mango pomelo sago, with haupia

mango pomelo sago, with haupia | two red bowls
mango pomelo sago, with haupia | two red bowls

I’ve written a lot about how much I love the food in Hong Kong. I’ll probably write more even after this. I’m a food-oriented person to begin with (I know, shocker) and the places I’ve been and the memories I have are, a lot of times, defined by the things I ate and savored and enjoyed in any one place at any one time. But all that said, Hong Kong might still be the greatest food city I’ve ever been to.

The first real meal I had in Hong Kong was courtesy of my cousin, who is lucky enough to call HK home and to whom I owe about 85% of my HK food journey. He took me to a traditional Cantonese restaurant, the sort with the ubiquitous Lazy Susan crowded with small plates and bamboo baskets, and the first dish he ordered was, fittingly, a plate of the most perfect char siu, lacquered ruby red and glistening, sliced into pieces with the fat and lean distributed just so. I’m pretty sure from that first bite (or, that first plate, since I think I single-handedly ate all of it) I didn’t have a bad meal for the entire four months I was there. Chewy, crumbly pineapple cakes from Kee Wah, nibbled in their plastic jackets on an open-air walkway from Central to Sheung Wan; fish ball skewers in electric yellow curry on a narrow street in Causeway Bay; “quicksand” lau sa bao filled with molten egg custard at a dim sum joint that opened at 3 AM for the late night crowd.  Creamy yuan yang and silky-soft scrambled eggs on toast at Australia Dairy Company. A mountain of ground pork with a single salted duck yolk perched exactly on top, the most umami-filled dish I’ve ever had, ordered for me in fluid Cantonese by a friend and shared under fluorescent lighting in a hole-in-the-wall on a balmy fall night. I used to take the bus to a random neighborhood and just wander, window-shopping food things, until I found something I wanted to eat, and from the KFC egg tarts to the best, penthouse restaurant hairy crab, it was all some of the best food I’ve ever had.

One of my favorite desserts in the hotter months was a chilled sweet pudding-slash-soup called mango pomelo sago, a classic Hong Kong dessert that I first had, again, courtesy of my cousin. The base is a smooth, nectarous mango soup, and then you can get all kinds of combinations on top — most often more cubed mango, sweet and mildly tart pomelo vesicles (the word I’ve now learned means “those little teardrop sacs of juice inside citrus segments”), and chewy balls of sago, a close cousin to tapioca, but you could get inky-black grass jelly, wobbly silken tofu, melon balls, and a myriad of other things, too.  It was so good that, in a place where I felt everything vied for position as my favorite thing ever, mango pomelo sago still managed to stand out.

So, with the weather starting to warm up (just, at times), and with HK nostalgia never far from my mind, I went on a hunt across my neighborhood to find everything to recreate this at home, while mangoes are coming into season and pomelos are still lingering in spots.  I couldn’t help adding in just a little twist on my homemade version — my favorite iteration of the dessert was one with silken tofu, but I always found myself wishing that part was just a tad sweeter and more flavorful.  So I subbed in one of my favorite things from Hawaii — haupia! It’s the dreamiest coconut treat that’s halfway between custard and jelly, and with the coconut milk already in the mango soup, it was the absolute perfect addition to round it all off (and to use exactly one can of coconut milk for the recipe, which always makes me feel disproportionately triumphant).  The dish is refreshing to slurp but rich enough to feel decadent, and the contrast in textures between the creamy soft cubes of mango and haupia, tiny bursts of juicy pomelo and bits of chewy sago, makes it a joy to eat. I hope you love this as much as I do!

mango pomelo sago, with haupia | two red bowls
mango pomelo sago, with haupia | two red bowls
mango pomelo sago, with haupia | two red bowls
mango pomelo sago, with haupia | two red bowls mango pomelo sago, with haupia | two red bowls
mango pomelo sago, with haupia | two red bowls
mango pomelo sago, with haupia | two red bowls

Mango pomelo sago, with haupia.

Yellow Ataulfo mangoes are in season right now and have a creamy, custard-like consistency with this amazing, nearly caramel flavor -- I loved them in this application, but the red-green mangoes, while more fibrous, will work wonderfully too. Haupia recipe with help from Maui goddess Fix Feast Flair and Focus Snap Eat!


  • for the haupia:
  • 1 cup unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1/2 cup water (or milk, for a creamier haupia)
  • to assemble:
  • 1/4 cup uncooked sago or tapioca pearls (or about 1 cup cooked)
  • 2 cups cubed mango, divided (about 2-3 mangoes)
  • scant 3/4 cup unsweetened coconut milk, divided (or what’s left in a 13.5 ounce can)
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup mango juice, as needed to thin to desired consistency
  • about 1 tbsp agave nectar or simple syrup, to taste (you can also use honey if not vegan)
  • 1/2 cup peeled and separated pomelo sacs (or grapefruit)


  1. To make the haupia, combine coconut milk and sugar in a saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium-low heat. In a small bowl, whisk the cornstarch and water until smooth. Add the cornstarch slurry to the saucepan and continue to cook, whisking continuously, until the mixture thickens to a pudding-like texture. Remove from the heat and pour into a 8x4” loaf pan, or a pan of similar size. There is no need to grease the pan. Cover with plastic wrap and transfer to fridge to chill and set, about two to three hours.
  2. Meanwhile, prepare the tapioca. Bring a pot of water to boil, then add the tapioca pearls and simmer for about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and cover tightly. Let sit for an additional 10-20 minutes, until tapioca is translucent and fully cooked. Rinse tapioca to remove extra starch and drain. Set aside.
  3. Using a blender or food processor, purΓ©e 1 1/2 cup cubed mango and 1/2 cup coconut milk until smooth. Add the mango juice and stir until the purΓ©e reaches your desired consistency. Add the honey, agave nectar, or simple syrup, to taste. Finally, add the prepared tapioca and let the mixture chill in fridge until cold, and until haupia has set.
  4. To serve, slice haupia into cubes. Portion out tapioca mixture into individual bowls, then garnish with haupia cubes, remaining diced mango, pomelo, and a swirl of the remaining coconut milk. Enjoy cold.


On substitutions: I was pleasantly surprised to be able to snag a pomelo for this (and it was pink to boot, so pretty!) but grapefruit will work just fine in a pinch, as would regular oranges. As for the sago, tapioca is a fine and nearly indistinguishable substitute, and it's what I used here -- though, surprisingly, it was the hardest ingredient for me to find! If you have trouble too, check your grocery store's section of Bob's Red Mill products, which is where I ultimately found mine. Finally, many other recipes call for condensed milk or evaporated milk instead of or in addition to the coconut milk -- I kept it simple here to be able to use an even can of coconut milk, but feel free to experiment!


  1. says:

    April 22, 2015 at 7:19 am

    I love EVERYTHING about this post from your oh-so-vivid descriptions of the food in HK (seriously, I want to jump on a plane right this minute and go and eat all of it) to this perfectly decadent bowl of goodness to your always stunning photography. We’ve got a mango coming in our veg box next week and I was wondering what to do with it. Now i know!

  2. says:

    April 22, 2015 at 7:23 am

    Hi there! I literally just made mango sago yesterday and there’s half a pot left for tonight. : ) It is my husband’s very favorite thing! Being from HK originally, all the food you mentioned just brings me right back and makes me wish I had access to all that goodness all the time. The mango sago I make is just mango juice, sago, evaporated milk, and a thickened sugar slurry. Your version is obviously amazing! Now if only we can have a nice bowl of black sesame dessert soup with it… ; )

    • tworedbowls says:

      April 29, 2015 at 10:54 am

      Your version sounds so delicious, Monica!!! (And oh my gosh, yes — black sesame dessert soup for all!) Thank you so much for stopping by!

  3. themoonblushbaker says:

    April 22, 2015 at 7:52 am

    Mango is every where in HK! I am smitten with mango pudding with loads of condense milk and those egg waffles ( Gai daan jai) from the street stalls. You trip is so well deserved and it seems like a good destination for a food eating tour.
    The brights and darks of these images are to die for! Your control of the camera is something I admire Cynthia.

    • tworedbowls says:

      April 29, 2015 at 10:55 am

      Yummmm gai daan jai!!! Oh my gosh, always so tempting whenever I walked home…. Or, whenever I walked anywhere, period! Thank you so much for such sweet words, Belinda! (Especially about the contrast! I couldn’t decide whether I liked it or not, so that means a lot!)

  4. says:

    April 22, 2015 at 8:14 am

    Omg this dish!! It has everything I love in it, and I’ve never heard of it before?! Thanks for introducing it πŸ˜€ And btw I’m totally the same about food memories. It’s always the thing I remember, and certain flavors and smells really has the ability to awake some memory and transport us to different places and feel it all over again. I especially have that relationship with greek food from countless of teenage summers spent on various islands πŸ™‚
    Gonna try this soon if I can find all ingredients here in Sweden! πŸ™‚
    Best wishes,

    • tworedbowls says:

      April 29, 2015 at 10:58 am

      Such lovely words, Agnes! You’ve captured how I feel about food memories exactly πŸ™‚ Thank you so much for such a thoughtful comment!

  5. says:

    April 22, 2015 at 8:28 am

    That color!! Cynthia, this is beautiful. I love your description of getting Cantonese, sounds like I need to go to Hong Kong now because you make the food sound amazing. The pomelo looks gorgeous in the photos, as does the recipe, but you really never take a bad photo do you? πŸ˜‰ Hope everything is going well!

  6. Lynn | The Road to Honey says:

    April 22, 2015 at 10:18 am

    The food in Hong Kong sounds amazing. I have yet to travel there; however, it is on my list of “must visits”. This dessert is so beautiful and I can see why you would want to re-create it in honor of the slow emergence of spring. Its so happy and vibrant. I bet it sends the taste buds into a happy place.

  7. Sini | My Blue&White Kitchen says:

    April 22, 2015 at 11:12 am

    “–the places I’ve been and the memories I have are, a lot of times, defined by the things I ate and savored and enjoyed in any one place at any one time–” I can totally relate to this one! Also, I must say that I have wonderful memories of various meals enjoyed in both Hong Kong and China. They have such a vibrant food culture just waiting to be explored!

    What a glorious spring dessert you’re sharing with us today! All that yellow. Love.

  8. says:

    April 22, 2015 at 11:16 am

    Firstly, your food styling/photography is just ridiculous, Cynthia! I could spend hours just flipping through a picture book of your work and be a happy girl. And these are some of my favorite photos you’ve ever posted. The contrast between light and dark; color and neutrals is STUNNING.

    Second, I’m drooling on my computer after the sound of the HK food scene. Must put it on my bucket list! And these sound genuinely amazing. I feel like I can almost taste them and it’s making me superbly happy! πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

  9. says:

    April 22, 2015 at 11:45 am

    Ohhhh sister….This is one of the best things I’ve seen as of late! (in the foodie world) I realize nowadays that my palate is super like, gimme-some-of-this-dish-or-i’ll-bite-myself-geared towards Asian food, and particularly Hong Kong’s flavors. This is beautiful in every sense of the word and reminds me of the Filipino dessert called halo halo and of course, the desserts I can only get my hands on when I go out with my girlfriends to a cute little Asian cafe. Maybe now it won’t be so much drama to eat this whenever I want though, thanks to you?! ^_^ And have a beautiful day!

  10. stephanie says:

    April 22, 2015 at 11:50 am

    ahhh…i want to go back to hk and eat all the things!!!

    yes yes yes to this mago pomelo sago πŸ™‚ every time i see a mango i think of hui lau shan and how i would just casually order the mango juice with mango jelly and mango cubes on every other street. ugh. major craving now!!!

    i love the way you think lady… πŸ™‚

  11. says:

    April 22, 2015 at 6:04 pm

    I love how food brings about such a vivid memory of Hong Kong for you. I felt like I was right there while reading this. You continue to inspire me with such creative and soulful dishes. This is truly your “Soul Food” and I love it.

  12. says:

    April 22, 2015 at 6:47 pm

    HEART EYES FOR DAYS. OMG OMG OMG to all of this but especially the haupia situation. Also, I want to hear more about HK, so bring it on–seriously cannot wait for the next HK inspired recipe. P.s. My heart swelled about five sizes just now (Maui goddess…me? πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€ :D). <3 <3 <3

  13. says:

    April 22, 2015 at 7:16 pm

    yay, love reading about your food memories! and i am in total love with these vibrant yellow bowls, and your photos just capture it all so beautifully, cynthia! hope you and b2 are well, and enjoying the warmer temps, xo!

  14. says:

    April 22, 2015 at 9:37 pm

    Just beautiful, love this flavour combo. My wife was born in HK so I’ve been lucky enough to visit a few times and wow, the food! My favourite thing is finding a good bakery early in the morning to get a daan taat that is still warm and crispy …. I’m drooling!

  15. says:

    April 24, 2015 at 8:43 am

    I need to make it to Hong Kong (or really, anywhere in Asia!) at some point soon. I have a feeling I would be BLOWN away by the food and be in heaven. This is gorgeous. Love the flavors, colors, and whole thing! πŸ™‚

  16. says:

    April 24, 2015 at 5:13 pm

    These vibrant colors are are making me SO happy, I can only image how amazing this must taste. This recipe looks absolutely wonderful lady! XX

  17. says:

    April 26, 2015 at 4:13 pm

    I love how you explore; take a bus & get lost in the moment πŸ™‚ It’s the most daring & rewarding way to explore the area. I said ‘daring’ because when I was in HK, my (old) boss repeatedly told me, “Pang, you have to keep the Hotel’s address with you, and DO NOT remember 7-11 as the point of direction to return back to the hotel.” I still got lost many times on that trip… hahaha Though I am with you on the food wise; they have seriously delicious dishes (drooling)

    Surprisingly, I have never had this before, but judging from your wonderful photos, I probably need to make it sooner than later πŸ™‚

  18. says:

    April 26, 2015 at 4:33 pm

    Your writing brings back such memories of my own times in Hong Kong. I love this. It’s going right to the top on my list of things I want to make. Adding haupia -> awesome. Yours in honestly more beautiful than any I’ve ever seen in Hong Kong!

  19. says:

    April 26, 2015 at 7:36 pm

    I tried Haupia for the first time in Hawaii last month. It’s been on my to-cook list since then- I have a feeling this recipe will come in handy! Thanks ( :

  20. says:

    April 28, 2015 at 12:28 pm

    This Pennsylvania Dutch girl has NO IDEA what most of those foods you mentioned are. But they sure sound exotic! I became a mango fanatic in college and I’ve been enjoying them plain over the past few weeks, but this certainly sounds interesting ….

  21. says:

    July 25, 2015 at 3:00 am

    I love love love the colors on this post. This is my fav. dessert in HK too, reading your post is sooo making me want to pop out and get it…(shame it’s raining outside…)

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