Sago Porridge & Paper Tiger
My trip to Sri Lanka was almost 4 months ago and I'm still feeding off it! It’s the travel destination on everybody’s lips and I can warmly recommend it to everybody. While I was there, I took part in an amazing wellbeing week hosted by a group called Paper Tiger and held at Talalla Retreat.
Paper Tiger is a Sydney based health and wellbeing duo named Casey and Jenna. They offer fitness classes, retreats and so called Balance Breaks as well as health media (videos etc.). These lovely girls started their wellness camps because they know how it feels to work too hard and struggle to find a balance between our professional and personal lives.
Paper Tiger is their version of a health ’retreat’ – but they’re all about balance. Amazing locations, great people, incredible food, lots of exercise and some pampering and personal development too. And there is no better place than Sri Lanka to experience all of that. What I really loved about the camp with Casey and Jenna was the combination of relaxing, sport and cooking. I fell in love with all the different spices, fruit and vegetables I had never seen before and the tasty curries I ate almost every day. Sri Lankans love spices and whatever you eat, it will make your palate sing. Curry and rice are the main dishes in Sri Lanka. They tend to add fish, meat and coconut, a staple ingredient, in some form or another. I particularly enjoyed the coconut salsa omelette in the mornings. Something else I had never had before but grew to love was Sago pudding with passion fruit. It was the Paper Tiger signature dish – you'll find the recipe at the end of this post. Sago is a type of starch extracted from the spongy centre or pith of various tropical palm stems. In Sri Lankan cuisine, it is mostly used for pancakes, but can also be shaped into little dumplings or mixed with boiling water or coconut milk. And that’s what I did – I tried to make delicious Sago Porridge. Please find my creation with some summery fruit below. And Here's more about my Sri Lanka trip in April and the delicious food I ate there (in German though).
To get a feeling of this great retreat, watch this video and read the interview I did with the Paper Tiger girls. And if Sri Lanka has been on your bucket list - today is your lucky day. Paper Tiger are running two of their famous Balance Breaks from Sept 27 - Oct 3 AND Oct 3 - 10. JUST THINK: all the SURFING, YOGA, PILATES, BOXING, BARRE and incredible food you can handle PLUS a pamper package, personal development and writing exercises, excursions to tea plantations and more - and of course, HEAPS of down time by the pool (and a few drinks, if that's on your holiday agenda). It's THE go-to health retreat in Sri Lanka and YOU can be there! If you out yourself as a Foodtastic fan, you even get $100USD off. Just mention FOODTASTIC when you book.
When and why did you start Paper Tiger Wellness?
The initial business idea came to Jenna while she was running on a treadmill in Thailand…
CB: I was at work in Sydney and got this frantic, out of breath phone call from Jenna. I thought something was seriously wrong!
JK: I literally fell off the treadmill to grab my phone and call her… as soon as I started telling her my idea, she was like…
CB:“Oh my god, I was just thinking the exact same thing…”
JK: It was meant to be, I guess. The universe said YES.
Many health and wellbeing brands are about striving for some sort of perfection, but we just wanted to find balance in our own lives and share it with other people looking for the same thing. So balance is key in our philosophy and the way we teach and communicate – and that means a glass of wine (ok, a couple) here and there, a whole lot of dessert and making mistakes along the way.
Paper Tiger Trips: how do they work? How many people can come? Can a group of people or friends also choose a country and suggest things or design the trip with you? How do you plan/design these trips?
This is our version of a health ’retreat’ – but it's all about balance. Amazing locations, great people, incredible food, lots of exercise and some pampering and personal development too. We also have a few drinks along the way, there’s often cheese involved… and music. Lots of music!
We take a maximum of 12 people but prefer 10 so we can get as much one-on-one time with guests as possible. At the moment, our international locations are Bali and Sri Lanka, but we’re always open to exploring new places. Certainly if people have a particular place in mind and get a private group together, we love tailoring packages for them. All of our trips are designed around what the individual guest wants to achieve while they’re with us – we offer an initial consultation, so we can make sure they get the most out of their week.
What did you study and how did it all come about?
CB: I was always into health, and when I studied journalism, I decided to make it my focus because it was all I ever wanted to write/talk about. I moved to Sydney about 8 years ago and was incredibly fortunate to land a job with Dr Norman Swan, who’s the foremost health broadcaster in Australia and potentially the world. I worked under him for 6 years and got to travel the world interviewing leading health professionals for our evidence-based health program Tonic (tonictv.com) and more. I added health coaching and barre training to my CV, so I could not only communicate other people’s findings and advice as a journalist but throw in and apply some of my own in a really practical way.
JK: I’ve always been a sporty girl but I actually spent more than 8 years as a video producer, which was creative and fun, but challenging and demanding. I’ve always loved storytelling and hearing people’s stories. After burning myself out doing long production hours, I spent several months living in Thailand, getting back to my roots. That meant wellbeing, not just fitness and diet, but mental wellbeing, striking a balance to find my better self – and that’s when it all started.
What does the name Paper Tiger stand for?
The Paper represents something that’s very malleable – cut it, fold it, scrunch it and make it into whatever you like. We love the concept of reinvention and being able to make your life whatever you want – no matter where you’ve come from or who you’ve been thus far. The Paper is where the origami concept comes in that you see in our logo and throughout our branding. The Tiger represents being able to be (and ALLOWING yourself to be) strong and supple, tough and feminine, fair and kind – all at the same time. We’re all about contradictions and imperfections, and embracing everything that we are – the good AND the bad.
What was the most beautiful/amazing experience you've had since starting Paper Tiger (e.g. special stories of people that came with you on a trip, highlights)?
Every time we do a Balance Break we have the BEST time – the people who come are so amazing and blow us away with their stories, their openness and their willingness to share. Just normal, everyday people with the most incredible stories to tell… and that’s something that holds us all together – we have our struggles and we have our wins. Seeing people overcome fears is pretty amazing, kinda makes us feel like the luckiest girls in the world!
Are there any downsides? Things you would like to change but you cannot of any special reason?
Of course! We wish we could have more time with people - we’re always super sad when the week is over haha… of course running a business in multiple international locations is not without its challenges – but we’re always up for them.
What is your food philosophy?
It sounds super contrite and boring – but we’re all about balance. We try to get all the macros in (good fats, protein and quality carbs) at every meal, if we can. We’re pretty active so we need to eat! Power to the people who are on something much stricter – but it’s simply not for us. We’re the girls on the couch with a block of choccie on a Sunday night.
If you crave sugar, what is your substitute?
We’ll have a bit of sugar here and there, otherwise we love honey, fruit including dates and coconut and herbal teas too if we’re trying to be good.
What’s your favourite breakfast?
Our coconut quinoa porridge. We love it so much, we made a video about it! Top it with some banana and nuts and it’s an awesome blend of protein, carbs and good fats – helps us get through busy days!
How does a perfect balanced day look to you (workwise, sportwise, foodwise etc.)?
For Casey, it’d involve a yoga class, lunch somewhere, maybe catching a movie – some time with the dog and probably a massage or a facial rounded up by a glass of wine and cooking something yummy at home. For Jen, it’s basically all of the above + a surf, so she’d probably have to lose something to fit it all in!
What does your normal working day look like?
Up at 5.45am and off to teach until around 9 or 10am, then we'll settle into work mode. Paper Tiger has 3 areas to it – TRAIN (fitness classes – Pilates, Boxilates and Barre), TRIPS (our Balance Breaks both in Australia and Sri Lanka) and MEDIA (creating health and wellbeing content for our website and beyond). So there’s loads to do! In the evenings, we’ll either be teaching or we’ll try and get to a class ourselves.
What future plans do you have with Paper Tiger?
We want to have a permanent residency for our Balance Breaks and are working towards that as we speak. Ideally, we’ll still be working in the media space too, sharing our journey and having fun along the way.
Eat Well, Move More, Live Better. And keep it real!
Here you can find the delicious recipes for the dishes we cooked at the cooking class.
- 100g Sago
- 250ml coconut milk
- 200-250ml water
- 1 cinamon stick
- 1-2 TBSP coconut oil
- 1 TBSP coconut sugar
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- Pinch of salt
- 2 fresh apricots
- 1 peach
- 1/2 tsp cacao nibs
- Put sago straight into the pot, add half of the coconut milk and half of the water (cold). Cook over medium heat for approximately 10-15 minutes until sago is clear and then fold through the rest of the water (hot). Cook for around 15 mins, then add the rest of the coconut milk and the cinnamon stick. Stir constantly for 10-15 minutes until there are vey few "white bits" left.
- Add 1 pinch of sea salt.
- Cook the fruit with coconut oil and sugar in a pan and serve it with the cinnamon, the cacao nibs and the warm sago porridge.