This caramelised pumpkin sago pudding recipe makes a sweet Cambodian dessert called borbor lapov. Made with pumpkin and sago pearls – lapov is pumpkin in Khmer while a borbor is a porridge – it’s a sweet porridge eaten as a street food snack. At home, you can add vanilla or coconut ice cream and a sprinkle of sesame seeds.
If you loved our creamy mango sago recipe and banana coconut tapioca pudding with star anise and sesame, then you are going to love this caramelised pumpkin sago pudding recipe as well. The caramelised pumpkin combines with the sago pearls to create a pudding that is sweet and textured and, if you serve it warm, also very comforting.
For me, it’s a perfect post-dinner dessert that’s made for cool autumn/fall weather or even early spring evenings. Although here in Southeast Asia these sorts of sweets are rarely eaten after dinner when locals prefer to enjoy fruit to aid digestion.
Rather, desserts are eaten as a snack at any time of the day, even before dinner. In pre-pandemic times, Cambodians would pick up desserts such as this caramelised pumpkin sago pudding from the local market or a dessert stall, mobile cart or shop.
Or they might slip out to a casual local eatery specialising in sweets, where all the different desserts would be laid out in trays and customers choose what they want, sometimes combining a number of sweets on one plate. Those were the days…
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Caramelised Pumpkin Sago Pudding Recipe for the Cambodian Dessert Porridge Borbor Lapov
I have to confess that I don’t have a sweet tooth, which is why after all these months years of recipe testing Cambodian dishes for our epic Cambodian cookbook and culinary history, we’re only just now getting to Cambodian desserts.
I’m calling this caramelised pumpkin sago pudding a Cambodian dessert, as it’s a Cambodian recipe – or a combination of Cambodian recipes! (that confession comes next) – but I appreciate that you’ll come across this dessert and very similar desserts in other parts of Southeast Asia.
While there’s much in Southeast Asian cooking that’s ‘same same but different’ – spring rolls is the best example; the larb / laab / laap salads of northern Southeast Asian another – with discernible differences that set dishes apart, desserts across the region are far more similar than different. Some recipes are exactly the same.
I have another confession: I’ve actually combined two Cambodian desserts to create this caramelised pumpkin sago pudding recipe for borbor lapov. Most pumpkin porridge recipes don’t call for caramelised pumpkin. The pumpkin is typically cooked with the sago and, in my opinion, it really lacks something.
There’s another Cambodian dessert called domlong chung skor, which is caramelised sweet potato with palm sugar, and this dessert is typically served cold with condensed milk, coconut cream and crushed ice.
I’ve taken inspiration from that sweet potato dessert and caramelised the pumpkin, resulting in a more delicious dessert. Just a few quick tips to making this caramelised pumpkin sago pudding.
Tips for Making this Caramelised Pumpkin Sago Pudding Recipe for the Borbor Lapov
I only have a few tips to making this caramelised pumpkin sago pudding as it’s really very easy. Caramelising the pumpkin is super simple, so apart from saying that you could use any variety of sweet pumpkin or squash, such as butternut, or even sweet potato, I’ll jump right into tips for cooking with sago pearls.
Just a few points about cooking with sago pearls. I covered the difference between sago pearls and tapioca pearls and how they’re often used interchangeably here in Southeast Asia in the mango sago recipe tips, so if you want to know more about that, click on the link to that recipe above.
I will repeat here for ease, however, that it’s so very important to accurately measure your water and sago pearls so that you don’t over-cook the sago pearls and they become gluggy. They also have a tendency to disintegrate if you either soak them for too long or cook them for too long in too much water.
For measuring the sago pearls, I’ve used metric measuring cups where 1/2 cup is 125 g/ml, and we use a Pyrex measuring jug for liquids, so if you’re not using metric measurement cups, best to use mls.
Try not to rinse your sago pearls before cooking them, unless you’re really concerned about impurities, and definitely don’t soak your sago pearls, as sago pearls love liquid and will soak it right up. Also make sure that you don’t start with cold water in the pot. You want to begin with a rolling boil.
If you are cooking with sago pearls for the first time, I strongly suggest using a timer or stopwatch and following the times in the recipe below. Having said that, note that they can vary. The sago I cooked with yesterday cooked a lot faster than usual and I have no explanation for that except that the packet had been open for a few months, so perhaps the exposure to the elements affected it.
Whereas the mango sago recipe I shared is delicious chilled, for me this is a cool weather dish and best served warm. But the caramelised sweet potato recipe that was partly an inspiration is often served with ice, so there’s that.
If you have a sweet tooth, served with additional coconut cream and/or condensed milk drizzled on top. I also think a coconut or vanilla ice cream would work a treat, but I’ve not tried it yet myself. Let me know if you do.
And if you enjoy this caramelised pumpkin porridge recipe, do browse our other Cambodian and Southeast Asian dessert recipes, such as this Thai mango and sticky rice, Vietnamese sweet corn pudding, Cambodian banana coconut tapioca pudding and mango sago pudding (links above for the last two).
Caramelised Pumpkin Sago Pudding Recipe
- 450 g pumpkin chopped into large cubes
- 400 ml water
- 200 g white sugar
- 750 ml water
- 125 g sago pearls
- 2 tbsp coconut cream
- 2 tbsp grated coconut
- ½ tsp salt
- sugar to taste optional
- 2 tbsp grated coconut
- 2 tbsp coconut cream
- Make the caramelised pumpkin first: transfer the pumpkin cubes and sugar to a cooking pot over medium-high heat, pour in the water so that it just covers the pumpkin (add a little more water if needed), and stir occasionally so it doesn’t stick to the bottom and burn.
- When the pumpkin begins to caramelise and the water is all but gone, remove the lid, turn the heat up to high, and stir so that it caramelises but doesn’t burn, then remove from the heat and set aside.
- Move onto the sago pudding: to a pot of 750 ml of boiling water, add the sago pearls, and turn on your timer/stopwatch. Boil the sago for around 10-12 minutes on high, ensuring a rolling boil is maintained, and stir every couple of minutes until the sago pearls are transparent.
- At around 12 minutes, reduce the heat to low and put the lid on the pot, but continue to check on the sago pearls and stir thoroughly every minute or so, to ensure the pearls don’t stick to the pot.
- By 15-16 minutes, the sago should have thickened up nicely. If the white dots have almost disappeared and the sago is coming away from the sides of the pot when you stir it, it’s almost ready. Turn off the heat, put the lid on the pot, and let the sago steam.
- At 25 minutes, the sago pearls should be done: the sago should be dense and all the white dots should have gone.
- Transfer the caramelised pumpkin to the pot of sago pearls, along with the coconut cream, grated coconut, and salt. Stir carefully so that everything combines and the sago turns orange, but the pumpkin does not break apart too much. Try it and if needed add a little sugar to your taste.
- Garnish with a little grated coconut and perhaps a swirl of coconut cream if you like, then serve immediately while it’s still warm.
Please do let us know if you make our caramelised pumpkin sago pudding recipe in the comments below, as we’d love to know how it turns out for you.