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Mango Pomelo Sago Soup


Chinese desserts are quite different from Western ones.  They tend to be based on fruit and/or beans (red or green, generally), and often use glutinous rice, tapioca or sago.  Unlike Western desserts, that often use lots of cream and dairy products, Chinese desserts are often water or coconut milk based, with perhaps a bit of condensed or evaporated milk to add that extra bit of creaminess.

My husband, who discovered a whole new world of Cantonese cuisine when he married me, tends to dislike Chinese sweets.  It’s not his fault – he just didn’t grow up with a tradition of sweet red bean soup, egg custard steamed buns, bean paste dumplings, etc…  I guess they ARE a little strange if you’re not used to them.

But he DOES like this Mango Pomelo Sago Sweet Soup.


This fresh fruit dessert is a quintessential Hong Kong dish.  Invented in a Hong Kong restaurant in the 80′s, it has swept the global Asian community, insinuating itself into Asian dessert houses everywhere.  I first had it at a family banquet in Hong Kong, but have since sampled it in several Toronto dim sum restaurants and dessert or tea houses.  The Cantonese name for it is “Yeung Zi Gum Lo”… I have no idea what the name means.


If you live in an area where you can’t get this dessert, don’t fret – it’s easy to make yourself with just a few simple ingredients.  The most difficult thing to find might be the sago balls – you can find this at your local Asian market.  These little globules of sago starch (or tapioca starch – the two words are often interchangeable) look like little white balls of styrofoam, and turn transparent when cooked.


Pomelos are huge Asian grapefruits with a thick skin and a very sweet fruit.  You peel the white inner skin from each segment and extract the flesh.  They come in red and yellow-fleshed varieties.  If you can’t find pomelos (also at your local Asian market), substitute a very ripe ruby red grapefruit.  It will be a little more tart, but close enough.


Mango Pomelo Sago Soup
I referenced GourmetTraveller88 for this recipe.

People who are allergic to milk or lactose intolerant can enjoy this creamy dessert without the dairy.  The coconut milk gives it enough creaminess that the evaporated milk is not essential.

3 ripe medium-size mangoes
150 ml coconut milk
1 cup water
1/2 cup simple syrup (optional)
1/2 cup pomelo flesh, plus extra for garnishing
1/2 cup sago pearls
evaporated milk for drizzling (optional)

1.  Put the sago into a large pot of boiling water, and cook for 15 min until the outsides of the pearls become transparent.  Lower the heat and simmer another 10 minutes or so until the pearls are fully transparent, stirring often to prevent sticking and burning.  Drain into a wire mesh strainer and rinse thoroughly with cold water.

2.  Meanwhile, cube the mangoes.  I like to cut two sides off the mango on either side of the seed, then score the flesh and scoop out the cubes with a spoon.  Then I peel the rest of the mango and slice off the flesh around the seed, chopping it roughly.  Any remaining flesh on the seed is fair game for any marauding mango-loving husbands to devour.

3.  Put 3/4 of the cubed mangoes along with the coconut milk and water into a blender.  Blend until smooth.

4.  Add the drained sago, pomelo flesh, and reserved mango pieces to the mango puree.  Refrigerate until chilled, about 2 hours.

5.  Before serving, taste for sweetness and add a little simple syrup if needed.  Ladle into dessert bowls and garnish with extra pomelo.  If you wish, drizzle a bit of evaporated milk over the dessert.  Chris is allergic to milk, so I didn’t add any.

12 comments to Mango Pomelo Sago Soup

  • Hi there, thanks for referencing my recipe. Yours looks great too! This is a dessert that most people find it irresistible and it is amazingly is easy to prepare, the challeging things are getting the ingredients : ) Nice to find your blog too!

  • I’m glad I found your blog! This looks like a great recipe! The photos are beautiful too!

  • Camilla

    Hi Janet, yes this is a great recipe! My in-laws loved it! It was great to find your blog too – I love culinary travel.

  • Camilla

    Hi Sook, glad to have you here!

  • Noelle

    I think my mom told me once that the name comes from an old Buddist story about a woman who had a jar and a plant and the plant was some sort of tree called yeung low chi, and gum lo which is something akin to holy water.

  • [...] various recipes according to region: in southern China as a flavoring or as a dessert – like Mango Pomelo Sago Soup; in Thailand, pomelo liquor is popular; and in most regions, everyone enjoys the subtle interplay [...]

  • John

    I LOVE this stuff! Only one resto here in Calgary makes it perfectly (the dessert houses have not nailed it yet), and it is the BEST TONG SHUI EVER!

    As for the name, it is named after the sacred water (kam lo) that sustains the willow branch (Yang chi) that the Buddhist figure Avalokite?vara holds — so Noelle’s mom was not far off. Sacred water it may not be, but still divine! :)

  • Joseph

    I just moved to California and my wonderful neighbor has been generous with fresh pomelos off her tree. This Ohio boy who had never seen one before in his life left her home last week with a huge box of these treats!

    I absolutely will be trying this. And wearing the peel as a hat. That is too awesome!

  • momo

    I’m a Chinese ungraduate and I’m going to write an Engishdialogue about Food & Drinks. Can I take an example by your blog?

  • Camilla

    Feel free!