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Last year sometime we were reading The Swiss Family Robinson aloud.  It was a great story for a seven year old boy who loved to hear about adventure and survival on a tropical island.  We read with the Internet close at hand and searched for images and videos that helped the children build a picture of the story in their mind. One account in the book told of the family cooking and eating the interior pulp of a sago palm.  This time the Internet search led us to try a whole new recipe.  It is easy to make; is already gluten and dairy free; and is now a favorite in our house.

True sago is hard to find.  Sometimes you can find it in ethnic grocery stores, but I found this one online.  Though the sources I have read recommend using large tapioca pearls as a western substitute.  Both options are sold with the name “sabudana.”  If the ingredients are not written on the package, assume that it is tapioca.  The companies that provide sago are generally proud enough to declare it on the package.  

I tried using tapioca pearls this week for the first time.  That was the testing that I needed to do before sharing this recipe.  Sabudana is one of the few recipes that I make in a smaller batch because the leftovers don’t keep well.  The whole dish gets gummy after being chilled in the refrigerator.

On two different evenings I made one batch with sago and another with tapioca so we could compare the results.  I have to say, that while tapioca is a reasonable substitute, it must be soaked longer than the sago to produce the same result.  Even then about half of my tapioca didn’t quite soak to the middle.  I personally prefer the sago.

Like poha, sabudana is traditionally a breakfast in India, but we like to have it for dinner.   There are many versions of sabudana; my version is a blend of two I found without the peppers of course.  One has a video and the other has better written directions.  I like to combine the two because the end result provides a heartier dinner on a fasting day.  Fasting or no, I’ve got little bellies to keep satisfied.

The curry leaves are also hard to find outside of an ethnic super market, but they are well worth the search.  They have nothing to do with curry powder, so don’t worry if you’re not a fan of curries.  These have a lovely aroma and really make this dish complete.  Buster loves to hold the package and smell the leaves all the way home.

Urad wash are a type of small bean or lentil that have been split and cleaned.  They can also be found at an ethnic grocery store.

Sago pearls are also traditionally used to make a simple pudding with coconut milk that is similar to tapioca pudding.  I also saw them used in this recipe recently.  We may have to do some experimenting.



2 cups sago pearls (or tapioca)
, about a 13-14 oz package
1/4 Cup Urad Wash
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
2-3 Tbsp safflower oil
1-2 tsp salt, to taste
1/2 onion, thinly sliced
2-3 small potatoes, small diced in 1/4 inch cubes
1-2 sprigs curry leaves, to taste
1/2 cup cashews, blended in the blender until roughly chopped
1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped

Before you start, be sure to measure and chop all of the ingredients as previously listed.  You won’t have time to chop as you go because you need to constantly stir while this is cooking or the potatoes and sago will stick to your pan and burn.

Soak sago for 3 hours or more until you can see they have become soft. Once they are soft drain out water and rinse until the water comes out mostly clear.  The rinsing is important to keep the sago from sticking together while cooking.  While the instructions from the original recipe says to drain the sago and lay it out on a dry cloth to remove excess moisture,  I simply strain and rinse the sago in my fine mesh colander. Then I allow it to sit in the colander placed back in the empty soaking bowl to continue draining until I’ve cooked the potatoes.

In your wok or deep skillet, heat the oil over medium high heat.  Add urad wash, mustard seeds, cumin seeds, onions, and salt.  Saute for 2-3 minutes until the onions are shiny and beginning to soften.  Stir constantly.

Lower the heat to medium.  Add the curry leaves, chopped potato and fry them until they are cooked, about 10-12 minutes. Stir constantly.

Once cooked add the sago and cashews. Keep mixing so that it does not become sticky.  When the sago is evenly mixed, reduce the heat to low, cover with a lid and allow to steam 2 minutes.

Garnish with cilantro and serve.


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