Sago is a starch extracted from the spongy centre, or pith, of various tropical palm stems, especially that of Metroxylon sagu. It is a major staple food for the lowland peoples of New Guinea and the Moluccas, where it is called saksak, rabia and sagu.
The largest supply of sago comes from the South-East Asia, particularly Indonesia and Malaysia. Large quantities of sago are sent to Europe and North America for cooking purposes. It is traditionally cooked and eaten in various forms, such as rolled into balls, mixed with boiling water to form a glue-like paste (papeda), or as a pancake. Sago is often produced commercially in the form of “pearls” (small rounded starch aggregates, partly gelatinized by heating). Sago pearls can be boiled with water or milk and sugar to make a sweet sago pudding. Sago pearls are similar in appearance as the pearled starches of other origin, e.g. cassava starch (tapioca) and potato starch, and they may be used interchangeably in some dishes.
Sago is nearly pure carbohydrate and has very little protein, vitamins, or minerals. 100 grams of dry sago typically comprises 94 grams of carbohydrate, 0.2 grams of protein, 0.5 grams of dietary fiber, 10 mg of calcium, 1.2 mg of iron and negligible amounts of fat, carotene, thiamine and ascorbic acid and yields approximately 355 calories. Sago palms are typically found in areas unsuited for other forms of agriculture, so sago cultivation is often the most ecologically appropriate form of land-use and the nutritional deficiencies of the food can often be compensated for with other readily available foods.