One of my absolute favorite desserts from my childhood is taro sago, a dessert soup filled with soft chunks of taro and chewy sago pearls. We’d often have it in Hong Kong-style dessert cafes or offered as a complimentary dessert at the end of a Chinese banquet meal — which always made it that much sweeter 🙂
Making it at home is actually really simple! Read below for my best tips to make homemade taro sago.
What kind of taro should I use for taro sago?
In Chinese cuisine, we typically cook with 2 types of taro: the small kind that’s about as large as a duck egg (left), and the large kind that's about the size of a large daikon (right).
For taro sago, you’ll want to use large taro. Small taro has higher water content, which after boiling or steaming, results in a creamy texture.
Large taro works better for taro sago because it’s very starchy (which helps thicken the soup) and has lower water content (which helps the taro readily absorb the sweetness and flavors of the soup).
What ingredients do I need to make taro sago?
- large taro - Make sure to get the large variety of taro, and not the smaller, hairier ones. Large taro is starchier (helps thicken the soup) and has lower water content compared to small taro.
- small tapioca or sago pearls - These chewy pearls are key part of this dessert soup!
- sugar - My family likes using yellow rock sugar, which is commonly used in Chinese desserts. It's less sweet compared to white sugar, and has an almost honey-like flavor.
- full fat unsweetened coconut milk - Coconut milk is a must for taro sago; that coconut fragrance pairs perfectly with the taro!
- evaporated milk - This is what gives the taro sago that classic milk flavor. You can also substitute with whole milk or a plant-based milk, but because evaporated milk has had a majority of its water content removed, it has a stronger, more concentrated milk flavor.
- sweetened condensed milk - This is optional, but adds a light milky sweetness to this soup. You can also just substitute with more sugar.
- 1 lb large taro
- ¼ cup uncooked small tapioca or sago pearls
- 1.5 oz yellow rock sugar* (or sub 2 tablespoon white sugar)
- ¾ cup full fat unsweetened coconut milk (½ of 13.5oz can)
- ¼ cup evaporated milk
- 1-2 tablespoon sweetened condensed milk (optional)
Cook the small tapioca pearls & prep the taro
- Bring at least 6 cups of water to boil in a pot. Add uncooked small tapioca pearls and cook until almost fully translucent (~15 mins), stirring occasionally.¼ cup uncooked small tapioca or sago pearls
- While the tapioca cooks, peel and dice taro into ½ inch cubes. Some people may have a reaction to the skin of the taro while peeling, so it's best to wear gloves while preparing the taro.1 lb large taro
- Once the tapioca / sago is mostly translucent (a tiny white dot in the middle is ok), pour it into a strainer, rinse with cold water, then let sit in a bowl of water until you need it — this prevents it from hardening and sticking to each other.
Make the taro soup
- Bring 4 cups of water to boil in a large pot, then add half of the cubed taro and the yellow rock sugar (or 2 tablespoon white sugar). Let simmer 10-15 min, or until taro is soft.1.5 oz yellow rock sugar*
- Add coconut milk, evaporated milk, and condensed milk if using. Add remaining taro and cook for 10-15 min or until soft.¾ cup full fat unsweetened coconut milk, ¼ cup evaporated milk, 1-2 tablespoon sweetened condensed milk
- Taste and adjust sugar levels to your preference. I added another ~¾ oz (20g) of yellow rock sugar here but it’s not necessary if you prefer it less sweet.
- Lastly, add the drained tapioca pearls and mix. It’s ready to serve hot, or you could let it cool and serve cold. This soup tastes even better after a few hours because the coconut milk and flavors absorb better into the taro. Enjoy!