Sago is as ubiquitous as coconut in Malaysian desserts. The pearly effect that it gives to the texture of the end product is pleasing to the eyes and gives a mouthful in every bite of it. The feeling is like chewing a whole lot of small soft bubbles, infused with either pandan or coconut milk.
Sago can be mistaken with the more available Tapioca pearls over here and frankly speaking I am not very sure on how to differentiate between the 2 at the store except that sago is smaller and normally white and sometimes green while tapioca pearls are huge and has a translucent black appearance and sometimes colored. Except for bubble tea, I have never tasted any other dishes with Tapioca pearls but I definitely know a sago dessert when I see one. I love the idea on how the sago turns totally translucent regardless what color it is before the cooking.
This recipe called for freshly grated coconut and as I couldn't locate any, I substituted with unsweetened dessicated coconut. And indeed I was surprised on the outcome and there is always truth to the saying 'You will never know until and unless you try!' Although I would say my trying was more out of desperation rather than experimenting as I really love this kuih and I had a red one everyday for the 2 months I was back in Malaysia last year. I am sure everyone agrees with me that the yearning for certain food which is unavailable here leads to a will and determination to start making the food with your own hands! So, I wouldn't be hindered by anything and will trying everything.
The dried dessicated coconut seems to work well, infact I think it gives a more intense flavor to the kuih than the one I had back home which uses the fresh ones. It retains the moisture from the steaming and complemented the texture of the sago. If you relish a piece slowly rather than gobbling everything in, you can feel the soft round sago pearls and soft moist sweet flakes of coconut, meddling with each other to entertain your palate. This dessert goes well with coffee and tea and can be served at room temperature or chilled.