Sago’t Gulaman

November 19, 2021
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Photo by Ty Mecham Prop Stylist: Suzie Myers Food Stylist: Kate Buckens and Adrienne Anderson
  • Prep time 1 hour 15 minutes
  • Cook time 10 minutes
  • Serves 2 liters
Author Notes

I love drinks that double as a snack, and sago't gulaman is just that. In the Philippines, you'll usually find someone selling them outside churches, on sidewalks, and at markets, school cafeterias, and restaurants—it’s pretty much everywhere. Sago't gulaman is very similar to bubble tea, except it uses a simple brown sugar syrup as its base. This recipe, however, is slightly different. I wanted to incorporate a bit of creaminess, unlike the traditional sago’t gulaman, so I added coconut cream and condensed milk.

If you're making this for a gathering, I'd recommend preparing the jelly and tapioca pearls early in the morning or the night before. You should be able to keep the tapioca pearls in the fridge overnight as long as you store them in a jar filled to the top with equal parts water and simple syrup. This will help with preventing the tapioca pearls from hardening or sticking to one another. That said, if you are looking to make this within half an hour, just buy instant tapioca pearls, which should take you less than 5 minutes to cook. If you don't want to prepare the jelly, you can also purchase canned grass jelly, which is usually available at your local Asian supermarket. Note: If you’ve never had grass jelly before, make sure to try it first before using it for sago’t gulaman, because the flavor can be quite strong. Personally, I prefer agar-agar or konnyaku powder because you can buy them in different flavors, and they’re also great plant-based options. For this recipe, I opted for pandan-flavored agar-agar, which is my favorite, but feel free to use plain or any other flavor you’d like.

I like to serve sago't gulaman in a 2-liter pitcher and have mason jars with spoons on the side to let guests pour their own drinks—this also allows them to put the exact amount of tapioca pearls and jelly they'd like. If you'd prefer to serve the drink with straws, make sure to cut the jelly into very small pieces. Either way, this is a fun and refreshing beverage to share on a sunny afternoon! —Ria Elciario

What You'll Need
  • 140 grams pandan-flavored agar-agar powder (or konnyaku or gelatin)
  • 200 grams tapioca pearls
  • 2 cups dark brown sugar, plus more to taste
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons full-fat canned coconut cream, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons sweetened condensed milk
  • Ice, for serving (optional)
  1. Cook the agar-agar as a jelly block and tapioca pearls according to package instructions. Each brand will have slightly different instructions, so refer to those for best results; whichever you use, transfer the jelly mixture to a 1- or 2-quart casserole dish or a 6- to 8-inch square cake pan and let chill in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour. (Note: You can use any small to medium-sized baking pan, casserole dish, or even storage container, as long as you’re able to get a jelly block that can be sliced into small cubes.)
  2. In a 3-quart saucepan, combine the dark brown sugar and 2 cups of water over medium heat. Stir until incorporated, then simmer for 10 minutes, until the dark brown sugar has fully dissolved. Taste and add more brown sugar to taste if needed. Remove from the heat, then add in the vanilla extract and let it cool for 5 minutes.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the coconut cream and condensed milk until incorporated. Slowly add the brown sugar syrup while whisking to prevent the mixture from curdling. Note: Don’t worry if you find the syrup is too sweet; it will be mixed with water to taste before serving.
  4. Cut the chilled agar-agar into small cubes and rinse the tapioca pearls in cold water using a fine sieve.
  5. Pour the brown sugar syrup into a 2-liter pitcher, then add cold water little by little, tasting as you go to achieve your desired sweetness (start with 2 cups of water and adjust as needed). Place the pitcher in an ice bucket or refrigerate until cold. If you’re serving a crowd, place the tapioca pearls and agar-agar cubes in bowls on the side. To make one drink, fill a tall glass with ice (if you’d like) and a tablespoon each of the tapioca pearls and agar-agar cubes, then top it off with the drink.

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