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Sepik Nangu: Traditional Papua New Guinea Recipe

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Nangu is a much-loved dish in Papua New Guinea

Nangu is a much-loved dish in Papua New Guinea

What Is Nangu?

Nangu is a traditional dish of the Papua New Guinean provinces of East Sepik and West Sepik (now called Sandaun). Often served as part of the daily meal, nangu is made from white sago and hot water.

Sago is a starch that is extracted from the spongy center of various tropical palm stems; a common source is Metroxylon sagu. For the coastal peoples of Papua New Guinea—particularly in the Sepik region, close to the Indonesian border—sago is a staple food. In this region, it is called saksak.

The recipe for nangu has been passed down, generation after generation, by the ancestors. Today, it is prepared and eaten nearly everywhere in Papua New Guinea. Indeed, it is a nationally beloved dish.

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Cook Time

Prep timeCook timeReady inYields

3 min

5 min

8 min

4 to 5 servings


  • 1 1/2 liters hot water
  • Warm water, as needed, to loosen sago
  • 2 lemongrass stems, finely chopped
  • 1 kilogram dry sago

Necessary Equipment

  • Aluminium bowl
  • Large wooden spoon
  • 2 chopsticks


  1. Boil the water and add lemongrass stems for flavor.
  2. Pour the sago into a bowl. Add just enough warm water to loosen up the sago. (Note: The warm water used for loosening the sago is not the boiled water from step 1. Use a separate supply of plain, warm water.)
  3. Hand-mix the sago in warm water to loosen. Strain to remove any stems or other debris. Set aside.
  4. As soon as the water boils, give the sago another stir. Little by little, pour in the boiling water and continue to stir until well blended. (Do not add the lemongrass stems.) This process requires a lot of boiling water and continued stirring.
  5. When the sago takes on a jelly-like consistency, with no visible white powder remaining, it is ready to serve.
  6. To serve, dip both chopsticks into the sago and lift out just enough to shape into small round balls. Set aside on a serving plate. (Locally, nangu is often served on the leaves of banana, breadfruit, or coconut trees.)
  7. This dish pairs well with coconut milk soup and greens.

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