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Also Known as
Sabudana, sabu dana
Sago is a food product made from the milk of tapioca root. The root is cleaned, peeled and crushed to release the milk. The milk is then allowed to settle in a tank for three to eight hours, so that the residual impurities float to the top of the tank, to be drained out of the settled milk. The settle milk cake is then converted into small globules, using a special machine. The globules are then sorted by size using sieves, and roasted on hot plates or steamed, depending upon the desired end product. The sago is then dried under direct sunlight in big platforms. Sometimes, they are also polished for that extra shine.
Sabudana holds a special place in India, as a popular infant food, and as a food used to break fasts. This is so because sabudana is loaded with starch – and hence energy, and does not contain any artificial sweeteners or chemicals.
Wash the sago pearls in running water without applying too much pressure by hand. Soak them in water or thin buttermilk for an hour. Drain, sprinkle a little water and allow them to soak further for 2-3 hours, sprinkling water once in a while.
How to Select
• Sago is readily available at all grocery stores.
• Look for dry, even and white pearls of sago.
• It comes in different grades – small, medium and large; buy according to recipe requirement.
• Avoid if any yellowish shades are seen.
• Check the label thoroughly for date of packaging and expriry.
• Sometimes sago is partially pre-cooked. If so, it might not suit many recipes. Always check on that.
• When cooked, sago turns from opaque white colour to translucent, and becomes soft and spongy. This makes it suitable for dishes like kheer, khichdi and vada too.
• Every pearl of sago has to be separate when preparing most recipes, so it's essential that you don't over-soak it, or it will turn out like a sticky paste.
• Sago is very heat-sensitive. If you try to fry the soaked pearls of sago in hot spiced oil or ghee, it will turn into a sticky, gluey mass, which is impossible to separate. Instead, fold the sago carefully into the warm seasoned oil after the pan has cooled a little. If you need to re-heat the dish, do so on the lowest possible setting, stirring constantly.
• Sago is used in Indian cooking, especially as a light-meal choice for Ekadasi and other grain-fasting days.
• In North and western India it is most commonly used in fasting dishes, such as Sabudana Khichadi (generally made using soaked sabudana, fried with potatoes, chilli and peanuts) and Sabudana Vada.
• In south India, they are used to make sun-dried wafers that are used like Papad, and to make a sweet semi-liquid dessert called Javvarisi Payasam.
How to Store
• Purchase as needed and do not overstock.
• Keep in an airtight and dry container to stock it for a few weeks or months.
• Do not mix the old and new stock.
• Keep it away from moisture, as even a little water can make the whole thing soggy and unacceptable.
• Sago is nearly pure carbohydrate and has very little protein, vitamins, or minerals.
• It can be enriched by the addition of other healthy food options like groundnuts, vegetables, milk etc.
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