Step-by-Step Guide on how to make Taro Sago (芋香椰汁西米露). Easy to make this popular Chinese Tapioca Dessert with a few simple ingredients. Hearty tender taro immersed in creamy sweet coconut milk with bouncy tapioca pearls that delicately melt in your mouth. Bursting with deliciously sweet aroma and satisfying mouthfeel. Savor this delightfully heartwarming or refreshing dessert!
Taro Sago, also known as taro sai mai lou (芋頭西米露), is a popular dessert soup (tong sui; 糖水) in Hong Kong-style cuisine.
Mainly made of taro, small tapioca pearls (西米), and coconut milk.
It’s one of the many variations of the classic Chinese tapioca dessert (西米露).
The creamy sweet coconut milk is slightly thickened with nutty taro. Filled with tiny melty tapioca pearls and hearty taro chunks.
You can enjoy this nourishing taro tapioca dessert hot, warm, or cold. You can even freeze them to make tasty popsicles!
Amy + Jacky’s Test Kitchen Experiment – Taro & Small Tapioca Pearls
It’s quite tricky to perfectly cook the tiny tapioca pearls.
It’s easy to overcook them – the pearls will become mushy, sticky, and turn into a slimy blob. When undercooked, the pearls are hard with opaque white core.
We did 8+ tests cooking taro and small tapioca pearls separately to find the best methods, cooking times, and liquid ratios to make Taro Sago.
Our goal is to find that tasty sweet spot!
We experimented with cooking tapioca pearls in Instant Pot with:
High Pressure vs. Low Pressure
Soak vs. No Soak Tapioca Pearls
Soak cooked tapioca pearls in cold water for different lengths of time
Different amount of water
Different cooking times
Natural Pressure Release vs. Quick Pressure Release
Conclusion: The tapioca pearls were way too overcooked with various High Pressure or Low Pressure methods. We found using the “Saute High” method yield the best results. The tapioca pearls were perfectly cooked and retained the bounciness and satisfying al dente texture.
What we look for in a tasty bowl of Taro Tapioca Dessert
Taro: Fully cooked to the core and softened, breaks apart easily, but the shape is still intact and not disintegrated; aromatic, hearty, flavorful, sweet, nutty.
Tapioca Pearls: Fully cooked to the core, not too soft or mushy, with a little satisfying bounciness where they’ll melt in your mouth as you chew on them.
Texture: Creamy and somewhat thick & hearty (not thin & watery). Sometimes, we find the ones at restaurants or dessert shops to be a bit watery and thin. So we purposely designed the recipe to have some of the taro disintegrate and blend into the soup. This provides a more satisfying mouthfeel.
Flavors & Aroma: A balance of sweet, coconutty, and nutty taro flavors; very fragrant – delicious & pleasant aroma from coconut and taro.
How to Make Taro Sago
Prepare the few ingredients for cooking taro tapioca dessert.
Taro is a starchy root vegetable commonly used in Asian cuisine. It has a slightly sweet and nutty flavor. If you’re familiar with Hawaiian food, the Hawaiian side dish “Poi” is made of Taro root!
If you enjoy Taro, you can also make this tasty Taro Milk.
Amy + Jacky’s Tips – Taro Size: For the best texture, cut roughly 35% of Taro into 0.75″ cubes and 65% of Taro into 1″ cubes (as shown in below photo).
The 0.75″ cubes will dissolve and blend into the cooking liquid (act as a natural thickener). While the 1″ cubes will stay more intact for you to bite into as you enjoy the soup.
Bring 4 cups (1L) water to a rolling boil with the Instant Pot “Saute High” setting.
Add 125g small tapioca pearls in Instant Pot. Stir occasionally to avoid the tapioca pearls sticking to the bottom of the pot.
Cook tapioca pearls in boiling water for 7 minutes.
Turn off the heat. Then, use the “Keep Warm” button (residual heat) to further cook the tapioca pearls for another 8 to 9 minutes until they’re fully translucent.
Amy + Jacky’s Pro Tip – Cooking Time: We tested this Taro Sago recipe with 2 brands of small tapioca pearls. One of the brands only needed 5 to 6 minutes of residual heat cooking instead of 8 to 9 minutes. Make sure to check and adjust the residual heat cooking time according to your tapioca pearls. They’re done when there’s no more opaque white center.
Easy to make Taro Sago - a popular classic Hong Kong dessert soup. A spoonful of hearty soft taro in sweet creamy coconut milk with bouncy melty tapioca pearls. Bursting with deliciously sweet aroma and satisfying mouthfeel. Enjoy this delightfully heartwarming or refreshing dessert!
Cook Tapioca Pearls: Bring 4 cups (1L) water to a rolling boil with the Instant Pot "Saute High" setting. Add 125g tapioca pearls in Instant Pot. Stir occasionally to avoid the tapioca pearls sticking to the bottom of the pot. Cook tapioca pearls in boiling water for 7 minutes. Turn off the heat. Then, use "Keep Warm" button (residual heat) to further cook the tapioca pearls for another 8 to 9 minutes until they're fully translucent. Rinse cooked tapioca pearls in cold water, then drain well with a fine mesh strainer.Cooking Time Tip (see notes): Monitor and adjust the residual heat cooking time according to your tapioca pearls.
Pressure Cook Taro: If you used Instant Pot to cook tapioca pearls, rinse off all the residue starch with water, and dry off the inner pot. Add 1 lb (454g) taro cubes, ⅜ tsp (3g) fine salt, 90g rock sugar, and 2 tbsp (25g) granulated sugar in Instant Pot. Add 4 cups (1L) cold tap water in the Instant Pot. Close the lid, then turn Venting Knob to Sealing Position. Pressure Cook at High Pressure for 1 minute, then Natural Release for 6 minutes. After 6 minutes of Natural Release, release the remaining pressure by turning the Venting Knob to the Venting position (use Gradual Release method). Remove the lid carefully.
Add Coconut Milk and Cooked Tapioca Pearls: Add 400ml coconut milk in Instant Pot. Stir a few times very gently with a ladle to mix in the coconut milk. Amy + Jacky's Tip: Don't stir it too much because it might break down all the cooked taro. Bring taro coconut milk mixture back to a simmer by pressing the "Cancel" button, then "Saute" button. You can cover it with a glass lid to speed up the process.When the taro coconut milk mixture starts simmering, add cooked tapioca pearls in Instant Pot. Gently stir a few more times to mix in the cooked tapioca pearls.
Season & Serve: Once the Taro Sago is back to a simmer, taste and add more sugar if desired.You can serve this tasty nourishing dessert hot, warm, or cold. Enjoy~
1. Stovetop: You can cook the small tapioca pearls on the stovetop using the same cooking times.2. Small Tapioca Pearls: For this recipe, make sure you’re using the small white tapioca pearls 西米 (see photo). They are tiny white balls that'll become soft and translucent pearls when cooked. These are not the same as the brown boba pearls, tapioca balls, or bubble tea pearls. 3. Taro Size: For the best texture, cut roughly 35% of Taro into 0.75″ cubes and 65% of Taro into 1″ cubes. The 0.75″ cubes will dissolve and blend into the cooking liquid (act as a natural thickener). While the 1″ cubes will stay more intact for you to bite into as you enjoy the soup.4. Coconut Milk: Make sure to use Unsweetened Coconut Milk NOT the beverage or refrigerated type of Coconut Milk. For the best flavors, use one that lists 100% coconut milk as the ingredient. Not diluted with water or other ingredients. 5. Yellow Rock Sugar: Rock sugar is raw cane sugar especially great for balancing flavors in stews or soups. It’s a staple pantry ingredient for Asian cooking. It's not the same as Rock Candy.
Substitute: You can substitute it with the same amount of granulated sugar.
6. Small Tapioca Pearls Cooking Time: One of the brands we tested only needed 5 to 6 minutes of residual heat cooking instead of 8 to 9 minutes. Make sure to adjust the residual heat cooking time according to your tapioca pearls. Check and once the opaque white color is all gone and the pearls are clear, they're done.7. Filling and Flavor Variations: You can add fruits (i.e. mango, honeydew melon, cantaloupe), jelly, taro balls, tangyuan, red beans (adzuki beans), matcha, or pandan.8. Serving Cold: You may need to add more sugar since it'll taste less sweet when chilled. Adjust the sweetness level accordingly.9. Overnight in Fridge: After storing it overnight in the fridge, it becomes taro tapioca pudding! 10. Making Popsicles: Let the Taro Sago mixture cool down completely, then fill the Popsicle molds. Place them into freezer for roughly 6 hours before serving. Make sure to add more sugar in order for the popsicles to taste sweet.Rate Amy + Jacky's Recipe: If you've tried our recipe, rate the recipe in the Comments section. Thank you!
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