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The tale of sabudana

I have always been fascinated by the little edible pearls that are wonderfully white when raw and almost translucent when cooked. Yes you have guessed it right – these little wonders are called sago in English and sabudana in Hindi.

Sabudana forms an integral part of the vrat ka khana almost all over India. They are converted into various delicacies both savoury and sweet and very much enjoyed by all.

What is sabudana

Sabudana is a vegetarian processed food, which is why it is used during vrats. Commonly also known as sago, sabudana is made from the starch extracted from tapioca tuber. Sabudana is variously called sagudana, javvarishi, chowwary.

Sabudana is high in carbohydrate and low in fat. Which means it can be had by those who are watching their weight. It is also one of the first food items – apart from milk – most Indians feed to little babies and is also consumed during festivals. Sabudana is preferred over other food items because it is full of starch and does not contain any artificial sweeteners or chemicals. It is also used as a health food for sick as it gives quick energy and is easy to digest. It is a well known fact that sabudana has a cooling effect on our system and hence sabudana-gruel is given to people who have excess bile.

How to cook sabudana

As we already know sabudana is starch. And it is not easy to cook it especially with water. So when you want to cook it, first hydrate it. By that I mean wash it thoroughly with water, drain and then place it in a wide bowl, add water to just enough to cover it. Cover the bowl and let it soak for four to six hours. And when you remove the cover lo and behold beautifully fluffed sabudana pearls.

How to buy sabudana

While buying sabudana choose those that are even sized and white coloured. The pearls should be whole and not crushed. If the pearls are the regular sized, make khichdi. The large nylon pearls are good for vadas and the mini pearls are good to make kheers and payasams.

Nutritional benefits of sabudana

100 grams of sabudana contains 351 kcal, 87 grams carbohydrate, 0.2 gram fat and 0.2 gram protein. It provides low amount of minerals, vitamins, calcium, iron, and fiber. However, lack of these nutrients are made up by adding other ingredients such as milk, vegetables and peanuts.

Cook’s corner

Cook up some fantastic delicacies with sabudana. I can enjoy sabudana khichdi anytime any day and at home we don’t wait for a festival or fast. The best thing about this khichdi is the crushed roasted peanuts which give it a lovely crunch and also add proteins to the dish. But I have a suggestion: make the khichdi in pure ghee and not oil.

Another thing that is very popular, especially in Maharashtra, is the sabudana vada. Soak sabudana, mix with boiled and mashed potatoes, crushed roasted peanuts, green chillies, fresh coriander leaves and salt. That is all it needs to shape them into flat patties. Deep-fry and serve with coriander chutney. Absolutely delicious! But do go easy on them for they do absorb a lot of oil. If you are not going to have them when on fast, add a dash of dry spicy garlic chutney. This raises the vadas to a different level.

Sabudana kheer or payasam is something that can be prepared in a jiffy. If you have unexpected guests for a meal, just soak a handful of sabudana. They will be ready by the time you have prepare the other items on your menu. Cook the sabudana in milk till they become translucent. Open a tin of sweet condensed milk and dilute it to required consistency. Add green cardamom powder and saffron for flavour and garnish with fried cashewnuts and raisins. For a variation serve it chilled with melon balls.

You can serve sabudana wafers or papads with cocktails – they are just yummy. These days you get sabudana wafers in various colours and shapes and they never fail to fascinate people, especially little children.

You can also make sabudana chikki which is something I tasted recently and simply loved it. And yes there is the falhari sabudana chiwda which can be had during fasts. And how can you forget the sabudana thalipeeth, a Maharashtrian delicacy that is simply irresistible.