This Mango Sago is a creamier and more natural version of the crowd favorite typically served as a dessert in local Chinese restaurants.
Mango Sago has been a part of my life for as far as I can remember. When I was younger, any time there was a get-together or reunion in a Chinese restaurant, I would look forward to this dessert with a sheer excitement only a child was capable of.
To tell you the truth, even as I got older, this was still my preferred dessert. I would feel that pang of disappointment when the waiters brought out other stuff, though maybe not so much if it was Almond Jelly with Lychee. Still, this has become THE staple Chinese celebration dessert for me. I still always expect this for dessert when I attend parties at Chinese restaurants.
Mango Sago is probably more of a local thing than a traditional Chinese thing. It’s because the Philippines is really rich in mangoes. Call me biased, but I think we have the best mangoes in the world. I particularly love Guimaras mangoes, like the ones I used for this Frozen Mango Torte recipe. They are a bit more expensive but have a lot less fibers compared to Zambales or just “normal” mangoes being sold by street vendors in the city. In any case, I love mangoes a lot so I pretty much eat every kind I can get my hands on. I even love green mangoes with bagoong!
That said, mango desserts are always a yes in my book. I never seem to make enough mango desserts though, because we often consume them in their natural (and best) form. A love for mangoes is the main reason why I love Mango Sago so much, and I was determined this time around to make it.
Since I only ever get to eat Mango Sago when there’s a party at a Chinese restaurant– and it’s been literally YEARS since I have attended a party– I decided to make some at home. I found a really good opportunity to partner this with a special dish I prepared, which is the Suan La Fen you will see in the video below. It’s a Hot & Sour Noodle Soup that packs an intensity that only something refreshing like Mango Sago can put out. I think any time you have a particularly flavor-heavy or spicy meal, this is a good way to restore balance.
This version of the Mango Sago is different from what is typically served in Chinese restaurants in that it uses more milk and is therefore creamier than usual. With the restaurant version, I find that it’s a lot sweeter, but it’s a sweetness that doesn’t come attached with mango flavor. This makes me think that it might be just simple syrup (or even cheap boxed mango juice!) and water added with the mangoes to make the finished product. This version has a more natural mango flavor, with milky undertones and lots of sago.
If I had to describe this in a few words, I would say this is a lovely straightforward Mango Sago that’s more on the natural and creamy-tasting side. It also doesn’t have that darker yellow hue. I reckon some people might prefer the restaurant’s runnier and sweeter version, but we really enjoyed this one as well. My only regret is that I ran out of mangoes to add on top. It would’ve elevated the mango-ness of this dessert!
- MAKE SURE TO COOK THE PEARLS PROPERLY. For this recipe, we only need 1/4 cup of tapioca pearls. Traditionally, white small tapioca pearls are used for Mango Sago. They provide a nice aesthetic, plus they boil into these really tender pearls that kind of just dissolve in your mouth with the mango puree. You can use black pearls if you prefer something chewier but try to source smaller-sized ones. Now to cook 1/4 cup of pearls, you need ample water– at least 4 cups. Bring the water to a boil before adding the uncooked pearls in, then leave them to cook 15 to 20 minutes, until you only see a medium to small dot of white in the center of the pearls. At this point, you can turn off the heat and cover the pot so the pearls continue to cook in the residual heat without getting overcooked and disintegrating. Stir occasionally so they don’t get stuck together. After another 15 to 20 minutes, the pearls should be ready and completely translucent. The goal is completely translucent pearls. If some of them still have “white eyes” in the center after all the time spent in hot water, I toss those little suckers out.
- USE THE BEST MANGO YOU CAN FIND. This is a no-brainer really. Your dessert is literally mango puree with milk. Of course you want to use the best mangoes you can get your hands on! You will surely taste it in the dessert!
- ADJUST SWEETENER LATER. I recommend starting with 1/8 cup then building up from there. You can use simple syrup or sugar if you don’t have condensed milk, but I prefer condensed milk as a sweetener. Mangoes are naturally super sweet and I found I didn’t need to add more than 1/8 cup.
- ADJUST AMOUNT OF EVAPORATED MILK DEPENDING ON DESIRED CONSISTENCY. I found that my mango puree was too thick after adding in a 154-mL can, so I added some extra milk to thin it out a bit. Remember not to add too much or else your Mango Sago will taste like Mango Milkshake. Too much milky flavor and not enough mango!
- CHILL MANGO SAGO AT LEAST 2 HOURS BEFORE SERVING. This dessert is absolutely delicious cold. Make it in the morning if you plan to serve it for lunch or dinner.
Creamy Mango Sago
- 4 cups water
- ¼ cup uncooked small tapioca pearls
- 5 large mangoes, divided use
- 1 (154 mL) can evaporated milk
- 1/8 to 1/4 cup condensed milk, or to taste
- Water or more milk, as needed
To make the tapioca pearls
- Bring water to a rolling boil in a pot. Add in the tapioca pearls and cook for 15 minutes. The pearls will look cooked nearly all the way through at this point but will still have those opaque circles in the very center. Turn off heat and cover the pot, leaving the pearls inside to fully cook.
- Once the pearls are fully translucent, drain and rinse under cold water. Place into a bowl with a little water to avoid sticking and set aside for a moment.
To make the mango puree
- Remove flesh from 4 mangoes. The fifth mango will be used for topping. Place the mange flesh into a food processor or blender.
- Add evaporated and an initial 1/8 cup of condensed milk. Blend until smooth. Taste to see if you need more condensed milk and check if you like the consistency of the puree. If it’s too thick, add a little bit of water or more milk at a time, until it reaches your desired consistency. (Don’t add too much liquid as it will taste very watered down and will be too thin. You want to maintain a creamy texture.)
- Transfer puree into a container with a lid, or to your serving bowl. Drain your sago again and mix into the mango puree. Refrigerate at least 2 hours to chill.
- Once ready to serve, cube the flesh from the last mango and garnish on top. Ladle into serving bowls and enjoy!
Watch how it's made
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