Is Sago And Tapioca Same? Know The Difference

Sago and tapioca are two versatile starches that are commonly utilised in various culinary applications. Although there may be some overlapping characteristics, it is important to note that there are distinct variations that set the two apart.  Sago is a starchy substance that is extracted from the pith of the sago palm tree. The raw ingredient undergoes a meticulous process resulting in the formation of petite pearls or granules. Sago pearls possess a delightful translucency and a pleasantly chewy texture when properly cooked. Even many relate sago as sabudana. While Tapioca, a delightful culinary ingredient, is derived from the starchy tuberous roots of the cassava plant. The ingredient undergoes a processing technique that yields a range of forms, such as delicate pearls, thin flakes, and fine flour. Tapioca pearls are larger and opaquer compared to sago pearls. They have a chewy texture when cooked and are often used in desserts and bubble tea.  

A recent video shared by Krish Ashok; author of Masala Lab will tell you the truth behind Sabudana, he says “Did you know that Sabudana is a healthy and nutritious food traditionally eaten during fasts? Did you also know that absolutely nothing in that previous sentence was true? For starters, it's not healthy. I love sabudana. It's delicious and perfectly OK as part of an otherwise balanced diet, but it's highly ultra-processed starch and nothing else. If you're fasting, it makes little sense to eat a carbohydrate bomb that would spike your blood sugar. Secondly, it's not even traditional, Sabudana as we know it was introduced in the 1940s and 50s. It is originally from East or Southeast Asia, Boba or bubble tea uses that same starch. And here's the best part, it's not even what you think it is. Many brands of Sabudana will call it Sago, which used to be the source of starchy pearls. During World War Two, Sago was difficult to source and some entrepreneurs in Salem, Tamil Nadu decided to use Tapioca, which was commonly grown in Kerala, Tamil Nadu to make the same starchy bombs. Since then, almost all sabudana is made from tapioca, not Sago. So, in conclusion, sabudana is delicious but it is not healthy, not traditional, unsuitable for fasting and it is not sago.”  

Sago Explained 

Sago is extracted from the pith of the sago palm tree, most especially the species Metroxylon sagu. The pith is removed, put through a processing system, and shaped into granules or pearls. Sago pearls are frequently employed in the culinary arts, particularly in the preparation of Asian sweets and beverages. The sago palm tree, which is indigenous to Southeast Asia and mainly Indonesia and Malaysia, is where the sago plant itself originates. 

Appearance: Sago pearls have a spherical shape and a translucent appearance. They are very small. After being cooked, they take on a gelatinous consistency and a texture that is in between soft and slightly chewy. 

Culinary Use: Before beginning the cooking process, sago pearls need to be rehydrated by soaking in water for a while. This helps to soften the pearls. After that, they are either boiled or simmered for a considerable amount of time, typically until they become transparent and are fully cooked. In the kitchen, sago pearls are most commonly utilised in the preparation of sweet foods like puddings, kheer, bubble tea and fruit drinks. They are also capable of being employed in the kitchen as a thickening agent, particularly in soups and sauces. 

Tapioca Explained 

The cassava plant, sometimes referred to by its scientific name, Manihot esculenta, is where tapioca comes from. The tuberous roots of the plant are ground into flour or transformed into other products such as pearls, flakes, and flour through a processing step. Cassava plants are native to South America, more specifically Brazil; nevertheless, these days they are cultivated and consumed all over the world. 

Appearance: The appearance and consistency of tapioca pearls differ from that of sago pearls in that tapioca pearls are larger and more opaque than sago pearls. When cooked, they transform into a texture that is soft and chewy, and their appearance changes to be slightly translucent. The flour made from tapioca is a very fine, white powder. 

Culinary Usage: Tapioca pearls have to be boiled in water until they turn translucent and become soft before the cooking method can be applied. Tapioca flour is frequently utilised in the culinary world as a means of thickening a variety of meals. They are a popular ingredient in a variety of sweet dishes, including sweets, bubble tea, and sweet soups. Puddings, gravies, and sauces can all benefit from the use of tapioca flour as a thickening. In baking, it can also be used as a substitute for wheat flour that does not contain gluten. 

In conclusion, both sago and tapioca are edible carbohydrates. Tapioca, made from cassava roots, can be used in both sweet and savoury meals, whereas sago, which comes from the sago palm tree, is primarily used in desserts. Finding the right component for a dish requires knowledge of its history, look, texture, and culinary applications.