I never planned on doing a post about this particular refreshment [or dessert] but a number of friends lurking around my site have requested for a recipe after reading my entry to Lasang Pinoy 11: Summertime Memories and Cool Indulgences.
Gulaman at Sago, a popular thirst-quencher and refreshment during the hot summer months in the Philippines can be taken as a beverage-dessert during a meal or an accompanying drink with a merienda [snack]. In most restaurants and fastfood outlets it is served in a tall footed glass with a straw and spoon; in neighborhood tindahans [stores] and street stalls it is ladled into plastic cups or simply poured into plastic bags provided with a straw. Gulaman and sago are mainstay ingredients in other popular native Pinoy desserts and snacks like Halo-Halo, Buco-Pandan Salad, Taho, Ginataang Bilo-Bilo and Guinumis.
Before going into the recipe, letâ€™s just try and scrutinize a bit these two interesting ingredients, one of which comes from two different sources.
Gulaman or agar-agar or simply agar is a generic term of Asiaâ€™s own version of jelly. Agarose or agar is made of processed seaweed, dehydrated and formed into bars which are either plain or coloured. It is commonly available in the markets than the animal by-product gelatin, making it a choice for vegetarians and vegans, which is kosher and halal. When shredded, re-hydrated and dissolved in hot water, agar then congeals to a gelatinous form.
Sago [Tapioca Pearls]
Tapioca pearls [sago] are made from tapioca starch, produced from the treated and dried cassava root, sometimes called manioca or yucca in some parts of the world. The bitter cassava plant is native to South America and was introduced into Asia sometime during the 19th century where it was quickly adopted as a staple food in many different cultures [perhaps explaining why Asians seem to be more favourably inclined to tapioca]. In India and other parts of South/Southeast Asia, tapioca pearls are known as Sabudana or Sagu.
Now, tapioca pearls should not be confused with the â€œother sagoâ€ â€“ a powdery starch made from the processed pith found inside the trunks of the Sago Palm [Metroxylon sagu]. This sago, also major dietary food source, forms a major staple food for the lowland peoples of New Guinea and the Moluccas. In Malaysia and Indonesia, sago from Metroxylon is used as a starch in making noodles, white bread, and sago pearls [similar to tapioca pearls].
Tapioca and sago pearls, of various sizes, are key ingredients in a lot of Asian desserts, from the Malaysian dessert â€œSago Gula Melakaâ€ where small pearls are served with coconut cream, palm sugar syrup and fresh slices of nangka or mangoes, to the Filipino favourite drink of “Gulaman at Sago,” where bigger tapioca pearls and coloured jelly cubes are added to a mixture of sweetened water, milk and crushed ice.
GULAMAN AT SAGO
[Agar-Agar and Tapioca Pearls]
1 cup Sugar
2 cups Water
1 bar White Gulaman, shredded, soaked in water and drained
3 cups Tapioca pearls, cooked per instructions below
Procedure for the Gulaman:
Shred gulaman into flakes using hand and soak in cold water.
Boil 2 cups of water in a saucepan. Drain soaked gulaman and add in the boiling water and simmer until dissolved. A teeny-weeny amount of sugar may be added into the boiling agar just so it doesnâ€™t taste flat. Alternatively, you may use thin caramelized sugar syrup, thereby adding a bit of colour other than just some sweet flavour.
Transfer to a shallow square or rectangular baking pan and let cool to set at room temperature. To facilitate faster setting, place the pan in a basin of iced water.
When cooled down and set, cut into small cubes, set aside and keep refrigerated before using.
Procedure for the Sago:
Drop in tapioca pearls in a pan with enough water to cover and soak, and more to compensate for the evaporation during the boiling process.
Bring to a boil until only a small opaque spot in the middle of each sago is visible, normally half of its original size. Again, similar to the agar, a small amount of sugar added into the boiling sago makes it taste a bit less flat.
Drain sago and rinse with cold water until sago pearls are cooled down. Transfer to a deep pan and soak in cold water overnight. Sago pearls should be soft all the way the following day. Keep refrigerated until it is ready for use.
Procedure for the Sugar Syrup [Arnibal]:
Caramelize sugar in a saucepan. When melted, pour in water and simmer until sugar is completely dissolved and right consistency is achieved. Let cool completely and set aside.
To prepare the drink:
Shave or crush some ice and set aside; spoon some gulaman and sago into a glass; add banana extract and enough arnibal [caramelized sugar syrup] to cover gulaman and sago. Fill the glass with ice-cold water, leaving enough space for the shaved or crushed ice topping.
The gulaman and sago provides textural difference to this rather simple and humble drink. Instead of just taking down an icy-cold, sweetened liquid, the beverage drinker has something else to chew on — that results to one interesting beverage experience!
It is a perfect accompaniment to meals or favourite snacks like Turon, Banana-Q, Camote-Q or a plate of Pancit eaten with Siopao and Barbeque. And for me I love having this all year-round! Even during the rainy season, you ask?
Eh bakit ang mga matatanda, nagkakape maski mainit? Tee hee . . .