sago pearls in coconut milk | thar-gu ohn nyot

sago with coconut milk

This is a childhood favourite, a welcomed cooling treat during the hot season. Generous amount of crushed ice was added to the creamy coconut milk mixed with caramel-like sugar syrup and chewy sago pearls. This recipe is very simple and you can add additional flavours and textures to it if you wish. The real secret is a pinch of salt which brings out the taste of the coconut milk.

I have not had this for quite sometime and was reminded of it when we were in Taiwan last February. Known as boba or bubble tea, large brightly coloured pearls were served in chilled milky tea, a popular drink amongst the young people. We then had a similar dessert/drink in Kuala Lumpur which had the addition of balls of honeydew melon or the coconut milk was flavoured with pandan leaves.


100g large sago pearls
1 litre water
50ml coconut milk
pinch of salt

eat with

30g palm sugar, grated
50ml water
100ml coconut milk, chilled (possibly more if you prefer)

Best to use a heavy-bottom saucepan for this so the sago does not stick to the bottom. Bring the water to a boil and add the sago pearls. Stir with a wooden spoon and pop the lid on. Reduce the heat to moderate and simmer for 30-45 minutes depending on the size of the pearls. Stir every 10 minutes to make sure they do not stick to the bottom of the pan.

In the meantime, put the palm sugar and 50ml water in a saucepan. On moderate heat, stir until dissolved and strain through a sieve to remove any sediment and leave to cool.

When the sago is almost transparent all the way through, turn off the heat. Stir one more time and leave to cook in the residue heat with the lid on. After a further 30 minutes, pour into a colander and run cold water to stop the cooking process and rise away any stickiness. The pearls should be totally transparent when cooked through.

Transfer to a bowl and pour 50ml of coconut milk, sprinkle with salt and stir. This will keep the pearls separate and keep them pearly white.

Divide the sago between two glasses. Pour the coconut milk and palm sugar to taste. Best served chilled.

Serves: 2
Cooking time: 30-45 mins

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  1. Aye Su on July 21, 2009 at 1:45 pm

    This does take me back to my childhood. My mom used to put in chunks of sweet potatoes while she boiled the sago. Simply delicious.

    • Cho on July 23, 2009 at 6:49 am

      Hi Aye Su
      Sweet potato sounds good. I’ll have to try it next time.

      Best wishes,

  2. amy on September 5, 2009 at 10:08 am

    you can also add small chunks of purple yam. This not only add more colours but also flavor to sago coconut milk.

  3. eddy on March 8, 2010 at 6:18 am

    what is palm sugar?

    • Cho on March 13, 2010 at 7:18 am

      Check out wikipedia’s description of palm sugar. It has a lovely caramel taste. Well worth using – look for it in an Asian supermarket.

      – Cho

  4. cindy on April 22, 2010 at 4:57 am

    I remember this too, we used to have it with sweet potatoes!

  5. Audrey Rozario on January 22, 2011 at 2:08 pm

    I love this stuff yum

  6. N on March 22, 2014 at 1:51 pm

    You should of added this to your cook book this is one of my favorite desserts

  7. Karishma on May 14, 2014 at 5:54 am

    instead of palm can I use muscavado sugar or honey?

    • Cho on May 15, 2014 at 8:47 am

      Hi Karishma
      If you can’t get hold of palm sugar, muscovado sugar or maple syrup might be good substitute. Let us know whether it works well.
      Thanks, Cho