Friday, July 24, 2009


There was a time when school children were required to starch their uniforms if they wanted it to look crisp, neat and smart.

So we made starch from tapioca flour. I used to do that. I mixed some tapioca flour with a little water to make a nice thick paste and while I waited for the water to boil in the kettle I would pinch little pieces of the chalk white mixture from the bowl and let it drop onto the window sill. It would form into little blobs and it was these blobs that fascinated me. They were not quite liquid nor were they quite solid. They were in between. Like mercury, almost.

I would blow at them and they would roll and quiver as the sun shone on them. Sometimes I would nudge them gently with my finger and they would do a little roll, quiver and then come to rest in a blob. Sometimes I would let a big blob drop to the floor and watch it break into a million blobs dots. They looked almost like sago granules. I would do this in complete fascination and it would hold my attention for quite a while until the water came to a boil.

And when I added the hot boiling water it would turn completely translucent after a few stirrings and that was what I used to starch my uniform with, by soaking it in the liquid starch, hanging the slimy thing out to dry in the sun, ironed it to a crisp and that was the cardboard that I marched to school in everyday almost all of my primary school life.

Over the years as I moved upwards and life progressed my spinach green, box pleated, cotton pinafores of my primary years gave way to a synthetic fabric in a bright turqoise blue which did not require starching.

But starch was something I continued to make with tapioca flour because that was what I used as gum for school art projects. It was exactly the same as the making of starch for my school uniform but very much thicker and gummier.

Then one day in the early days of my marriage whilst surviving mostly in a semi conscious state I ventured out into making some sago pudding, a much loved dessert. When I had boiled the white sago granules long enough and they had turned translucent, I poured them into moulds, chilled them in the refrigerator and one bite later I found that I had actually made starch. That was what it felt like and that was what it smelled like and that was what it tasted like. It was a childhood memory reincarnated into a face screwing pudding. I threw it away.

But after life shook me by the shoulders a few months and years later, snapping me out of my state of enlightenment, by handing me a complete stranger in the form of a shrieking baby and more babies and more babies later I became animated and adventurous and discovered through experimentation that the secret to making a good sago pudding that doesn't taste like a big blob of starch/gum for an art project was to simply rid it of excess starch.

And that was exactly what I did. I rid it of the excess starch and the sago pudding became magically edible worthy and deserving of a rich and thick dark palm sugar syrup and creamy coconut milk flowing down its sides and resting in a divine pool around it.

I have never looked back since (whatever that means) and every time I came across someone who made starch instead of sago pudding and lamented about it I remained tight lipped and refused to share my little secret. I revelled meanly at her perplexed state and offered no suggestions. (I'm feeling guilty right now..heh..repent Zurin).

I remained mean for a good number of years until today when I have decided to be gracious and share my little secret with you (if you still haven't yet discovered it for yourself that is). :P

Here's the recipe....for 4 small servings

150 gm of sago pearls (I used the small ones)
4 - 5 cups of water

some palm sugar or muscovado sugar
white granulated sugar, about 1 tablespoon
about 1 cup of water
a pandan leaf

1/2 cup of coconut cream
pinch of salt

Pour the 4-5 cups of water in a small pot. Pour in the sago pearls and bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat. When it has come to a boil lower the flame to small and watch the pot because starch/sago burns easily. Cook and stir until the sago pearls turn transparent/translucent and there are very little white spots visible.

Remove from heat and over the kitchen sink pour the cooked sago mixture into a fine sieve. Run some water from your tap through the sago mixture whilst stirring the sago in the sieve with a wooden spoon. This will rid it of all the excess starch and what is left in the sieve will be lovely translucent pearls of sago. Leave a little water in if you want a softer pudding.

Scoop the sago into 4 little moulds or one larger mould and chill in the refrigerator.

Meanwhile make the palm sugar syrup to your taste and consistency (using the pandan leaf as a flavouring when you're boiling the syrup) and when done pour into a small jug (discard the pandan leaf). Add a pinch of salt to the coconut cream, stir and pour into a small jug.

When the sago pudding has firmed up which will happen very quickly unmould them by running a knife around the edges and teasing it out onto a saucer or bowl. Serve and let guests help themselves tot eh syrup and cream. Delish!


Nadia said...

love the dessert plates!!!!!
shrieking baby, huh? LOLOLOLOLOLOL what an entrance I made LOL primary school you wore green pinafore?? really? not dark blue? when'd they change that?
i think dark green is nicer though..
what happens if the pinafore gets wet? doesn't the starch become sticky? how do you play in school?

lol mummy you should write a book about your childhood..things like these...your descendants would be very interested in reading..forget descendants..your children would be very interested!

like Awang goneng's Growing Up in Terengganu..did you read it yet?

terri@adailyobsession said...

p.s. enjoy ur stories.

Elin Chia said...

I can never get this right. It's either too soft or not cooked. Haha thanks for sharing this. My gal loves this chilled. I am going to try this out when the kids are come back next following week...Hope it will turn out nice like yours :)

Ju (The Little Teochew) said...

I used to eat loads of sago pudding when I was young. Gosh, you just took me down memory lane! I could eat 2 bowls of this! You made it perfectly!!!

Zurin said...

Juli,I have a tendency towards exaggeration. LOLOLOL

no I have not read awang goneng's...who is he?

Terri, Just love it too....

will never be as brutally honest as you tho' LOLOLOL...

Elin, let me know how it turns out :)

Litle Teochew, what a cute name :P sago is good.

Divina Pe said...

I had this in a southeast Asian restaurant and I really like it. Now I can make this at home.


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