Sago also commonly known as Sabudana is a starch extracted from the pith of sago palm stems botanically called as Metroxylon sagu. Sago is the major staple food for the lowland people of New Guinea and Moluccas where it is called as Saksak and sagu. Traditionally can be cooked in various ways like the sago vada or a simple sago upma or as a pancake!
Sabudana or Sago is made from tapioca as Tapioca is flavorless, colorless, odorless starch extracted from the roots of the plant species Manihot esculenta. Both sago and tapioca are in the form of pearls similar in appearance. The process of making the Metroxylon sago is by felling the sago palm. Then the trunk is split lengthwise and the pith is removed. The pith is crushes and kneaded to release the starch. The pith is washed and strained to extract the starch from the fibrous residue. The raw starch suspension is collected in a settling container. The palms are just felled before flowering, when the stems are richest in starch. One palm yields 150 to 300 kg of starch.
Sago flour is nearly pure carbohydrate and has very little protein, vitamins, or minerals. Sago can be stored for weeks or months, although it is generally eaten soon after it is processed. According to Berkill (1966), the Sago palm or Metroxylon sagu had been known in trade in South East Asia for at least about 700 years. In the 12th century, sago was mentioned by Chinese writers. It is a hapaxanthic (once flowering) and soboliferous (suckering) feather-leaf palm which accumulates starch in its trunk during its vegetative phase of growth. Of the several species of starch producing palm, Metroxylon sagu is by far the most important palm exploited commercially for starch production.
Sago starch is either baked or mixed with boiling water to form a paste. Sago can be made into steamed puddings such as sago plum pudding, ground into a powder and used as a thickener for other dishes, or used as dense flour. In India, Sago or the sabudana is used in making various dishes like the sabudana kheer (an Indian dessert), sabudana khichidi or upma and Sabudana vadas etc. Sago is used in puddings (payasam), in gruel or soup, and upma dishes. In gruel form, it’s a good alternative to carbonated drinks as it gives energy without the added chemicals and artificial sweeteners.
In Indonesia and Malaysia, sago is a main staple of many traditional communities in New Guinea, Borneo, Maluku, and Sumatra. In Brunei, it is used for making the popular local cuisine called the ambuyat. It is also used commercially in making noodles and white bread. Globally, its principal use is in the form of tapioca-like “pearls” such as those often found in drinks and smoothies. In Malaysia, traditional food “kerepok lekor” (fish sausage), uses sago as one of its main ingredients. In the making of the popular Keropok Lekor of Losong in Terengganu each kilogram of fish meat is mixed with half kilogram of fine sago with little salt added for flavor. Tons of raw sago is imported each year into Malaysia to support the keropok lekor industry.
Apart from not just limited to its uses for the food industry, Sago starch can also be used as a key material input in various industries such as paper, plywood, and textile industry. It is used in making adhesives, paper, ethanol, high fructose glucose syrup.
Pearl sago, a commercial product, closely resembles pearl tapioca. Both typically are small (about 2 mm diameter) dry, opaque balls. Both may be white (if very pure) or colored naturally grey, brown or black, or artificially pink, yellow, green, etc. When soaked and cooked, both become much larger, translucent, soft and spongy. Both are widely used in Indian, Bangladeshi and Srilankan cuisine in a variety of dishes, and around the world, usually in puddings. In India, pearl sago is called javvarisi (Tamil), sabudana (Hindi), and saggubeeyam (Telugu) among other regional and local names, and is used in a variety of dishes such as desserts boiled with sweetened milk on occasion of religious fasts. In Ayurvedic medicine, it is believed that sago porridge can be an effective and simple food to “cool and balance one’s body heat” when taking strong medicine or antibiotics.
Sabudana is full of starch or carbohydrates and is great for a quick boost of energy, and hence often served in India for breaking fasts during religious festivals. Sago gruel is also great when you’re sick because it gives you quick energy and is easy to digest. According to Indian medicine, sago and rice have a cooling effect on the system; hence sago gruel is given if you have excess bile (caused by excess body heat).
Sabudana is extremely low in fat but also low in protein. As its just starch, other than the carbohydrates, nutrition-wise, sabudana does not contain any minerals or vitamins and has very low amounts of calcium, iron, and fiber. Sago can be made into vadas and boiled and sun-dried and made into pappadums.
The nutritional values of edible portion of Sago starch per 100 g are:
Energy (kcal): 349 kcal
Water: 13.4 g
Protein: 0.1 g
Carbohydrate: 86.1 g
Sodium: 7 mg
Potassium: 1 mg
Calcium: 7 mg
Magnesium: 3 mg
Phosphorus: 9 mg
Iron: 1.8 mg
Manganese: 0.37 mg