Sago or tapioca pearls is a starch extracted from tapioca which is common food ingredient in Asian countries like China, Philippines, Malaysia and Thailand. Usually used in dessert or beverages such as milk tea or this one which is a popular beverage in the Philippines which is made out of vanilla and red sugar.
I remember when I was a child I loved this drink and it is very common as most of the street vendor corner is selling the drink, a very good way to cool down on a hot summer day and cheap as well, I remember during my time it was on .50 cents in Philippine Peso then became 1 Peso and stayed there for a long time, which is around 2-3 cents in US dollar during that time. Usually placed in plastic bags with straw so its handy when you are walking, this is the local version of Coke in Philippines. But during the eary 2000 it became viral as a lot of entrepreneurs had made it a little bit posh and they have thier own specialized stalls now which is similar to Quickly in Hong Kong, we call it Zagu, they revolutionized the new age sago drinks where they are introduced into different flavours such as strawberry, cookies and cream, corn and even as wild as bubblegum, it was a huge hit and they were copied by others quickly to have that share of the market. By making it posh than normal definitley the price changed and it is sold for aournd Php 30.00 during that time and people even if it is expensive queue and buy this drink. But prior to Zagu, Goldilocks already sell their own posh version but using traditional flavour which is the red sugar vanilla flavour, and I liked that taste specially the Goldilucks version as it has that distinct flavour which I guess a mildly burnt sugar taste (I’m not sure if thats where the real taste come from, it was just my assumption). I had tried create the sago drink before but my tounge is always looking for that distinct taste that Goldilocks had, so I just tried to burn the sugar mildly just to see whether my assumption could imitate the taste and here is my recipe.
3 cups brown sugar for syrup
1 cup brown sugar for sago
3 cups water
3 cups sago
2 tbsp vanilla extract
1 can grass jelly, cubed (you can find this in Asian Shops)
1. Soak sago in water for at least an hour to soften, then drain and put in a large pot with 3 cups of the water and 1 cup of red sugar.
2. Bring to the boil and simmer and cook until sago turns transparent. Drain, then set aside and let it cool.
3. In a separate pot, add the first 2 tbsp of sugar and mildly burn it (do not overburn), then add water, vanilla and the remaining sugar, let it boil then simmer for at least 5 minutes. Make sure that the sugar is totally dissolved.
4. Now using a cheese cloth or any clean cloth, strain the syrup, this separates the sand-like grains from the sugar, leaving you with a clear brown syrup.
5. Now pour the syrup in glass (depends on your liking), add sago, cubed grass jelly, pour water and lots of ice.