Sago Gulaman

I went to lunch with our host here in Manila and he insisted on buying me a local drink. Usually this means I should prepare myself for something stronger than I would normally drink at noon, but hey, mom always said try new things, right? Well it was every bit as strong as expected, but not in the way I expected at all.
Many northerners I’ve met seem to enjoy making fun of how terribly sweet southerners make their tea. These people have obviously never tried Sago Gulaman. This stuff would make a glass of sweet tea at a Georgia Cracker Barrel seem like Earl Gray by comparison.
Sago Gulaman is a non-alcoholic drink that I think must be made by pouring just enough water over a pile of brown sugar so that the crystals will dissolve completely, then pour that over (get this) jelly, before adding ice and little balls of jello. Since the camera-phone picture above that I took is of such poor quality, below is a web image that most closely resembles what I had. A reasonably clear picture was harder to come by than I had expected. The only explanation that I could think of while doing my web search is that most pictures of this drink are taken just as the photographer is beginning to enter diabetic shock.
The drink is not as thick as pancake syrup, but it is every bit as sweet, if not more so. The first thing that struck me was how fat the straw was. It was almost large enough in diameter to drop a dime through. I quickly discovered the reason for this. See those little white balls in the picture above? It was nearly impossible to take a sip that was not accompanied by the “thhhwunk” of one of these things hitting the roof of my mouth as it got sucked up into the straw.

“How do you like your Gulaman?”

“Mmm, (thhhwunk). Wow, I’ve never had anything like this before. (thhhwunk thwunk). Hey you wouldn’t happen to have any spare insulin on you, would ya?”

Now for the educational portion of our post for all you home-schoolers looking to add a bit of cultural exploration to your day.

Turns out that the specifics of my ingredient list are inaccurate. Sago is not a jello ball at all. It is an extract made from the pith of a Sago Palm, and is apparently similar to tapioca.

Gulaman is not a typical gelatin but is made from processed seaweed.

Feel free to follow the links for a little more info. Take note of the reference to the Chinese Konjac Jelly in the Gulaman link. I am absolutely hooked on that stuff. I’ll be bringing more of that home from Singapore this time. I’m not sure if it can be bought in the US anymore. Perhaps I’ll leave some with Walter and Donna to share with the family. If you’re lucky enough to get one from them, be careful. They are apparently quite deadly.

Oh, and since this post is all over the place anyway… Lunch also included fish.


About Wendy Woerner

wife, mama to five, blogger, foodie, works in social media and marketing, loves Jesus
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One Response to Sago Gulaman

  1. Hey Karl! this is Jennifer, your aunt lou's granddaughter…I live in japan and just loved reading your entry about the drink. If you stop in Singapore you must try the singapore sling…It's alcoholic drink but very good. you can ask for it on the plane. You can also buy it premade in the airport shop. Is it hot enough for you in the phillipines? Have fun and don't eat that fish looking at you…lol

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