Oh, whisk me away from this winter, please!

I was cold. I was miserably cold. I was bundled up in layers but I was still cold.

There was frost on our rooftop. There was frost on the ground, on the grass where the girls graze. There was even ice in our pond in our front yard. Ice, believe it or not. A fragile sheet of ice but a sheet of ice, nonetheless. Stanford — unfazed by the cold, unfazed by practically anything — tugged firmly at his leash while I lugged myself begrudgingly behind him for our morning walk.

I planned the weekend in my head as we shuffled around the block. I planned it around one thing — around food, of course. I ticked off my to-do’s one after another while I ticked off ingredients, checking if I already had them at home or if I had to venture out to the store. Sticky rice and chocolate for champorado. Coconut milk, saba bananas, and sweet potatoes for ginataan. My kind of comfort food for this kind of weather.

Then I remembered my ritual on cold mornings when I was little. My morning ritual of waiting for the cry of the hawker peddling taho [tah-] on the streets, of waiting for him and his pair of metal tubs he balanced deftly on a bamboo pole fixed on his shoulders. My ritual of warming up to a glass of chewy sago [sah-goh] and creamy silken tofu sweetened with arnibal [ahr-nee-bahl], a simple syrup made of brown sugar. The mere thought of the childhood treat made the cold that morning a little less miserable.

Sago pearls, silken tofu, and more brown sugar. I added them to my grocery list and hurried back home.




Taho Recipe, makes four servings

For sago pearls

1/4 cup dark brown sugar
6 cups water
1/4 cup sago pearls

For arnibal, brown sugar syrup

1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup water

1 one-pound package organic silken tofu

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.

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 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 and set aside.

Steam silken tofu in a steamer until heated through, about 15 minutes.

Divide tofu equally into four glasses or bowls. Add sago pearls and sweeten with arnibal. Mix together and serve warm.




  • Anonymous

    Yummy slurpy good!! Once again, your presentation of our Filipino favorites is always much prettier than what I remember getting at home. I love the addition of sago- we didn’t do that for some reason. Stay warm and thanks for the post!

  • http://blog.junbelen.com/ Jun Belen

    Soft and chewy sago is the best part!

  • Row

    Kuya Jun, it’s minus 31C over here (brrr!), so your idea to make champorado and taho is brilliant! Nothing like warm comfort food to keep the cold away. :)

  • http://twitter.com/pickyin Chang Pick Yin 鄭碧瑩

    It amazes me how much Filipino food is similar to Chinese. We have a similar silken tofu dessert served with melted Gula Melaka too.

  • http://www.readnowsleeplater.com/ Alethea Allarey

    I confess, this was the only thing that got me to school in the mornings–the promise that the Mang Taho would sell me 3-4 cups of it to guzzle down before class, and 2 more if I was lucky and he was back again after lunch.

  • http://twitter.com/daisyt13 Daisy’s World

    Your photos just brought me back to my childhood. I love taho with sago.


  • http://blog.junbelen.com/ Jun Belen

    Minus 31C? I should stop whining about winter here in California. I guess our cold spell is over this week (it’s a bit warmer than last week) and it has travelled east to you! Stay warm!

  • http://blog.junbelen.com/ Jun Belen

    Yes! Plenty of similarities. Filipinos have adapted so much of Chinese cuisine and have made it their own. What is melted Gula Melaka?

  • http://blog.junbelen.com/ Jun Belen

    Thank you, Daisy!

  • http://blog.junbelen.com/ Jun Belen

    It was my energy drink, too, when I was little! Thank you, Alethea, for writing.

  • Liz N.

    This totally brings me back to my family’s birthday parties and celebrations. There was always a big pot of taho and it was one of my favorite things to eat. Thank you for sharing this recipe! I’m avoiding soy so do you have any recommendations for alternatives for the silken tofu?

  • Jo Zalea Matias

    Some days I want taho so badly I want to cry. Thank you so much for this post – I’ll make this as soon as I can get the ingredients!

  • http://www.facebook.com/Denise.L.Woodward Denise Woodward

    Jun, what a lovely story, it made me sit and think for moment. What childhood food kept me warm. For me it would have been big bowls of soup or sweet rice pudding. I wish I liked tofu; maybe this recipe will change how I feel about it. It does look darn good!!

  • MariRow

    I was so inspired by the sight of your translucent sagos and I was longing to eat taho (I missed it while in Manila last Christmas) so I ventured into preparing this and followed your recipe. I bought medium-sized tapioca pearls and followed your cooking instructions. This was the first time I tried to cook sago and darn did it take almost forever to cook those pearls! And they didnt look as good as yours : ((. Next, the arnibal… I’ll probably have the whole lot assembled, ready to eat and indulge this weekend. Wish me luck!

  • http://www.facebook.com/brian.delrosario.16 Brian Del Rosario

    Thank you Jun. I was born in the USA; but one of the iconic Filipino-isms that positively resonates in my memories of visiting the land of my parents’ birth is the call of the taho peddler. Just reminiscing about their characteristic call makes me want to run outside to track the guy down and buy two – one for now and one for five minutes from now.

  • http://blog.junbelen.com/ Jun Belen

    Thank you for writing, MariRow. I trust that your homemade taho went well and that you enjoyed it. Sago is difficult to cook — it requires a lot of patience. I have seen tapioca pearls in Asian grocery stores that are faster to cook. I have not used them so I can not vouch for them. let me know how it went.

  • holyrambutan

    a perfect treat for this summer heat

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  • jean coene

    This post practically made me cry. Why haven’t I found your blog until now? Better late than never, I suppose…

  • http://blog.junbelen.com/ Jun Belen

    Oh, Jean, I hope I made you cry in a good way! So glad you discovered the blog. I hope you’ll come back and enjoy the stories and recipes. Thank you!

  • MYGirl

    I remember this served to me on a cloudy day on the beach in the Philippines. I loved it so much. It was the perfect snack for the sand scooped out of a big ladel from a pot. I’m so inspired to make it.

  • Mai

    You make me want to cook some more. I’m a frustrated cook but i think you’re my savior so thank you.

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  • http://slowtravelguidebook.com Kate

    Thank you so much for posting such a great taho recipe! I miss taho so much (it’s been 7 years since I lived in the Philippines), and cannot wait to try making it myself now. Yummmm… :)

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