful with palm sugar if it's a brownish colour though. It would alter the colour of the final product from the usual white.

  10. It's been a long time that I have been looking for this mom used to make it but I never had the chance to ask her for the recipe...finally I found it!...and it taste exactly like the ones at the restaurant and that my mom used to make...I prefer it cold! Thx so much

  11. Sushilady, you're welcome. This is my mom's recipe and we're both glad you've found it. This is one of my all-time favourite recipes because it's so easy to make and it tastes like something you'd only find at a restaurant.

  12. thanks for that! I might just use normal white sugar so the whiteness remains!

  13. hi i'd just like 2 ask how many does this recipe serve?

  14. This recipe provides approximately 15-20 bowl size servings, it's actually perfect for the party setting!

  15. A friend's mom made this dessert tonight and it was so delicious I wanted to try and make it myself. Just came across this blog. Thanks for the recipe!

    1. You're welcome Tina, I'm glad you enjoyed it! This is actually one of the most popular recipes on this blog, and it's very easy to make.

  16. I just finished cooking this; I must admit that it's not quite what I expected, but I also believe I added WAY too much water in the final step - to the point where upon tasting I had to compensate for the lack of sweetness by adding sugar. That being said, everyone so far who has tasted it has really liked it. Thanks for sharing!

    1. You're welcome! I'm glad you and your friends enjoyed this recipe. The one thing I've learned since posting this recipe is that everyone's taste buds are so different in terms of sweetness, but the simplicity of this recipe and its unique taste always makes it great for entertaining!

      I hope you enjoy my other recipes here!