August 7, 2011

Mango sago dessert

This cold mango sago dessert is another example of Asian dessert "soup".  If you like mangos like I do, this is a great, refreshing summertime dessert. 
I wanted to learn how to make this for my husband, who loves this dessert very much.  Eating this takes us right back to road trips to Toronto, Canada.  We went there just last summer with my sister and her family and together, we visited landmarks and children-friendly places like the zoo but most importantly, we consumed an enormous amount of delicious Chinese food.  There is a strong Chinese/Asian population in Toronto and going there feels a bit like visiting Hong Kong.  The food is so good there!

And on our trip to Toronto, after we'd had a day of sightseeing with the kids and eaten a huge dinner, we would also visit a Chinese dessert house, where there'd be a variety of these dessert soups (hot and cold) and other desserts like ices and puddings to choose from.  My husband adores this mango sago dessert.  He'd get this look of rapture on his face and after we're done and the bill has been paid, we're thinking about when we can go back again.  It takes us right back to a trip to Hong Kong we took when we first graduated from college.  We went with our fellow foodies (i.e., my sister and brother in law - no kids at the time) and it turned out to be an amazing food trip.  We ate non-stop and there were dessert houses featuring these kinds of fresh fruit desserts in almost every corner.  We ate there as often as we could.  We went to Japan and Hong Kong on that memorable trip; I swear I gained ten pounds in less than two weeks.
So I've been wanting to make this for a while.  Not only is it delicious but it also brings back good memories.  I was a little worried about how this would turn out.  In Hong Kong and Toronto, they seem to have the most amazing tasting mangoes all year round and I didn't even know where I'd find one of the ingredients - plain mango juice - around here.  Needless to say, I finally got it together and it came out terrific.  Might not be quite as tasty as the ones from the dessert houses we visited but it's a mighty good homemade version.  Happily, it was also quite easy to make once I got the ingredients together. 

I think this cold mango sago dessert is easier to make that the taro tapioca dessert I talked about recently.  The trick is to get good, sweet mangoes and finding plain mango juice. 

I looked in a few supermarkets and had trouble finding pure mango juice that wasn't mixed with other fruit into a drink.  Some carried mango pulp and I learned that Goya carries mango juice in a can.  The recipes I looked at online generally recommend mango juice in a carton and I think those are probably more readily available in Asian countries.  In the end, I found this "mango nectar" in an Asian market, which appears to be the closest thing to what I'm looking for.  It contains mango pulp and sugar, with some citric acid.  Since I first found this, it has since disappeared from that market but luckily, there are similar alternatives in cans.  If you are up for the challenge, I'm sure the dessert would be greatly improved by cutting up fresh mangoes and pureeing it yourself with some water.  Using the mango juice is good enough for me.

In addition to the mangoes and mango juice, the other essential ingredient is sago or sago pearls, which is extremely similar to tapioca pearls, though its a bit larger.  In a pinch, you could substitute one for the other in this recipe.  You'll also need some evaporated milk, a small amount of sugar, cornstarch, and water.
Start by prepping the ripe mangoes, dicing them into bite size pieces.  Use 2 large mangoes or 3 small ones. 

I cook the sago pearls much the same way I do for tapioca pearls.  I recommend using 3/4 cup of sago here since I like a good amount of it in my soup.  After soaking them for 30-45 minutes in cold water, cook it in a pot full of plenty of boiling water over a medium-low flame, stirring often.  They are done in about 10 minutes when they turn translucent.  Rinse and drain well under cold water using a fine-mesh sieve and set it aside.
Now we're ready to do the cooking and assembling.  Mix 1 tablespoon of cornstarch with 1 tablespoon of cold water and set aside.  Bring a cup of water to a boil.  Lower the heat to about medium and stir in 3 tablespoons of sugar until dissolved.  Then add the cornstarch mixture into the pot, stirring immediately and well until the cornstarch is dissolved and you have a thick and smooth syrup.   The first time I made this, I was distracted by trying to take pictures and didn't stir enough right away so I had bits of thickened cornstarch (looks like pieces of gelatin) in the syrup.  Should that happen to you for whatever reason, just keep stirring and working it with the back of a wooden spoon to smooth it out.  Set this aside to cool for about 15 minutes or so.
The cooking is all done and we just need to stir everything together.  Add the diced mangoes, 1 1/2 cups of mango juice, 1/2 cup of evaporated milk and stir it together until incorporated.  Then add the cooked sago and stir well again.  If the soup is too thick, you can add more mango juice or water.  Mine was just right at these proportions. 
Cover and chill in the refrigerator at least a few hours or overnight.  I like it ice-cold. 
My husband loved this mango sago dessert and says it's as good as the one we have in Canada (he would say that, of course, but I think he means it).  My sister and brother in law also tasted this when I made it a second time and they gave it two thumbs up.  Looks like I found another permanent recipe for my files.


Mango Sago Dessert
Adapted from various recipes I saw online*

- Serves 4 to 6 -

* I read a number of recipes for this mango sago dessert.  Most recipes were very similar, except for the proportions of some of the ingredients - particularly, the sago.  The ingredients were also generally listed in grams and millilitres and I've converted them to the standard American cup measures here.

2 large sweet mangoes, or 3 small ones, diced into large bite-size cubes
3/4 cup of sago pearls
1 1/2 cup mango juice
1/2 cup evaporated milk
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch

Cook the sago:
Soak sago in cold water for 30-45 minutes.  They will expand significantly.  Boil about 3 quarts of water in a pot.  Add sago and lower the heat to medium-low.  Cook the sago and stir often for about 10 minutes.  The sago is done when they are translucent.  Rinse and drain the sago under very cold water using a fine-mesh sieve.  Set aside.

Putting together the dessert soup:
Bring 1 cup of water to a boil.  Lower the flame to about medium and add the sugar, stirring until dissolved.  Mix 1 tablespoon of cornstarch with 1 tablespoon of cold water and stir well.  Add this to the hot sugar syrup and stir immediately until the mixture thickens and is smooth.  Set aside for about 15 minutes or so to cool.

Add mango juice, evaporated milk, and mango pieces to the thickened sugar mixture and stir well until incorporated.  Add cooked sago and stir to loosen the sago and mix well into the soup.  If the mixture is too thick, adjust with some more mango juice or water. 

Cover and refrigerate until cold before serving.


  1. LOVE this one!!!! super Yummy!!!!! I want to try to make it myself hope it come out as good as your.

  2. So glad you guys like it! Yours will come out just as good as mine. The recipe is very easy.

  3. wow such a wonderful yellow colour of the mango. Tempting me taste this yummy one.Lovely recipes. Tips will be useful!

  4. Thanks for your comments! I hope you give it a try and enjoy it. : )

  5. You had me at 'mango' ! I love all the flavors you put in here. The Gina mango puree brand is one of the better ones in the Asian markets, so you chose well. Can't wait for mango season to be in full swing. Must try your recipe. Bookmarking this one. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Great to know, thank you! I just made a batch (first of the season) and my husband was thrilled. It's possibly his absolute favorite treat. I have more mangoes sitting here, ripening, ready for another batch soon. : ) Please do try it!



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