Anything tropical, exotic and sweet is sure to win any non-Asian (read: Caucasian) heart. Anything that reminds them of the sun, swaying palm trees and warm breezes guarantees a contented smile and possibly a burp or two.
When a Polish friend from church raved over my last-minute guinataang munggo na pula (glutinous rice and red mung beans in coconut milk), made from scratch using coconut cream, a cup of glutinous rice, red mung beans and sugar provided by another girl friend for Sunday dessert many weeks past, she never stopped requesting me that I make her another one; she specifically requested for her “Paradise” dessert for our final “international Sunday girls’ lunch”.
Fine. But I did not want to do the one with red mung beans…it felt like repeating myself, thus boring.
Enter pandan sago. Which I found in a Thai grocery shop (managed by…a Filipina!) while hunting for cheap coconut cream. Much to my consternation, sago pearls are sold uncooked in 1-kg bags (but of course!) which made me scratch my head a bit since I had no idea how to cook sago.
But then again, I’d go on a cooking adventure if only to make a friend happy to have her spoonful of paraiso before the holidays.
- 2 cups uncooked glutinous rice
- 1 cup uncooked pandan sago pearls
- 4 Tbsp sugar (or to taste)
- 500 mL tetra-pack coconut cream
- Heat water in a Dutch oven or pot. As soon as the water comes to a rolling boil, add the uncooked sago pearls and stir constantly. After 10 minutes (or until the pearls become completely translucent), immediately remove pot from the stove, drain the pearls through a fine sieve, rinse with ice-cold water before soaking them in a bowl of cold water.
- Pour coconut cream in a non-stick pot, then add the uncooked glutinous rice. Heat the contents, with constant stirring, until the rice is cooked. If the cream thickens too soon, add half-a-cupful of cold water into the mixture and stir evenly.
- Add the cooked pandan sago and stir. Add sugar and stir until crystals are fully dissolved.
- Ladle the contents into bowls, ramekins or any deep dish (or what-have-you). Leave to cool to room temperature before serving (or before chilling in the refrigerator).
Results and Discussion
Too much! This dessert is too easy to make, it’s too easy to make too much! The 2:1 ratio of glutinous rice and sago were enough for 14 persons (the girls, plus a few from the Residentie Steenberg, and an odd fellow or two from ACL). Take note that the proper serving portion for guinataang malagkit is NOT (and should not be) a brimming bowlful—coconut milk/cream is rich, made heavier by starchy, glutinous rice. I myself love this dessert, but I cannot take more than a parfait-cup serving of it.
Coconut milk or cream? You can use either. Coconut cream (in Filipino: kakang gata) is really thick coconut milk from the first pressing of shredded coconut meat—therefore having a higher fat content than coconut milk, which comes from the subsequent pressings (and mixed with a proportion of water). Coconut cream thickens faster, so you need to be extra watchful, with a cupful of water ready to thin out the mixture when the rice is still uncooked. Glutinous rice absorbs a LOT of water!
Cooking sago. Ah, this is the adventurous part of my experience. Before tackling the pack of uncooked sago, I had to take a peek in the Internet for tips and tricks in cooking sago pearls. A lot of Asian foodbloggers agree that sago should be cooked in boiling water for 10 minutes flat (unless you want a bland, icky mush fit for Victorian, British desserts), then rinsed with cold water to remove the excess starch. With my experience, it does take 10 minutes before seeing the white uncooked cores dissolve into translucency. With pandan sago, the end-result looks like tiny, gleaming jade balls.
All I can say is that I am still amazed and happy to see the smiling, blissful faces of those who ate this dessert, as if they truly had a taste of paradise at that instance. It felt like they loved a part of my home, of where I came from…and this made me proud.
Although, there’s a caveat emptor for this Filipino dessert: Guinataang malagkit is delicious, but nakaka-umay after a while.