While in Manila I became a huge fan of these coolers. Depending on the amount of syrup it can be sinfully sweet, but that can be adjusted. It’s refreshing and perfect for those hot Manila days (which was everyday)! Once I found out our incredible friend and helper, Openg, can make them I asked her to make it quite often.
As I have no cooking skills whatsoever, I copy a recipe below in entirety from Jun-blog, a Filipino food blog. You must check out his post on sago and gulaman coolers for great pics. His recipe below looks like what Openg made, with some adjustments. She put pandan leaves in the water when simmering the sago pearls. And she added coconut milk to the drink. The batches are stored in separate containers in the refrigerator, to be mixed fresh for each glass. Fresh coconut milk doesn’t last very long so when it ran out I added regular cow’s milk.
Sago and Gulaman Coolers, makes six to eight servings (recipe from Jun Belen)
For sago pearls
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
6 cups water
1/4 cup sago pearls
For arnibal, brown sugar syrup
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup water
Put sugar and water in a large saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Add sago pearls and stir until water returns to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, and continue cooking sago with the lid on, stirring occasionally, until they are almost translucent with a pinpoint of white in the center. Sago is cooked when it is tender but still chewy. Drain, rinse under cold water, and drain again. Set aside.
Small sago pearls take about 20 to 30 minutes to cook while the bigger ones take much longer. In low heat, simmer big pearls with the lid on for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, then turn off the heat and let them continue to cook in the saucepan for about an hour. If they are still not done, bring water to another boil, reduce heat, and simmer with the lid on for another 30 minutes. Repeat the process until they are almost translucent with a pinpoint of white in the center. Cooking sago in a rapid boil for a long time breaks them apart and makes them too soft and too mushy. Sago can be prepared ahead of time. Transfer drained cooked sago pearls to a container, add enough water to cover pearls, cover and refrigerate for up to a few days. Stir well and then drain before using.
To make gulaman, tear agar-agar into smaller pieces. Add water to a saucepan. Add agar-agar and soak in water for half an hour. Bring water to a boil and simmer until agar-agar is fully dissolved. Add sugar and cook for ten minutes. Pour in a flat pan or dish and let it cool until agar-agar sets. Cut into small cubes with a knife. Set aside.
To make arnibal, put sugar, vanilla, and water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. One part sugar to one part water. Reduce heat to a simmer and stir a minute or two, until the sugar dissolves. Take off heat, let it completely cool and set aside.
Assemble coolers by mixing sago and gulaman in glasses. Add arnibal, ice-cold water, and crushed ice, and mix everything together.