Many moons ago, work sent me to Hong Kong for a period of three months. Blame it on the insane work hours that I never got round to exploring the city in depth. Instead, I left with a kaleidoscope of contrasting images. For every banker rushing across to the next meeting was an elderly Chinese person patiently practising the slow and fluid movements of T'ai chi. For every high fashion store that would empty out your bank account was its counterfeit counterpart at one-tenth the price and you would never know the difference.
For every brightly lit, neon coloured billboard dominating the landscape was the sheer simplicity of Chinese calligraphy. For every Michelin starred restaurant where you struggled with the menu was a little hole in the wall, where also you struggled with the menu. For every crowded, 'packed like sardines' heaving street in Central was the tranquillity and vast spaces of the Outlying Islands. For every brash, in-your-face display of commerce was the exquisite, subtle beauty of Chinese art. There are many more that come to mind.. I only wish I had more time to form a definitive opinion on the city.
And yet, one food memory has endured. When I landed, I did not know a single soul in the city. Luckily for me, a close friend's mother happened to be visiting at the same time. She baby-sat me that day and took me out for lunch. When it came to dessert, she ordered what was hers and whole family's favourite dessert in town. It was simply called 'Coco Mango Sago'.
If I read it on the menu, I am not sure I would have ordered it. So, thank you Manju Aunty for insisting on it. It is essentially a cold dessert with the consistency of a soup that is packed with sago and mango pieces. Light yellow in colour and you can taste the mango as well as the subtle undertones of the coconut milk.
This summer, I thought I try and recreate this dessert. I adapted the recipe from a variety of sources on the Web. It is all straight forward, although I must confess I don't think I managed to replicate it cent per cent.
My version was a bit thicker in consistency than the original and moreover, the robust Indian mangoes resulted in a much richer colour and taste. But, the verdict from the loyal family was still very favourable. They found it light and right for the weather of the moment. It reminded them of the Indian dessert, sabudana kheer, albeit with a South-east Asian twist.
It is a soothing dessert that would be a perfect end to any East/South-east Asian meal, as the flavours of this dessert, specially the coconut milk, would complement the dishes of those cuisines.
I await an opportunity to re-explore Hong Kong at a more leisurely pace. Till then, do you have any enduring food memory that you will always associate with a city??
Coco Mango Sago
- 3 tablespoons sago (In India, we call it sabudana)
- 1 cup coconut milk
- 1/4 cup water
- 1/2 cup condensed milk
- 1 large mango (1/2 cut in to pieces and the other 1/2 pureed)
- Soak the sago seeds in ample amount of water for at least 4 hours.
- Once soaked for the desired amount, run the sago in a sieve under running water so as to remove the excess starch
- To a large saucepan, add 1 cup of coconut milk, 1/4 cup of water and the sago. On a low flame, continually stirring until the sago cooks. It will become translucent.
- Now, add the condensed milk and continue stirring until the mixture thickens a little. Take care to see that the mixture does not get caught at the bottom of the pan and that it doesn't thicken too much. The consistency of the dessert should be flowing. You will also see the sago come to the top as translucent little balls.
- Once the desired consistency has been achieved, remove the saucepan from the flame.
- Cut half the mango into small pieces and puree the other half of the mango.
- Add the pureed mango to the coconut milk mixture. Stir well.
- Add the cut mangoes and gently stir them through the mixture.
- Equally divide between ramekins.
- Serve chilled.